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Every year, a new class of college graduates say goodbye to school, classes, and homework, and say hello to adulthood with a diploma in hand. Figuring out what’s next can be a daunting task for many graduates, as so much of the future is unknown. This is especially true for those in this year’s graduating class of 2020.
Not only did many of these students have to unexpectedly say goodbye to their friends and college campuses months early due to COVID-19, but because they are graduating in the midst of a pandemic, in-person celebrations with classmates and loved ones have been put off indefinitely. This does not mean the celebration of graduates should be postponed, too, though. They have still mastered the feat of graduating college—and they have still entered the real world. The show must go on.
To help them commemorate this time and adjust to life after college, consider sending a gift they will actually use (now or in the future). Here are the 15 best gift ideas to send college graduates this year.
1. Gravity Blanket
After years of school, finally, new graduates can relax. Because of this, a gift that helps them do so would be a huge hit. Weighted blankets can help you relax, and our favorite—the Gravity Blanket—is loved by people for this very reason. When we tested weighted blankets, the Gravity Blanket outdid the competition. Their marketing copy claims the blanket is like wearing a hug, and as a proud owner, I can confirm this is true. Bonus: if you want nothing but to give the graduate you’re shopping for a hug, but you can’t right now, you would technically be giving them a hug with the Gravity Blanket. It’s a win-win!
2. A new laptop
A laptop goes through a lot during four years of college. With the amount of wear and tear put on a computer during college, it might be time for a new computer upon graduation. If you’re looking to splurge on a graduation gift, help them out with a new laptop. Our experts suggest going with the Macbook Air or the Dell XPS 13. What you decide should be based on the recent graduate’s PC or Mac preference, but if you aren’t sure, they would hopefully appreciate the gift anyway.
3. Apple Watch
When you graduate from college and realize that life no longer revolves around the beginning and end of the school year, it can seem like time does not exist anymore. But if you don’t watch the clock, the days, weeks, months, and years can fly by without you even noticing. This is why a watch has always been a symbolic gift for new college graduates. It’s a reminder to slow down and a tool to help you make the most of every minute. If you would like to get a watch for a recent graduate, consider giving a smartwatch over a regular watch. The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best one we’ve tested. Not only will it remind them about time, but it provides notifications, music, and texts at their fingertips, which will always be of use in life, normal or not.
4. A coffee maker
For many, coffee is an essential part of getting through the day. It can get pretty expensive going to Starbucks regularly, though. To help the graduate in your life avoid picking up the costly habit of daily coffee shop trips, introduce them to a great coffee maker. At $300, the retro-looking Moccamaster is our top coffee maker and would be a fabulous investment they could use for years to come. If you’re looking to spend less, the Nespresso VertuoPlus by Breville is our best single-serve pod coffee maker and also a fantastic purchase for someone in their 20s.
5. Camera (that’s not a smartphone)
If you’re looking for a splurge-worthy, useful gift for a graduate who has a talent for curating their Instagram feed, a camera is an excellent idea. The Panasonic Lumix LX100 is a great option for beginners. The camera would give the grad in your life a new hobby to take on in their newfound free time, and who knows—maybe it will end up providing them with secondary income or a full-fledged career in the future.
Apple’s cult-favorite AirPods are the BEST true wireless earbuds our experts tested this year. If you’re shopping for a lover of all things Apple, they will adore a pair of these. For traveling, commuting, working out, and even listening to podcasts while loading and unloading the dishwasher, AirPods are a gift that can used during every busy and mundane moment of adulthood.
7. Kindle Unlimited Subscription
Just because there’s no more required reading after school ends, doesn’t mean one should stop getting lost in a good book. In fact, some may argue that adults should read more than they did while in school. Reading helps with mental stimulation and is a smart way to spend free time when you want a break from binge-watching television or scrolling through social media. The only issue is that books can get expensive, unless, of course, you have unlimited access to e-books. Kindle Unlimited gives you just that, and therefore, is a perfect graduation gift for bookworms. You don’t even need an e-reader to access the books. Everything is available to read right on your smartphone.
While we recommend Kindle Unlimited for those who love reading, we still think physical books are excellent gifts—especially for college grads. After all, adjusting to life after college is hard, and there are plenty of books out there to help them acclimate to the real world. If you suspect the graduate you’re shopping for may feel lost, confused, and unprepared (which, to be honest, is how many adults are feeling right now), get them a book that will make them laugh, learn, and feel less alone as they try to figure the world out. Here are some great options:
9. An upgrade from the red solo cup
Once you graduate from college, you have to say goodbye to the red solo cup. Okay, I’m kidding. I grew up with three brothers and my parents bought the 250-pack of red solo cups regularly so we wouldn’t have to do dishes six times a day (they still do). When it comes to drinking alcohol, though, drinking wine or vodka soda out of a plastic cup can feel like college. To help the graduate in your life adjust to adult life, get them a copper version of the infamous red solo cup. Known as “The Party Cup,” you can use it to continue the party into the real world with a touch of class. The cup has 4.5 stars on Amazon from over 220 reviews.
10. A quality wallet
Adults have many cards. Credit cards, healthcare cards, loyalty cards, gift cards. As you get older, the cards keep coming, so naturally, you need a place to put all of them. Not to mention all of the newfound money one may acquire out there in real world. That needs a home too. To house all of these tiny adult mementos, get the graduate in your life a nice wallet. Sure, it’s a simple gift, but it’s something that will actually get used, no matter how much technology and the world changes (unless, of course, robots take over and paper money and cards no longer exist, but I feel like we are still far from this happening). This leather Fossil wallet has a 5-star rating from hundreds of reviews, and would be great for the guy who needs a place to put his stuff.
11. A nice handbag
If you’re shopping for someone who is always carrying around a bag, consider getting a handbag as a gift. Not everyone loves handbags (Nora Ephron once wrote an essay titled “I Hate My Purse”), but if they’re into fashion and labels, chances are they will appreciate this luxurious adulthood staple. Whether you like them or not, handbags are important for bringing belongings to and from wherever you are going, and although there might not be a lot of places to go right now, this situation is temporary. But a good handbag? That’s forever. (Even if they get sick of it and sell it online—at least someone will be using what you spent your money on for years to come.)
Here are three trendy picks that come highly recommended by reviewers at different price points. I am the proud owner of the Madewell tote bag and think it is a perfect bag to bring to work every day. If you’re looking to spend less money, the Street Level bag is a great faux alternative to the Madewell bag (over 1,600 reviewers gave the bag a nearly 5-star rating). For those looking to splurge, the Gucci shoulder bag would be welcomed by any fashionista.
When it comes to gifts for women, jewelry can be a cliché option. But when it marks a momentous event such as college graduation, it’s totally worth it. If you don’t want to splurge on fancy pearls or a diamond necklace, this popular Kate Spade initial necklace is a great pick. The initial gives it a personal touch and it goes with anything. Not to mention, initial necklaces are quite trendy right now. Just remember to pick the right initial character before you add to cart!
13. The Amazon Echo Plus
Recent grads are likely to become someone else’s assistant, so give them the gift of their own (digital) assistant. They can ask Alexa, the voice inside the device, anything from what the weather forecast is to who Pete Davidson is dating. Bonus: it plays music when asked. But that’s not all the smart device does. Read our list of everything that works with Echo and Alexa to see what else it’s capable of.
14. ClassPass Membership
ClassPass gives fitness enthusiasts access to tons of exercise classes at different boutique studios—and we are big advocates for the service at Reviewed. While many gyms and studios are closed right now, and people are encouraged to practice social distancing, the app offers at-home workouts, making it an ideal membership to have right now and in the future. If you’re shopping for a graduate who was a regular at their campus gym, this gift would be much appreciated.
15. Sugarfina ‘Congrats’ Candy Box
Simple but sweet (literally), this adorable little box of candy is a perfect little something to send to someone who has just graduated from college. With a combo of gummies and chocolate, you get the best of both worlds. I am a huge fan of Sugarfina candy boxes and have gotten them as gifts for friends and family on multiple occasions.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.
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