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Simplifying Graduation Gifts by Beth Orns

Jun 5, 2024 | Resource Blog, Featured

Over the summer we have a lot of graduation parties for middle school students, high schoolers, and college grads. A question that often comes up is what is an appropriate gift for each of these graduates. In her book Lazy Genius Kendra Adeci recommends a “decide once” for these kinds of gifts. The way this works is you consider what matters when giving a graduation gift and what doesn’t matter. With that in mind, you choose a gift to give at each party saving yourself the agony of always having to think of something that is special to that person. For example, if what matters is it is under $25, is useful, and is not overly personal and what doesn’t matter is that it is traditionally given as a gift for a high school students.

When I think about those criteria I remember a multi-head screwdriver (a nice one) and hammer my dad picked out for me when I moved into my first dorm. I still use these tools and they were handy so often. I also think about gift cards to Target, Walmart, or Amazon. They can use them for whatever they need or want and always fit. For a college graduate you could buy plush towels in a neutral color since they are likely moving into their own housing.

One gift I would love to give a recent graduate is a nice box for collecting notes, emails, and other items that remind them of why they are amazing at what they do. This is especially a good gift for someone going into a field like social work, teaching, medicine, or another helping field. You could even add your own note or list of things that make the graduate awesome.

An alternative version of this is a “bad day box”. This is a box (or whatever container inspires you) that is filled with things to pick you up when the world is kicking your tush. It may also contain a list of things that make you special. Materials for meditation like a candle, stones/crystals, or a list of good meditation videos online. A favorite sweet treat. A gift card for a little retail therapy at a favorite store. Something creative like a coloring book and colored pens. Nail polish. A bath bomb or other spa goodies.

In talking with graduates at all levels cash is consistently a favorite gift. If the choice is between a random sentimental item or cold hard cash there is no competition. If you want this decide once to feel special put it in a book you feel is a good guide for life like a simple cookbook, a manual for adulting skills, or a guided journal. When I graduated junior high school I received a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet with an inscription that this book will mean different things at each stage of my life. It has been decades since I received that little books, but when I need some wisdom I still pick this book up and read the eloquent words it contains. I have gifted it to other teens and young adults who tend to be deep thinkers and they also cherish it.

Hopefully this blog has helped you consider some different options for gifts for graduates, but also inspired you to consider a “decide once” for graduation gifts to free up some of your mental space so you can spend your time enjoying whatever parts of summer make you most happy.

Beth Orns, owner and licensed therapist at Better Together Mental Health.
Rachel Sabulsky is a therapist at Better Together Mental Health.
Anna Cox, licensed therapist in Columbia, Missouri.

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