Five unique gift ideas for your graduating senior

Teen girl grinning while holding ticket at airport

If you’re looking to reward your high school senior at graduation, here are some ideas that go beyond just personal checks.

Finding a graduation gift that’s the perfect balance of special and affordable can be a challenge. When each of my three sons graduated from high school, I wanted a significant way to recognize the accomplishment. At the same time, however, my husband and I were preparing to pay for four years of college, so we set a budget and sought our sons’ input.

If you’re looking to reward your high school senior at graduation, here are some ideas that go beyond just personal checks.

An experience

Experiences can be any number of things. Some examples might include tickets so your teen can see his favorite band or sports team live ($20+) or a spa day to enjoy a pampering session after her grueling senior year ($25+).

Travel is also a great experiential gift. After graduation, our first son wanted to visit his childhood friend who had moved back to Mexico, so we helped him buy a plane ticket for the trip. We set a reasonable budget ($500) and he was tasked with looking for deals.

But the trip doesn’t have to be solo — you could plan it as a family vacation so you can all enjoy this “last hurrah” before your graduate heads off to school.


And I don’t mean a car — in fact, many colleges don’t allow freshmen to have vehicles on campus. If dorms and classes are on opposite ends of campus, it’s not uncommon for students to use other modes of travel. To celebrate our second son’s graduation, we bought him a bicycle — and a helmet and bike lock.

Skateboards, longboards, and Penny boards ($40+) are alternatives to bikes ($80+) and come in a variety of price points.


A gift of technology can range from noise-canceling headphones ($50+) — perfect for dealing with a noisy roommate — to a tablet or laptop ($250+). Look for sales on computers during the summer months before college classes begin. While a laptop may have a higher price tag, it’s good to think of it as an investment in something your student can use for several years. Other options might include a digital fitness tracker ($30+) or a new cell phone so you can keep in touch better while they’re away from home.

Something personal

Although your son or daughter may be excited to go to college, they may not realize how much they’ll miss home. When my daughter graduates, I’ll likely create a photo collage or digital picture frame ($25+) so she can be reminded of friends and family when she’s away at school.

Does your teen have a collection of shirts from high school activities, events, and sports? Consider making — or commissioning someone to make ($50+) — a T-shirt quilt to have a useful and memorable gift for their dorm. Jewelry can also be a very personal gift — whether it’s an heirloom or a new piece you’ve had engraved with a special message ($20+).


Finding it difficult to choose the perfect gift? Give them the freedom of choice. Gift cards are a practical option that allow your graduate to shop at their favorite stores to do anything from expand their college wardrobe to decorate their dorm room. And although it doesn’t seem inherently thoughtful, I’ve found graduates always welcome cash — in any amount. Or you can put the money into their student account so they have some spending money once they get to campus.

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