It’s very common to give a graduate money as a congratulations gift. Some people have asked us, “What is the appropriate amount?” We maintain that it is like any other time that you choose to give money as a gift, it is totally up to you. Any amount will be appreciated. Write a check for the year, for example $20.22 is cute. Buy your cards early, they sell out or the selection gets limited.

Here are some graduate-tested and approved gift ideas:

  • Gift certificates to Amazon, book stores, the local mall or a major retailer
  • Books: We suggest something that graduates can treasure over the years such as poetry, or a motivational book.
  • College sweatshirt or T-shirt; Shop the Internet or the College Store. They also sell cups, pennants and socks!
  • Personalized items: put monograms or name on flannel blankets, bath towels, coffee mugs, key chains or frames.
  • Large bag for dirty clothes, along with a box of detergent
  • Book light or flash light
  • Custom made frame, with personalized words around the edge
  • Little hammer and screwdriver set: check out the trendy hardware stores; they have cute versions of the necessities.
  • Pen & pencil sets
  • Thank you notes, stationery (monogrammed?) and stamps
  • Big storage bins (fill them with plastic plates or Tupperware for snacks in the dorm room)
  • Cooler, filled with beach towels, sun screen, can coolers, plastic wear
  • Gift certificate for a restaurant in the college town, or better yet the college book store.

For those really special graduates in your life, you may want to buy something more expensive. Think about organizing a group gift with relatives or neighbors.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Luggage or a soft sided travel bag
  • A computer
  • TV
  • Microwave
  • Sound bar

  • A small refrigerator for the dorm
  • Stocks or bonds
  • Frequent flyer pass for a trip home from school or for a fun trip before school

  • A watch
  • Cell phone

  • Matching bracelets for all your graduates’ friends

Gift Receiving

This graduation party may be the first time that your child has been the guest of honor at an event since his 7th birthday party. We suggest you have a conversation with your graduate about proper behavior during their graduation party. Here are a few suggested ground rules for the graduate to discuss ahead of time:

  • Say hello to everyone, a nod across a crowded room is not enough for Aunt Lucy.
  • If you see someone you don’t know, ask us discreetly.
  • Circulate amongst all your guests. You’ll have plenty of time later to hang out with your friends.
  • Decide with your parents before the party how long you’re going to stay. They may want you to stay until the last guest leaves or you may arrange to leave at a certain time to attend other parties.
  • If you work, don’t forget to ask for the day off. We heard of one party where the grad couldn’t come because he had to work!

Although you usually won’t open gifts in front of the guests, sometimes one of your guests will ask you to open their gift (maybe they want to see your reaction). If this happens, open the gift and express your gratitude (or laugh, as the case may be). But do not open other gifts.

Since many people will give you gifts of money, we suggest you discuss what the money will be used for ahead of time. Examples include:

  • You can spend half of the money now, but half of the money received will be saved for college.
  • All of the money will be saved for books at college.
  • Use the money as a down payment on a car.
  • Use the money for new clothes for work.

Every gift must be acknowledged with a thank you note, so save the cards and write down who gave you what as you open the gifts.

To make this task easier, order personalized thank you notes well in advance of graduation. Consider ordering the graduation themed return address labels. We offer a good selection of graduation thank you cards and return address labels Insert affiliate link here.

We suggest that you set a goal of five cards each day. It’s best to get them out within six weeks of the party. Tape the checks to a cupboard and only deposit them when the thank you note has been mailed.

Always hand-write the thank you notes and hand address the envelopes. Mention the gift specifically in your note and express your appreciation. If the gift was money, don’t mention the exact amount, but do mention how you plan to spend the money.

Avoid making every thank you look like a form letter by adding a personal reference.

Here are some suggested templates for thank you notes, but please try to make them personal.

Dear (use the name they signed on the card, or address it to them formally)

Thank you so much for the ________________________. It was very thoughtful. I’ll think of you every time I (see it/ use it/ wear it).

It will really come in handy when I go to college. I’ll be moving to _____________________ on (put date here).

It was so nice of you to come to my party. Having the support of family and friends is very important to me. It was a special day and you are a special friend. Keep in touch!  Warmest wishes.


Thank you so much for your generous gift of money. Your support will help me buy the new _______________ I’ve been saving for.

Money can’t buy happiness…but it sure helps!

You have superb taste! And now I have a sample of it.

I enjoyed meeting you. My parents have talked about you for years.

Thank you for thinking of me.

Thank you for being there when I needed you!

I am very grateful for the support from family over the years.

You’ve always been my favorite Aunt.

Thank you also for helping at the party.

Does this mean I don’t have to sit at the kid’s table anymore?

Call me for babysitting!

I hope we get to see you at the cabin this summer.

I look forward to seeing you at our next family get-together.

I am really looking forward to (school name here). I’ll be looking for a job in four years. Please keep me in mind.

It was so cool that you made the trip for my big day. It really means a lot to me that you would travel so far.

If I ever have the chance, I’ll visit you in (their city).

I’ve really enjoyed being friends with (name). She is a true friend.

You have helped me so much over the past few years and it was a pleasure spending time with your family.

I always felt welcome in your home.

I’ll never forget the day we went to (someplace special). It was so nice of you to include me.

I will miss living here in (city or neighborhood name).

You have been so helpful to our family and I will miss you.

I’ll be sure to stop by when I come home to visit.

I’ll never forget all the fun neighborhood get-togethers.

You have made a big difference in my life. Keep up the good work.

Having you as a teacher has made such a big difference in my years at (school name).

I’ll try to keep up the good study habits.

You will always be my favorite teacher.

Thank you for being such a great coach.

I’ve really enjoyed playing (sport name here).

You’re a great inspiration!

I’m sorry you were not able to join us for the party. I missed you. However, your support is greatly appreciated.

It has been a lot of fun working together. With appreciation, sincerely,