What to Give a Graduate

May is a month filled with pomp and circumstance.  Graduations.  The robes, hats, songs, ceremonies and gifts.

I think back to my high school graduation in 1999 and suddenly Green Day’s ‘Time of your Life’ is playing over and over in my head.

In the next two months, the Class of 2013 will contain over 3.1 million high school students.  Recent data was released from America’s Promise Alliance that graduation rates are on the rise.  More high school graduates (hopefully) means more college freshman.

High school diploma in hand, 2.2 million students will enter as college freshman this fall.

College graduation takes between four and six years.  This year, 1,791,000 college students will receive bachelor degrees.

Combining high school and bachelor-level college graduates, this means there will be nearly 5 million graduates!  The robes, hats, songs, ceremonies and gifts.

Payday for Hallmark cards and Target giftcards.

This doesn’t even count post bachelor graduations or pre-school ceremonies.

Chances are likely if you are not graduating, you know someone who is.  This could affect you very little, so maybe you’ll post a simple Facebook message or send a text.  Or the extreme end, and you could be sitting pretty at a two hour plus graduation ceremony.

Don’t we all wish we would have been at this commencement ceremony?

Educational institutions pride themselves on tradition.  Graduation commencements are high on this list.  I have been part of three graduations, high school, bachelors and masters.  In two more years, I’ll chalk up my ‘terminal degree’ and become Dr. Josie Ahlquist.  Not like I have a countdown or anything!

With a few graduations under my belt, I thought I’d share some suggestions for how you might ‘celebrate’ and acknowledge your class of 2013 graduate.

High School Graduates

  1. Do you need a card?  Trust me, I am a card person.  But the amount of cards received during graduations are extreme.  Use that $3-5 on something the recent grad really needs.
  2. Where are they headed next?  Keep in mind what is the next step for them.  Is the high school graduate attending a school they will need to fly to?  Maybe a southwest arlines gift card.  Are they living in a residence hall and will need to stock up on ‘dorm’ supplies, put together a fun package with items like flip flops, laundry soap, snacks, power cord, etc.
  3. An IOU.  Freshman college students start to run low on funds toward the end of each semester.  They also LOVE care packages and checking mail.  Give them an IOU at graduation, stating you’ll send them a box full of goodies when they need it the most.
  4. Technology.  If they don’t have a cell phone, laptop or tablet by this point, look into how you can help.  Maybe team up with others to help with this most likely expensive gift.

College Graduates

  1. Show them the money.  Chances are this graduate is in the negative, if not in the bank account then in their student loans.  Any amount will do it.
  2. Human Resources.  Based upon your professional position and connections, consider what professionally you have anything to offer them for their job hunt.  Contacts are a priceless commodity when applying to positions, could you offer them a lead into their first position?  Or could you provide them time and insight improving their resume and cover letter?  These two precious documents can be a make or break in the job hunt.
  3. Spa Day.  If the students actually graduates ‘on-time’ aka four years, they will have gone through eight brutal finals weeks.  A crick in the neck doesn’t start to describe the neck, back and joint pain caused from leaning over on books and friverlessly typing.

Need more gift ideas?  Here are a couple great resources:



To the Class of 2013, my gift and challenge to you I cannot claim I wrote personally.  It is a captivating message by Mary Oliver, 1990.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean– the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, The House Light Beacon Press Boston, 1990.

Comments are closed.

, , , ,