Best graduation gifts for the Class of 2018? Money, technology, memories

Monday , May 21, 2018 - 5:15 AM

It’s graduation time, and we all know what that means.

While the high school seniors in your life are facing all manner of life-altering choices in the near future — where to live, where to work, where to go to school, what to do next — you’ve basically got only one decision to make: What to get them for a graduation gift.

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Haley Bess, a senior at Morgan High School, says the most amazing graduation gifts have three things in common: 1) They’re well thought-out; 2) they serve either a practical or personal purpose (or both); and 3) they ultimately represent the graduating senior who is receiving the gift.

Above all else, Bess believes graduation gifts should have an intimate touch to them.

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“Personally, I do not expect graduation gifts from anyone other than my parents and closest friends, just because, even if they are not expensive, they are meant to have personal meaning,” she said. “Graduation gifts represent amazing accomplishments: not only finishing high school, but completing childhood and starting a new phase of life experience.”

The Standard-Examiner conducted email interviews with high school students from around Northern Utah to come up with a list of the top graduation gifts for 2018. Here are the results:


1. Money

It’s hard to go wrong with money. And, most students say, it doesn’t even matter the amount.

Whether it’s $100 from your grandmother or $10 from a neighbor, cash is always useful, according to London Maynard, a senior at Bear River High School.

“Giving cash as a graduation gift is a very practical and useful gift because many of us seniors will be living off on our own and a little strapped for cash,” Maynard said.

Bailey Shae O’Leary, a senior at Northridge High School, says that although money may not technically be a physical gift, she’s trying to save up as much money as she can going into college.

“So it’s always nice to receive a little bit,” she said.

2. Laptop/computer/tablet

Bess says her parents are giving her a laptop for graduation, and “I could not be happier.”

“With technology being a college must-have now, receiving a gift like this is perfect because it is one less thing that high school graduates have to worry about,” she said.

What’s more, as an aspiring writer, Bess believes the laptop is a practical gift that best represents her interests and goals.

3. Trip/Experience

The third-most-popular thing to give graduating seniors isn’t a “thing” at all. Laney Baumann, a senior with Utah Connections Academy (an online high school program), ranks “experiences” — like a road trip, vacation, concert or other memory-maker — above just about everything else but money. Scott Swain, a junior at Davis High School, says a vacation is his No. 1 graduation gift, and Maynard places it in the top three.

4. Homemade gift/reminder of home

Sierra Clark, a junior at Venture High School, recommends something homemade. She crochets, so when each of her older siblings graduated, she crocheted them a gift.

“I really like this because when you put time into a gift, then it just means a lot, and they can remember those who care back at home once they've moved on to college,” she said.

Clark says such a gift is especially appreciated if it’s something practical — say, a warm hat or blanket, versus a wall decoration they might not have space for.

“I know (making a gift) is not really practical for everyone — not a lot of people have a ton of time or resources to devote to graduation gifts — but I think it's the most meaningful gift,” Clark said.

Clark says a lot of graduating seniors heading off to college haven’t been away from home much, so some sort of “small memento of their home town can be nice for those times when they are feeling lonely.”

Bess says she realizes that something with sentimental value may not serve a practical purpose, but receiving a gift representing childhood/high school memories would be valuable to her.

5. Living essentials

Clark says “living essentials” make great gifts for seniors. She defines these as “all those things that you realize you have to start buying once you live on your own, but it’s annoying to buy.”

Included in this list are things as varied as cleaning supplies, trash bags and even dental floss.

“All those thing that we take for granted, until you have to buy it yourself,” Clark says.

Baumann suggests home essentials like silverware or pots and pans.

6. More ideas

Other good gift ideas, according to our high school students, include things like cameras, books, and gift cards to restaurants or stores,

And, perhaps the height of wishful thinking? Swain suggests “a new car.”


Our graduation experts offer a few no-nos when it comes to gifts celebrating an outgoing senior’s accomplishments:

1. Useless knick-knacks

“Something that says ‘2018 Graduate’ is a nice thought in the moment, but it’s going to sit in a box for the rest of my life,” Maynard said. “Something like a little pillow, mug, or sign is nice, but it’s not as practical or as useful.”

2. Anything bulky

Clark warns students don’t have space for things like giant stuffed animals.

“To my understanding, space is money in college,” Clark said. “If your gift cannot be broken down, or doesn't take space constructively, then it's just going to be a pain as they have to move it there, find a place to keep it, and move it at the end of every year. Either that, or it will be forced to collect dust at home.”

3. Corny stuff

“The worst graduation gifts would be any sort of non-usable, corny gifts,” according to Baumann. “This includes teddy bears, jewelry, picture frames, etc. These things are nice, but all the graduates I’ve spoken with want/need anything that will make their adult life easier.”

4. Unsolicited advice

And finally ... got some important advice for the graduating senior? Keep it to yourself, Swain suggests.

“What might be considered a lame gift would be advice or a greeting card,” he says.

Baumann suggests thinking about the usability of a gift before getting it for a graduate. And Clark says that when all else fails, give from the heart.

“I would say that most students aren't picky,” Clark said. “They're just grateful that you thought of them, and you wanted to do something to make this next transition easier for them.”

Indeed, the best thing you can do for a graduate, Clark says, is to think what was the hardest adjustment for you after high school, and find a way to help them out with that.

“Alongside that, just give something that shows them that people care, since a lot of people who move out on their own get lonely, and unsure,” Clark said.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at

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