s springtime approaches, so does graduation season, which unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your knack for gift-giving) means giving recent grads gifts to congratulate them on their recent accomplishments.
Buying a graduation gift can be difficult--giving money or gift cards is easy and effective, but it doesn’t always feel personal. This is an even bigger challenge when buying a graduation gift for an adult--someone who, unlike younger grads, has evolved past their days of figuring things out and might not need a fruit ninja for their new post-college apartment.
When buying a college graduation gift for an adult, you’ll likely be looking for something mature and practical that also shows how well you know the recipient. Whether you’re looking to go all out or to skimp down on your spending, here are some versatile gifts that will be great to give any adult who just graduated college.
We hope you like the adult graduation gifts we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our writing team because we think they're awesome. Just so you know, as an affiliate partner we earn a share of sales or other compensation from qualifying purchases if you decide to shop from some of the links on this page.
🎓 Accessories for a workplace outfit
This is an easy go-to gift for any college grad, regardless of their gender or the field they will be going into. Think earrings, ties, cufflinks, and bracelets. There’s room here to explore different styles depending on what you know about the person you’re buying for:
- Do they prefer big bling or do they like to keep it lowkey and casual?
- Do they prefer patterned ties or skinny ties?
- What colors look good with their skin tone?
You can pick out a work outfit accessory with a lot of attention and detail, or, if you don’t know the person that well, you can buy something generic but aesthetically pleasing. Either way, they’ll be sure to love it.
Our top pick for her: Class rings are the quintessential way to commemorate your graduation, but for fully fledged adults, they can be a bit much. Try something more subtle, like this delicate bracelet that can be engraved with her graduation year in roman numerals.
Our top pick for him: Every professional guy appreciates a new tie, but consider upgrading the hardware that goes along with it, too. This monogrammed tie clip can be engraved with his initials – and every time he reaches for it he’ll think of you.
🎓 Rock these nifty graduation socks
You can’t go wrong with socks. Ever. Everyone needs them, everyone wears them, and no one can ever have too many (except for your uncle in West Palm Beach who only wears Birkenstocks). These socks are not only practical--wearing a fun pair of socks to work can change someone’s entire outlook on the day--they can be a fun gift that highlights a recent college graduate’s big accomplishment. Made in sizes for men and women, this college graduation gift is perfect for any adult regardless of their age.
🎓 College Town Drinkware
Graduating from college--especially for adults who balanced other jobs or taking care of their family while completing their degree--means that it’s finally time to sit down, pour a drink, and relax. Drinkware is a great and versatile gift you can give to just about anyone regardless of their personality or taste. Find a fitting mug for a coffee lover, or a pint glass for a beer drinker.
Consider getting a college grad a glass for their preferred type of drink that has a map of their college town on it. Well Told has every type of drinkware from wine glasses to mason jars, all of which can be customized to have your recent college grad’s campus map imprinted on them.
For adults who went to college, got their degree, but don’t have any strong ties to the campus, the company also offers glasses with other maps--perhaps one of the city where they work or one that maps out the stars in the night sky will fit their vibe a little better.
🎓 Briefcase or work bag
Buying a college graduate a briefcase is not only a great way to recognize their accomplishment, but also a genuine way to show your support of any adult’s future career goals, especially if they plan on entering a field requiring them to look sharp at all times.
Prices vary significantly when buying a briefcase--a really nice leather one will likely cost a couple hundred dollars, although there are faux leather and other material options that can keep you under 100 dollars.
If this idea interests you, be sure to check out Briefcase.com for a vast assortment of different styles and options. If you’re going to dish out a fair amount of money to buy someone a briefcase, you’re going to want to spend a good amount of time making sure they’ll like it--after all, you want them to show it off to all of their new work colleagues.
Looking for a more feminine take on the classic leather briefcase? Consider picking up a high-quality work bag that will hold a laptop, padfolio, and anything else they might be toting around. Hammitt is having a moment right now after going viral on TikTok, but their reputation is well deserved. Start your search with a medium or large-sized bag like the Anderson Tote, which is available in on-trend colors like periwinkle for the fashionista as well as more traditional options.
You don’t have to spend luxury work bag money to give a nice gift, though. Here’s a more affordable dupe.
Or, if you want to keep your accessory gift a little more youthful and trendy, you can always gift them the ultra-functional cross body bag that has recently made a huge comeback on the fashion scene. We love Day Owl's sustainable crossbody bags made from recycled plastic and available in an array of classic, office-appropriate colors.
Is the recent grad in your life moving somewhere new? Will they have to travel a lot for a job? Consider buying them some luggage as a way to congratulate them on completing their degree. Luggage, depending on the style and quantity, can be fairly pricey, so it might not be for every college grad in your life. With that being said, if you’re trying to show an adult graduate how proud of them you are, it’s a thoughtful gift that you can spice up by choosing colors and styles you think they will like.
🎓 Personalized Padfolio
Nothing says “it’s time to get down to business” more than a padfolio. While technology has become increasingly relied upon in the workplace, padfolios can be a great gift for people who will be spending a significant amount of time taking notes in meetings or who just prefer paper over other digital options.
Buying a personalized padfolio, can make this gift extra special, but can get a little pricey if you’re buying one that is made of all leather. If you like this idea but are looking for something a little cheaper, consider checking this personalized canvas and leather portfolio sold on Etsy.
🎓 Office plant
No one ever forgets the office they worked in for their very first job, and no one forgets the first plant they kept in that office to keep them company during that job. Whether the adult you’re buying for is stepping into the office for the first time or already has a cubicle decorated with years worth of photos, a plant will help make the space feel a little more like home.
Succulents are perfect office plants, as they require very little maintenance and can easily incorporate nature vibes into any space, regardless of how corporate it feels. If you don’t think someone will want to take care of any plant, consider buying them a bouquet of flowers--something a little smaller that shows you’re thinking about them that you can pair really well with another gift.
If you want to keep the theme going with more office decorations, it doesn't have to break the bank -- cheap custom framed canvas photo prints look great, and you can use them to highlight one of your favorite memories with your grad to boot.
🎓 A (fancy) box of chocolates
Very few people have an aversion to chocolate, which makes it a perfect gift to show someone that you care about them. Plus, it will give the college grad a break from other more formal and mundane gifts, like watches and paper weights. This gift also gives you some options about how much you want to spend--if you’re on a budget you can pick something up from the drug store. Or, if you’re feeling very gracious, indulge the recipient with some high end chocolates from Godiva.
🎓 An edible arrangement
The healthier cousin to the box of chocolates, Edible Arrangements are designed to be the perfect gift for any occasion. These colorful and elaborate fruit baskets are always exciting to look at, but even more enjoyable to eat. If you’re not sure how to congratulate an adult who graduated college, consider the types of fruits they like and pick out a basket you think they would enjoy.
For people who like something a little sweeter than fruit, Edible Arrangements also offers chocolate-covered fruit options. This gift is also perfect for someone you want to congratulate but won’t be seeing in person, as you can order a basket online and have it shipped to their house. Even if fruit isn’t someone’s go-to snack, they’re bound to be impressed with the way it can be arranged in a basket.
🎓 A bottle of wine
Nothing marks a celebration more than an open bottle of wine. Depending on how much of a wine connoisseur your recent grad is (and how much you know about buying wine), the appropriate bottle to buy based on taste and expectations may differ. But, if you’re going to be celebrating an adult’s recent college graduation, you definitely don’t want to walk into the event empty handed. Whether you know the grad well or not, you can’t go wrong with a bottle of wine. It's classy and reassures the recipient that their graduation is certainly something worth celebrating.
However, if you’re good friends with the graduate and know their preferred libation, be extra. Just as there are fruit and chocolate baskets, you’ll find plenty of unique gift baskets for men and women online. Look for a company that allows customers to customize the contents of this gift set. In addition to wines and spirits, you can add things like gourmet deli meats, whiskey glass and stones, and even Cuban cigars.
And no matter how you choose to show your appreciation for the grad in your life, you can make the gift extra special when you personalize it with an empowering graduation message.
Graduating college is a huge accomplishment that deserves recognition.
Typical college graduation gifts for students in their early 20s may not appeal as much to adult college grads, but there are plenty of great options that will fit their tastes and recognize their achievement.
Originally published: 3/19/2021