Updated on 04.28.09

A Graduation Gift That Matters

Trent Hamm

When I graduated from high school – and again when I graduated from college – I received quite a few gifts from friends and family members. Most of them fell into two categories: money inserted into graduation cards, or items intended to help with my life in the near future (like a gas card or a laundry bag or a shower kit or a microwave oven).

Just a handful of gifts fell into a third category, and those were the most memorable. Great sentiments on handwritten notes. Long dinners with real conversations. Thoughtfully-given books with some suggested passages to start with. A nearly-invisible helping hand to get my career going on the right path.

To put it simply, the best graduation gifts for me were ones that were thoughtful, ones that were inspirational, and ones that actually opened doors for me.

For the most part, these gifts didn’t cost the giver very much at all in terms of money. Instead, the value of the gift was delivered via time and thoughtfulness, and that always means much more than a twenty dollar bill stuffed inside a forgettable card.

The best part is that most great graduation gifts won’t cost you much money at all. Instead, they require some thoughtfulness and some planning. Here are four things to think about as graduation season approaches.

A Thoughtful Conversation
The best way to understand what exactly a graduate is thinking about for the future is to sit down with that graduate and have a real conversation. A great way to do this is over dinner – invite that graduate to your home or take that graduate out to dinner. If that doesn’t work for you, a telephone call also works.

The key is not to bury them in advice and your own anecdotes. Instead, you should seek to get the person to talk about what they’re thinking about doing in the future. Some good questions:
+ What are you going to do after graduation?
+ Where are you going to college?
+ What are you thinking of majoring in?
+ What do you enjoy doing?
+ Do you have a job lined up, or any prospects?
+ What would you like to be doing?

Listen to what’s being said. Many students feel an urge to tell a particular story about their dreams, aspirations, and post-graduation plans that doesn’t really reflect their true story. Listen carefully and try to seek out the things that they really enjoy.

More important, give encouragement to the graduate. Tell them that they can do anything. Offer a few specific pointers, but don’t drown them in advice. Let them do most of the talking.

Don’t drown them in personal anecdotes, either. A few are fine, but the focus is on what they’re doing, not on what you did.

Your goal here should be to figure out where the graduate really wants to be going – and whether or not they’re on their way. Pay attention. Listen to what the graduate is saying. Be positive about the things they’re passionate about. Let the graduate do most of the talking. And, when you’re done, make sure you’ve taken away two or three things about the graduate’s dreams and future that are clearly true and that the graduate is clearly excited about.

A Telephone Call
Once you have that source material, look through your contacts. Do you know any people that are doing anything close to the area toward which the graduate is focusing? Call them up. Explain what’s going on. Ask for their thoughts.

If there are opportunities for the graduate, pass them along. Let the graduate know of any opportunities you discover for them. Even better, if you have the chance to make a positive case for that graduate, do so. Grease the rails for them so that those early, tentative career steps go quite easily.

Most likely, though, you’ll gather some useful insights about their direction and you might also gather an additional contact or two.

Take all of the information you discover and deliver it to the graduate. Tell them that you called an old friend of yours who’s doing that kind of work and here’s what he/she had to say. Pass along any useful contact information if you can.

In short, help the graduate (if you can) by getting their foot in the door. Every bit helps, and if you can help that graduate open a door, you’ve changed their life.

A Single Key Reflection
Taking together all you’ve learned about the graduate and where he/she is headed, spend some time thinking about the one piece of advice you’d like to give that student. Don’t just go with your first instinct – don’t be afraid, even, to jot down several ideas and think about them, but stick with just one – the real home run.

The graduate won’t remember the $20 bill you stuck in the card. But they might remember something insightful and useful that you wrote, especially if it clicks with them. That $20 will be lost in the mists of time, but a useful bit of knowledge pays dividends forever.

Surround that one piece of advice with some strong positive reinforcement. Let the graduate know that you see great potential in him/her and that you look forward to their great future.

Words like this can really have an impact. I still remember the advice and similar sentiments that people gave to me in graduation cards, but I don’t remember who gave me $10 and who didn’t a decade ago. The advice stuck with me and helped me to grow – a truly great graduation gift.

A Follow-Up
Most people limit their congratulations and help to the graduate to the days around the actual ceremony. When that graduate will probably need help, though, will come a while down the road.

Touch base with the graduate a few months after graduation and see how they’re doing. Are they still struggling with finding their place? Or have they found a happy home?

You may find that you can offer much more help early in their career than at their graduation. Encouragement can be key in the midst of early challenges. A little helping hand can be much more useful after the glow of graduation has come off and the realities of professional life are starting to appear.

If it seems potentially useful, get ahold of your contacts again and see if anything has changed. Are there any new opportunities? Pass these along to the graduate.

Here’s the big thing: graduation and entry into professional life is often a huge shock for people, but the support they get usually just comes in a burst at their graduation party. If you really want to give something with impact, give them time, both before and after graduation, and help pull a few strings for the graduate. It won’t cost you much at all – and it can make all the difference to a motivated graduate.

Good luck!

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  1. BirdDig says:

    Very timely advice Trent. I have two student workers (I work at a University)who are graduating and I would love to give them a more memorable gift than the standard money in a card. These are two very bright and motivated young ladies and I would like to give them something that would make a difference. Any advice on books for the new college graduate?

  2. Baker @ ManVsDebt says:

    My sister is graduating from college this May and I will definitely use this advice when talking to her about things.

    I think the most important part is to really listen. So many young people (like myself) are used to just talking and then getting advice. Genuinely listening first would go a long, long way!

  3. Candi says:

    I have never had a traditional graduation and I am approaching my very first with my Masters degree in Dec. And by traditional I mean the party, the family the whole thing. Now I don’t much need life advice, but the career advice/help would be the most valuable gift I could imagine. Now, how to get my family to read this article, lol.

  4. Luke says:

    My cousin graduated high school last spring, and has been sort of floundering since. He had planned to join the military, but an injury delayed his enlistment. He’s been through a number of PT jobs, and though he wants to attend college, he has done very little to make that happen.

    Trent, you are so right – now is the time my cousin could use a little nudge, a little guidance, and an ear to bounce ideas off. His friends have moved on, and family that enthusiastically shared resources around graduation time are now more reluctant to help, if engaged at all.

  5. Johanna says:

    I don’t know, Trent. This post really seems to me like a rationalization to avoid putting up the money for “real” gifts for the graduates in your life.

    If you care about someone, then sharing your wisdom with her and being involved in her life are things you should be doing anyway. They’re not a gift. Just like it’s not a gift when parents buy socks and underwear for their young children. They’re required to buy those things anyway.

    And what if your most cherished nugget of advice *doesn’t* resonate with the new graduate? If one of my relatives had given me a graduation card that said something like, “My gift to you is: Always be yourself and never give up on your dream,” my reaction would have been, “Huh? That’s it?”

    I’ve forgotten, too, which of my relatives gave me $20 for graduation and which didn’t, but that doesn’t mean those $20 bills weren’t useful, or that I didn’t appreciate them at the time. New graduates, from high school or college, are met with a lot of new expenses – furnishing dorm rooms, paying apartment security deposits, stocking refrigerators and pantries, etc. – and $20 can be a big help toward those things.

  6. Jenny says:

    What kind of career advice would you give? How to have a “career” at being self-righteous and armchair quarterbacking others lives from behind your computer screen, while sending your spouse out into the real world to have a real job?

    I think most people would prefer the $20.

  7. Tori says:

    I can’t agree with you enough that a talk with a graduate about his/her hopes or dreams should be free of scolding, heavy handed advice or one’s own bad experiences. I had a talk with an uncle about my writing dreams that was filled with all three of those things. YUCK!

    I also can’t agree with Johanna enough that money is a very useful gift for the graduate. Not everyone knows how to network, but most people can put some cash in a card for their graduate.

  8. B says:

    I’m gonna be honest. Almost every question under “A Conversation” is a horrible idea. By the time a HS grad leaves for college, she’s answered, “Where are you going? What will you be majoring in?” countless times. The first week of college is generally a blur of, “What’s your major? What do you want to do?” And for a HS grad who isn’t going to college, or a college/grad school grad, you should only discuss the future if the person indicates she wants to. When I graduated from law school, I hadn’t yet found a job. I was so stressed out about not having a job, and I dreaded being asked what I was going to do. I did NOT want to discuss my future career plans with anyone but a few VERY close friends or family. Sometimes people focus so much on the graduate’s future that it can add a lot of stress and pressure. Try focusing on the grad’s accomplishments that got her to where she is, reflect on those, and congratulate her on those.

    I’m not saying you have to spend a lot of money on a graduation gift. Homemade items can be nice, and a hearty congratulations is always appreciated. Even $20 gift card to the grocery store would probably be appreciated. If the new grad wants to talk about the future, listen. But don’t assume that everybody wants to have that conversation with you.

  9. Anastasia says:

    A gift of money or a gift card can be very thoughtful. If a graduate is struggling financially to go to college or embark on their next phase of life, that might be just the thing they need. And it doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. You could always do both :)

  10. Mike Dunham says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Johanna. If you don’t want to give cash because you want to make sure you give them something useful, then maybe ask the intended recipient what s/he needs. Maybe you can pay the security deposit on the new apartment or dorm room. Maybe you can buy the new computer (or help buy it, anyway) for college.

    Ironically, this strategy would allow you to ALSO help impart some wisdom or teach a lesson, by showing the newly minted graduate a life lesson about financial planning.

  11. liv says:

    I really enjoyed my “college package” that I got for my high school gradudation (like a laundry basket and new bed linens and stuff). Those kinds of things help. The advice stuff is stuff you should give all the time. (Agreeing with other commentors!)

    Money is a good graduation gift for college grads too. They need it!

  12. Kyle Brooks says:


    You doubled up on tags when you typed “graduation and entry into professional life is often a huge shock for people, but the support they get usually just comes in a burst at their graduation party. If you really want to give something with impact, give them time, both before and after graduation, and help pull a few strings for the graduate. It won’t cost you much at all – and it can make all the difference to a motivated graduate”: first just after “graduation” and again just after “If”.

    – Kyle

  13. Michael says:

    Most people give conversations and money unless they are too far away to celebrate. Grads hear all of those questions over and over and over again, so they’re not special. Graduates need cash and great books, not someone trying to peer into their souls.

    Worst post in awhile. The frugal option is something handmade, not nothing, don’t you know?

  14. guinness416 says:

    When I left high school it was to study architecture at university, with its inherent crazy expenses on art supplies. I didn’t get too many gifts that I recall, but I really appreciated cash presents and silently thanked the people who gave them to me every time I had to purchase another sketchpad or pen!

    Taking broke students out for meals or pints is another great gift that I remember various extended family members giving me during my college years.

  15. teresalovesmark says:

    I have to agree with others here. You don’t have to give a gift of money, but you can give a homemade gift. Right now, we are very strapped for cash, but I am making a quilt for a graduation present. I’m using up scraps that have been gathering dust in my closet, spending time with my son as he helps me matching the colors and shapes and making a gift that won’t be soon forgotten.

  16. Jo says:

    Perhaps you are taking the statement “time is money” a little too literally. I think that everything you stated in this article is part of being a good parent, friend, family member, etc. and helps build the relationship between you and the graduate. I guess I view it more as a constant gift over the course of being involved in this person’s life and would hope I can expect the same.

  17. Anonymous Grad Student says:

    I have to agree with B (#8): I can’t think of a single friend of mine who was *not* sick of answering those questions by graduation. I have a very supportive family and was still extremely stressed out from trying to explain why I was going to graduate school in a humanities discipline instead of something more “practical” like med school, law or business. I can’t imagine how bad it must be for someone whose family is not as supportive, or for someone who doesn’t have a job/college/professional school lined up.

  18. Kate says:

    Even though it’s useful and generous, I never like getting money as a gift because it’s so impersonal. One of the things I love to get, which particularly my parents do, is a book with a handwritten note inside commemorating a special occasion. For college or high school grads, a great book gift idea would be something like the old classic What Color is Your Parachute, or the new release The Power of Small with an inspirational note written inside, or even the Dr. Seuss book, Oh The Places You’ll Go.

  19. JW says:

    Maybe I didn’t read this the same way others did, but I didn’t get the impression that Trent was telling people not to give material gifts, just not to go overboard or stop at that. Most of the people I know (including myself) are so blessed with material goods that it doesn’t make much of an impact anymore to have one more “thing” if little thought has gone into it.

    I am a high school teacher and each year I am invited to several graduation parties. You all might think this is horrible, but each year instead of trying to pick out several gifts for different students with different needs and personalities and also trying to make sure that no one feels “favorited” or slighted by their gift, I make a donation to a charity in the name of their graduating class. I try to make sure it is something that relates to where they are in life, such as donating the cost of school supplies for a year, and I let them know why I picked that particular charity. I am sure many of them toss aside my card without a thought, but some of them have told me that they were very touched by the idea that I would honor them by trying to making life better for someone else. I know it would mean a lot to me to know a donation had been made to someone else to commemorate a milestone in my life.

  20. 444 says:

    I’d be pretty steamed if I got a book with certain passage suggested instead of some cold, hard cash.


    just kidding… partly.

  21. 444 says:

    Actually, what I really meant to say was: Money is impersonal but well-meant and useful; items can be useful as well, but conversations and notes… well, those just aren’t gifts. I agree with those who say that conversations are nice but not correctly categorized as gifts.

    This is coming from someone who gives and gets gifts not very often and doesn’t expect them, either. I just don’t like labeling regular interactions as something they’re not.

  22. Taybee says:

    For me, the last two years of high school was filled with people asking me which classes I was taking, what universities I wanted to apply to, what careers I saw myself in, etc. until I was completely sick of it. In university, it was the same questions all over again. After awhile the relentless focus on “your future” just gets tedious. Believe me, students already have enough unsolicited advice and twenty bucks goes a long way for someone living on a tight budget.

    The best gifts came from the people who asked me what I needed for my first year away at school and then tried to help out. My parents gave me a gift certificate the university bookstore, which was incredibly practical. Like guiness416, I loved when family members came to visit and would treat me to a dinner out. If you’re looking for a frugal gift, students are always grateful for secondhand furniture and kitchen supplies in order to set up their first place.

  23. alex says:

    another question, the FIRST question to ask in that conversation, is, “do you want to have this conversation?”

    i am in high school, and everyone i know that is graduating gets very angry and defensive when you ask these questions, because they dont know what they want to do and dont particularly want to think about it.

  24. Another Elizabeth says:

    Coming from a constantly broke family and being expected to pay my own way through college, I have to say that I most appreciated CASH, and after that the personal time and conversations. It’s also true that one gets VERY tired of answering the same tired, stressful questions. Even when I graduate from college, I was still broke (having just put myself through 4 years of school without loans and needing $400 I didn’t have to apply for licensing for my new profession) and really, really appreciated the cash I received for graduation and my wedding the next month. (We used wedding money to pay the licensure application fees.) So, yeah, I’d say that for once I disagree with Trent. I do agree that personal time and genuine interest are truly wonderful gifts that mean a lot to the graduate – I’m just disagreeing with the idea that 10 or 20 dollars in a card doesn’t make a difference to said graduate.

  25. Kris says:

    This graduate would appreciate $20. The heartfelt congratulations is nice, too, but it doesn’t pay tuition.

  26. Alice says:

    I come from a family that doesn’t really do the gift thing. I got no money for high school graduation, and maybe $20 for college graduation. I suppose I could have sent out those “send me money” graduation announcements, but it felt odd asking for gifts from people who weren’t already a regular part of my life, and from those people who were, I didn’t need anything to mark the occasion. My family visited me for the college event, and that was gift enough. Then again, I haven’t taken any money from my family since I left for college at 17 so it would have seemed odd.

    A lot of the previous comments sound like they’re coming from entitled individuals. If you want money for college or post-grad, don’t begrudge relatives who want to help you out in other ways, just go out and get a part time job.

    That being said, I think Trent’s networking idea would have been a great gift, especially for a college grad, and especially in this job climate. Having someone to help me find an in to an industry I wanted to join would have been priceless.

  27. Andrewc says:

    That last point is a great one, much like a passing or a wedding or something quite memorable its usually months later that it feels good to know someones still thinking about them

    Great blog, keep it up!

  28. syb il says:

    I give a new college grad a resume service consultation (since I work in the recruiting field). I have also given subscriptions to a web-based job search engine I work with in my business – CareerShift. Very easy to use, extremely helpful in the job search process. These seem to be exceptionally well-received graduation gifts…..

  29. Amy says:

    I think that perhaps the post should have been “The Graduation Gift That’s MEMORABLE”, not the one that “MATTERS.” I don’t really remember which relative gave what amount of money. All the money that I did receive really did matter — it helped tremendously!

    Are you giving a gift so that you will be remembered, or are you giving a gift so that it will benefit the person? I think networking and LISTENING is a great idea. Please just don’t conclude that cash isn’t thoughtful, inspiration, or doesn’t open doors. The doors it opens may belong to the grocery store, or book store. The generosity of my relatives at my graduations has inspired me to be generous with the kids I know who are heading for graduation now.

    PS I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who completely hated the “future” interogation every grad seems to get. I actually loved hearing antedotes and even sorting through advice — or anything, really, other than an adult staring at me and going down a list of questions.

  30. Jesse says:

    When I graduated from HS 11 years ago, one of my uncle’s gave me a quality backpack as a graduation gift. To this day, I still look back as that being the best grad gift I received as it has gotten me through an associate, bachelor, and masters degree and it’s still going strong.

    My family didn’t have a lot of money and a practical gift like this has worth a lot more than all of the empty, “Whatcha going to major in?” conversations I had with countless people I don’t have contact with anymore.

  31. Carmen says:

    I think graduation gifts for finishing school is going a little too far. A party with friends would be very appropriate, but gifts completely unnecessary. I did get one card and gift (a bottle of my favourite perfume) when I graduated with my degree which was much appreciated and a lovely surprise, but not the norm in the UK.

    But FWIW, on the whole I agree with Trent’s ideas, but agree graduates can feel the pressure of finding a job so don’t want to discuss their immediate future beyond their very close knit group of friends. $20 in cards is a total cop out.

  32. Top article, they do say ”cash is king” but sometimes a good ol’ chat is invaluable.
    I had a similar situation with my little brother, he is quite rebellious. When he first finished high school my parents hammered him about getting a job, and it seemed to have the opposite effect they wanted. One night i sat down with him after an argument that erupted at dinner, just asked him what his aspirations were, what he generally liked doing and what he was good at in and outside of school, I found out that he actually enjoys a bit of maths, charting and working out sums. He always seemed to be interested in the stock market, i told him to go for it, he handed a few resumes around and is now working as a DTR’s assistant in a pretty solid stock broking firm in the city (Sydney, AUS).
    So i definitely agree, and plus people love to talk about themselves!!

  33. B says:

    Alice, I certainly did not feel entitled to gifts for graduation. Some relatives gave them; others did not. If you do not have the money to give a gift, then you do not have the money. There is nothing wrong with that. But a lot of the commenters are right – having a conversation with someone isn’t really a gift. It’s just part of being a friend or family member. When you’re telling yourself that having a conversation about the future – a conversation the graduate likely doesn’t even want to have – is a gift, you’re completely deluding yourself in order to make yourself feel better about not giving a gift.

    Now that I’ve thought about it, if you want to give a gift of time instead of money, I suggest offering to help the graduate move! Packing and lifting all those boxes can be really tiring. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received (for no occasion, but still a gift) was when my husband’s extended family, who I’d never met, showed up at my apartment with a large trailer and moved all my stuff to my new place for me. It cost them $30 in gas, but it meant the world to me.

  34. EmilyP says:

    I would agree with some of the other posters – by the time graduation rolls around the answers to those “what’s your plan?” questions are never an enjoyable conversation. Unless you’re an expert on the student’s field of choice, and someone that student is close enough to to tell the whole truth, you’re not really in the best place to offer a full-blown career conversation. The lifestyle changes are just as exciting as the Life Changes, and can be easier to offer non-invasive inoffensive help with.
    Especially for the high-school graduate, consider questions like “Are you on a campus meal plan? I could show you how to cook a few of my favorite staples, if you’d like.” “Are you looking for an apartment? Have you tried (local resource)? Will you need a (furniture/houseware)?” “Do you think you’ll have a credit card? Let me show you my favorite banking(quicken, mint, etc) software.”
    A practical gift – maps/books of the new city, a copy of Quicken (or whatever), cooking tools, laundry kit, medicine cabinet – can become a meaningful gift when it’s incorporated into a real conversation. It’s Trent’s idea, stepped down from the the major Life Issues to the scale of daily life. You can’t just declare yourself a mentor, but small-scale advice can be a stepping stone to becoming a resource for your friend.

  35. Jenna says:

    I think the obvious answer here is do a little of both- gift and mentoring. This is what we’re doing for my younger brother. He’s graduating high school and moving cross country to live near us. His material present is a new bed-obviously a material object but something he’ll have for the next ten years at which point he’ll be financially able to buy himself a new one. Yeah, it was a bit of money but we budgeting, paid cash, and I think sleep is the most precious gift you can give any college student! In addition both my husband and I are in full blown mentor mode but with the aforementioned caveat of giving wanted advice, asking before we give opinions, and in general being as low/no pressure as we can. Even though little brother knows his path, it’s still overwhelming to be suddenly dealing with adulthood and all it’s trappings. He’s having to get a handle on banking, car insurance, health insurance, tuition (out of state no less!), car registration, finding a new job, changing his driver’s license… the list goes on and on and can overwhelm the most “together” new grad.

    Trent, no hating here, love your posts and love your site.

  36. Angie says:

    I agree with some of the other comments. I gave my little brother a variety of gift cards from restaurants around his university (had to do a little recon first) so he could take a break from dorm food every once in awhile.

    Shower supplies, rolls quarter for the laundry, those were the things I remembered and appreciated.

  37. Alice says:

    B, I think perhaps we have a different idea of Trent’s intended audience for this article. In reference to your own child or niece and nephew, I agree that a conversation about the future shouldn’t be a special event. However, if you are an adult secure in your career with a young person you care about but are not especially close with, say someone at your church or in a organization you belong too, then yes, taking that graduate out to a nice dinner is certainly a gift. And showing interest in their future when that hasn’t been a part of a relationship before is also a caring thing to do. And the real gift is the networking – getting them a job or putting them in touch with people who can get them where they want to go. That’s far more valuable then some Target sheets or a TV.

  38. Michael says:

    @JW, Around here, teachers almost never give graduates presents, even though they make the party circuit. Everyone understands that they know too many students to give them all gifts – their gift was all that education! Your charity donation idea sounds very nice, though.

  39. wren says:

    I’m guessing that the author of comment #6 would not be encouraging any young graduates to follow their dreams of writing then, if she only sees Trent’s spouse as having a real job.

    Pity… such a narrow view of the world.

  40. Curlilox says:

    I disagree with #6. Teaching is not a real job. They get to take the summer off!

  41. northern illinois says:

    “If there are opportunities for the graduate, pass them along.”
    It sounds like you think the best present would be to get the graduate an actual JOB, a ticket to grad. school, or a scholarship, etc. How many people can do that for a young person, except if they own the company, can call in favors from their associates, or work in politics. I can give presents or advice, but regretfully, I can’t get someone an offer of employment.

  42. Lisa says:

    A high school teacher enclosed a $2bill in a card with congratulations and good wishes. I still have the $2bill 20 years later. That met the memorable (on a budget) criteria.
    To HS grads off to college I give a container of super concentrated clothes detergent (detergent is both heavy and costly) and the promise of a care package of homemade cookies at the end of 1st semester (about the time dorm food gets really nasty).
    My advice is always free and does not need a special occasion.

  43. Chris says:


    My in-law DOES own a company and knows all kinds of wealthy business owners. With all his “help” neither I, nor his own sons, have benefited one iota.

    Knowing a business owner with a lot of connections doesn’t mean much. Knowing a HR manager, NOW you’re getting somewhere!

  44. Nicole H. says:

    “i am in high school, and everyone i know that is graduating gets very angry and defensive when you ask these questions, because they dont know what they want to do and dont particularly want to think about it.”

    I’ve been out of high school ten years and I agree with this sentiment. Frankly, everything I told everyone back then was BS. I had no clue what I wanted to do (still don’t) and it felt like I was the only one who had no clue since everyone else seemed to be confident. It was really damaging to my ego.

    I would give a monetary gift, a thoughtful note about qualities you love and confidence you have in the graduate, and an offer to let them watch you at work if they’re interested in a career in writing blogs.

  45. Sharon says:

    Bill Cosby wrote a book called Congratulations! Now What? A book for graduates” that is quite funny. It is for college gradates. I don’t see a lot of good advice, but it is a GREAT book for the parents of said graduates.

  46. Whitney says:

    I actually really disagree with this advice and I consider myself quite frugal. Money or something practical is the perfect gift for someone who is graduating. Why can’t you give both advice and a gift? Honestly, just talking really sounds cheap!

  47. IRG says:

    The key here is to focus on the person receiving the gift.And the relationship you have with them.

    Some will really not be up for conversation of any kind or personal mentoring, etc. Some will NOT welcome the types of things that Trent has mentioned. (And it really is about the receiver…not the giver.)

    And if you’re close, you’ve probably been doing all the advice, suggestion, networking stuff already.

    I think money is always a good idea (unless we’re talking about super rich kids here).

    And you can easily give both, a book AND some cash. Some help AND some cash.

    One is not a replacement for the other.

  48. I wish I had something like this when I was graduating from school, but I sure can pass it on to a couple of people I know that are graduating soon!

  49. al says:

    nicole H, i totally agree! i am heading into a master’s program this year and although i know what field i want to go into, i don’t really know what i want to do within that field (that’s why i’m going to school!) one really important thing to realize about education is that it helps you to know how much you don’t know…my thoughts about what i wanted “to do” changed many times in college as i learned more and more about what was out there. i know something similar will happen in grad school. i get pretty stressed out not being able to explain to people exactly what i want to do when i graduate. yikes.

    also, i got many small gifts of money after graduating college that added up to a lot of money. i was extremely grateful because it allowed me to live for a few months with a part-time job w/ a nonprofit before finding a really good “real” job! people i would NEVER have expected to send me money did, because they recognized that i’d really need it, and i was overwhelmed in a good way by that outpouring. of course the encouraging notes and cards were greatly appreciated, too.

  50. I remember getting some cash, some basic school supplies and a lot of forgotten (or ignored advice) when I graduated both high school and college. One thing I do remember, though, is a small stack of personalized stationery that I still have. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but I only use it for important events and it helps remember a time full of opportunity and inspiration.

  51. Susan M. says:

    I am a teacher and am close to a few of my students in a very small high school. There are a few students that I want to give a gift to but I wouldn’t dream of giving them cash. Somehow, that seems inappropriate from teacher to student. I have already done the mentoring (which is why I am close to them) for the past four years. I will give each of them a thoughtful, handwritten note. Two of the girls, I may give a small stuffed animal because as old as they are (18) they still love them. Two boys I may get a small book or a student planner for college.

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