6 graduation gifts you should never give

Your recent grad would love a gift this year. Just not these ones.

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Graduation season is officially here, complete with commencement speeches, flat-topped hats, and tassels galore.

Another thing that comes with graduation time? Graduation gifts. And most new grads, according to an informal poll I conducted among my recently diploma-ed friends and family, pretty much just want one thing upon graduation: cash. (Or, you know, any variation of it. A check should be fine, too.)

But, sometimes, a physical gift makes sense, especially if you want to make sure your contribution is productive and long-lasting, and not just blown on a night out. In that case, it’s important to know what—and what not—a new grad really needs. Of course, any gift at all is sure to be appreciated by a recent grad, who may have only recently started to wean themselves off using a Frisbee as a dinner plate. That being said, there are certain gifts that will be appreciated more than others. Here’s what recent graduates definitely don’t want as a gift this year—and what you should give them instead.

1. Fancy work clothes

blazersheets
Credit: Saks Fifth Avenue / Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Hold off on that blazer for now. Many people graduating this year won’t work in a place that requires formal dress. A friend of mine who graduated last year shared that only one of her fellow graduates couldn’t wear jeans every day to the office. And if the new grad does take a job that requires more traditional attire, they’d likely be more comfortable choosing their outfits themselves.

So, you can quell your urge to invest in a poly-blend power suit with something that will get a lot more use: some high-quality sheets. After all, the person you’re giving them to has been sleeping on twin XL sheets all these years—surely, they deserve something nice. We recommend the Brooklinen Luxe Core Sleep Set, currently Reviewed’s top pick for best sheets for their soft texture, temperature control, and easy care. And, if your grad needs more than just the sheets, we recommend our pick for best pillows, Xtreme Comforts Memory Foam Pillows, or a great mattress in a box: the Tuft & Needle brand.

Instead, get them:

The Brooklinen Luxe Core Sleep Set from Brooklinen for $120

The Xtreme Comforts Memory Foam Pillow from Amazon for $49

The Tuft & Needle Queen Mattress from Amazon for $595

2. Hyper-specific cooking items

cookingitems
Credit: Amazon / Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

You may think a new graduate needs a microwave s’mores maker, or a brownie tin that makes extra-crispy edges, or something called a Pasta Boat, but, unless they have expressed a specific desire for one, they probably don’t. These things all A) take up lots of room, B) will be used infrequently, and/or C) can easily be replaced by other ordinary kitchen items, such as regular pots and pans.

On the other hand, the Instant Pot is a cult favorite for a reason. This gadget will let recent grads make “real” food for themselves with minimal effort and for far less on groceries. It will take up space, yes, but they’ll get so much use it’ll be totally worth it. We think the Instant Pot Ultra 10-In-1, a great multi-cooker with extra-intuitive features and a progress dial that tells you exactly where you are in the cooking process, is your best bet.

Instead, get them:

The Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1 from Amazon for $149.95

3. Super nice dinnerware

plates
Credit: Amazon

It may be tempting to gift a new graduate a new set of high-quality plates and silverware—after all, they’re probably ready for an upgrade after spending four-ish years noshing exclusively off dining hall dishes. But now is not the time to get them something too nice. They’ll likely be moving into an apartment where many the dishes will chip, break, and ultimately be lost to the ebb and flow of the shifting roommate tide.

Fortunately, you can still get them some dinnerware, should you feel so inclined. You’ll just want to go for a hardier, less expensive, dishwasher-safe set. One good option is the Amazon Basics 18-Piece Dinnerware set, which has six bowls, dinner plates, and salad plates one Amazon reviewer said they “already dropped them a few times and they've made it through unscathed”.

Instead, get them:

The Amazon Basics 18-piece Dinnerware Set from Amazon for $39.99

4. Kitschy cookbooks

cookbooks
Credit: Amazon

Cookbooks are useful. But the people who truly need a cookbook on, say, how to make literary-themed cocktails or a 100 different kinds of mug cakes—two books I received upon graduating but have yet to actually crack open and, at this point, am keeping solely out of guilt—are few and far between. If they do want this, they probably will have told you so.

Even if—especially if—this recent grad isn’t exactly a master of the culinary arts, they’ll welcome a thorough cookbook and a set of measuring cups and spoons. We recommend Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat, which aims to teach readers how to cook without following a strict recipe and comes complete with useful illustrations, as the perfect book for new grads. And our pick for measuring spoons are useful for even the most inept of home chefs, and compact enough that they’re easily hidden away if the set only gets used a few times over the course of a year.

Instead, get them:

Salt Fat Acid Heat from Amazon for $19.99

The Cuispro Stainless Steel Measuring Spoon Set from Amazon for $6.81

The Bellemaine Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set from Amazon for $18.95

5. A sweatshirt or T-shirt from the school they just graduated from

sweatshirts
Credit: Amazon / Nordstrom

Reader, this happens all the time. Please don’t fall prey to the temptation to make a “last chance to wear this!” joke, along with a jab about the impending doom of student loans, which is unnecessary, and, quite frankly, cruel. All those years earning your degree is just about enough time to get all the school gear one will ever need.

Another reason not to get a school sweatshirt is because it has an ability to evoke the uncanny feeling of having overslept and needing to throw something—anything—on to run to class. These fleece sweatshirts, on the other hand, won’t do that. They have near-perfect ratings on Nordstrom’s website and all the comfort of a worn-in sweater, but a structure and respectability that makes them more appropriate to wear to a brunch with friends or walk with family than an all-nighter in the library.

Instead, get them:

The North Face Campshire High Fleece Pullover from Nordstrom for $149

The North Face Mountain 2.0 Quilted Zip Hoodie from Nordstrom for $149

6. Oh, The Places You’ll Go

books
Credit: Amazon

Is this a nice sentiment? Absolutely. But here’s the thing: Chances are, they’ve read the book before. In fact, they likely have a copy from their kindergarten graduation (or their eighth grade graduation, or their high school graduation) already somewhere in their childhood bedroom. They don’t need another one.

You can still get the message of Oh, The Places You’ll Go across with a card that has the iconic Dr. Seuss cover on it. This pairs nicely with The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, which has the same overall idea of Oh, The Places You’ll Go, only in chapter-book format, or Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, which nicely encapsulates the vaguely panic-inducing first few months after college graduation without being patronizing.

Instead, get them:

Oh, The Places You’ll Go Graduation Card from Amazon for $4.29

The Alchemist from Amazon for $11.15

Sweetbitter from Amazon for $11

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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