Graduation Gift Ideas: College, Trade School, Gap Year, Military or Work

Several years ago, I made the shift away from asking graduates what they were majoring in to, “Where will life lead you after graduation?” The paths are as varied as the young adults taking them. The world is big and bright and in need of their leadership, skills and enthusiasm. To celebrate that next leap, I hope you find these gift ideas helpful for ANY graduate taking the world by storm.

Two important gifts that I think are excellent for any graduate are cash and thank you notes. Those two never go out of style, or use! Hopefully these additional ideas will benefit that young adult, as well.

*some of these are affiliate links


Some college graduates are off to the workforce while others will seek advanced degrees. While money is the universal gift, you might consider these gift ideas:

HIGH SCHOOL (headed to college)

Roughly a third of all high school graduates attend college. While much depends on distance from home, living situation and amenities provided, I think these are some solid choices:

  • Laundry basket with pods for detergent and bleach (along with this handy guide and how-to)
  • Towels (monogrammed wth their initial, making it harder to lose)
  • Scantrons and pencils (they’ll thank you during finals)
  • T-shirt featuring their college
  • Travel umbrella or sturdy backpack
  • YouCat


Some graduates choose to attend a trade school, or take part in an apprenticeship, lowering their post-secondary education costs and entering the workforce sooner. Here are some ideas to get them started on strong footing:

  • Tools / support needed for their trade (toolbox for electrician, plumber, locksmith; stethoscope for a medical tech; beauty tools for cosmetologist, etc.)
  • Gift card to a store they may frequent to support their trade
  • Travel coffee mug
  • Gas gift card
  • Pocket rosary


Some graduates attend a service academy, participate in collegiate ROTC or enlist in a specific branch of the US military. It’s a calling filled with service and sacrifice, hopefully these ideas help:


The year following high school graduation may be filled with service, travel, work or something else. As they discern their next step, these gifts should help encourage and celebrate them:


There are some young adults who graduate and immediately enter the workforce. Hooray for practicing responsibility and hard work. I hope they enjoy one of these gifts:


  1. Nicole on May 19, 2022 at 8:20 am

    I love this list! You provided all sorts of ideas at various price points. Also, you listed out the merits of each path. You never know what the world has in store for these graduates, but I am sure each and every one of them has a path just blazing for them.

  2. Lucy on May 19, 2022 at 9:22 am

    I love all of these ideas! This will be a list I keep for years to come. Prayers for all of our graduates.

  3. Jennifer Korensky on May 19, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    A lot of great ideas here thank you for sharing! Do you any ideas on a seminarian graduate? he will be heading to Rome for Major seminary (4 years) then God Willing his ordination!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.