Graduation is a magical time. For high school students, in particular, the moment marks the culmination of years of hard work, studying, and perseverance. Crossing that graduation stage is not only a milestone to be recognized and celebrated but also a symbol of transition to a new phase in life.

Whether you’re the parent, sibling, relative, or friend of a soon-to-be high school graduate, you want to cheer them on, reward their dedication, and help them start the next chapter of their life in a meaningful way — and giving an ideal gift is a big part of that.

The best high school graduation gifts not only show your special graduate what they mean to you but also have value and purpose. A great graduation gift provides a touch of home and is a reminder of the special bond you and your graduate share. This graduation season, aim for a gift that creates a special memory — and that’s just as lasting and durable as your love and hope for their future.

1. Personalized blankets

Everybody loves a cozy throw, and whether they’ll be living in a dorm room or an apartment, they can never have too many. To make the blanket you give their “go-to” when snuggling up with a tasty snack for a good TV binge, customize that plush fleece in a special way. You might have a favorite photo printed on the blanket, or make a nostalgic list of some treasured memories from their time in school. Or, go with a meaningful quote or inside joke the two of you share that always brings a laugh.

2. Throw pillows

Can’t decide on just one photo or memory to honor? Celebrate them all with an assortment of graduation-themed pillows, noting their class, year, or other special achievements. You can also customize pillows with a lovely collage of family photos your graduate can fall asleep to each night in bed. Or, go even bigger with a set of themed “happy moment” pillows, with each pillow representing a different era of their life, favorite childhood pets, or other significant moments from their high school years.

3. Mood lights

Great lighting is an essential part of any home, especially dorm rooms. Pick out something moody and warm to make your graduate’s new digs a bit more cozy and welcoming. You can personalize a large frosted table lamp with a favorite song lyric, motivational saying, or mantra your teen relates to (“Keep calm and pretend you know what you’re doing.”) Or, have a similar favorite expression engraved on a smaller, dorm-friendly light up LED plaque. You might also opt for a classic family photo printed on a smaller-sized lamp. It’ll save space on their desk and still ensure family is never far from their heart.

4. Wall art

Home is where the art is, as they say. Capture the memories of their big day with a graduation-themed canvas that you can have everyone at your party sign, transforming a simple image into a lifetime keepsake. If your teen is the type that enjoys motivational sayings and expressions, consider a larger piece like “Secrets of Success” that will keep them motivated and working toward future goals. Or, pick a favorite image that truly celebrates the day — getting their diploma, or a photo with close friends or immediate family — and turn it into a stunning large-size graduation day print perfect for a blank wall in their new apartment.

5. Dorm essentials

For high school graduates going off to college, dorm-friendly options that save space and can be used daily are always winners. For toting shampoo, makeup, and the like back and forth to the showers, a humorous shower caddy or spacious cosmetic bag will always come in handy. Round out your gift with some quirky personalized flip-flops and a few monogrammed towels. You can even pack it all in a large laundry bag sorter with their name printed on the side to create the ultimate “dorm-warming” survival kit.

6. Stainless steel tumblers

Water bottles are having a moment in pop culture today. But instead of buying one as a present just because it comes in a certain social media-adored color, give a personalized version that’s as unique and special as the teen you’re gifting it to. You can go for a bottle with some “Glitz and Glam” or even an assortment of iced coffee-friendly, clear insulated tumblers that are as perfect for social media posts as they are for the grab-and-go scramble of making an 8 a.m. science lecture.

7. Self-care staples

Earning a diploma and starting a new phase of life takes a lot out of you. With graduation in the books, help your special graduate relax and unwind from all the hard work they’ve put in with a home spa gift basket filled with bath salts, hand cream, and more. You can also continue channeling those relaxing vibes by gifting your graduate a Graduation Girl candle or engraved votive candle holder. Even dorm showers can become an exotic getaway with the help of a delightful set of aromatherapy shower steamers. If they’ll have their own place, switch to a pack of fragrant, invigorating bath bombs. Buy plenty. They can quickly become a habit!

8. Customized calendars

From upcoming exams to potential job interviews — to the dates for this year’s spring break — once you graduate high school, calendars become a much bigger part of your life than you may have ever anticipated. Help your graduate stay on top of the schedule (and reflect on some favorite memories of days gone by at the same time) with a customized or personalized calendar. You can pick from large, photo-driven wall calendars, calendars built around a photo collage, or even smaller desk calendars personalized with the graduate’s name or favorite saying. A dry erase-friendly acrylic calendar is perfect for tracking weekly assignments and outings with friends. Or, to let them track the whole year at a glance, opt for a large pin-up calendar poster, mouse pad calendar, or even a vertical, self-supporting easel calendar.

9. Gift of fun

Maybe your high school graduate will be flying away to college across the country or has dreams of traveling abroad. For these up-and-coming globetrotters, an embroidered weekender bag or set of personalized luggage tags to pack on their journeys is a fantastic gift. For the graduate who is also a sports fan, how about a custom padded bleacher seat plus tickets to watch their favorite team play? And for the gamers in your life, blow their mind — and line up hours of fun — by gifting them a personalized board game, such as Monopoly, Scrabble, or Yahtzee. Tabletop cornhole is dorm room friendly and perfect when you need a quick break from the books. Or, for something a bit more challenging, how about the gift of a one-of-a-kind Rubik’s Cube, printed with a few humorous childhood photos?


Brian Good is a writer, editor, and project manager with more than 20 years of experience in publishing. He's written for some of the country’s biggest magazine brands including Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Shape, Men's Health, Muscle & Fitness, US Weekly, AARP: The Magazine, and websites including Mashed, Health Digest, DiversityInc, and others. Good specializes in topics including lifestyle, travel, pop culture, health, food and nutrition, spirits, products, politics, and activism.

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