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12 Gifts Any High School Graduate Will Really Appreciate

This story is part Gift guideour year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Graduation is an exciting — and nerve-wracking — time for high school students as they say goodbye to old friends and prepare to start a new chapter in their lives. Some high school graduates will go to college and move into a dorm. Others will take a year off and travel the world. Still others will embark on a new career, start an internship, or join the military. Whatever they decided to do next, it’s time to help them celebrate this big occasion with the best graduation gift already.

It’s easy to give them cash, which high school graduates always appreciate, but they’ll likely be even more grateful for a graduation gift that recognizes their big milestone. We’ve put together an assortment of practical and unique grad gifts that are considerably more thoughtful than a wad of cash. From dorm essentials to sweet keepsakes, these graduation gift ideas will have them ready for their next adventure.


If you’ve ever slept on a dorm mattress, you know how horribly uncomfortable they can be. So if your favorite grad is moving into a dorm in the fall, they’ll be grateful for an upgrade. This mattress topper is just what they’ll need to add extra padding and transform their sleep experience. Bonus: a mattress topper also makes it easier to clean up spills after a late night snack in bed.

Be sure to purchase a Twin XL as this is the standard size mattress for most dorms and college dorms. The Sopat Twin XL Mattress Topper is currently priced at $80 on Amazon, but you can get an additional $4 off with a coupon at checkout.


Nothing can replace mom or dad’s home cooking, but a cash-strapped grad would love to have more food options beyond the dining room. DoorDash is a popular choice for food delivery, and it’s our top pick among food delivery apps, thanks to its extensive dining options and simple app interface. You can purchase gift cards for any amount, personalize them with a graduation theme, and send them to your graduate by post, text, or email.

David Carnoy/CNET

If your new grad isn’t staying home, chances are they’ll have to deal with rowdy roommates. The latest iteration of Sony’s best noise-canceling headphones will block out unwanted noise so your grad can focus on homework or just relax with some music. Thanks to its long battery life, comfortable fit and refined sound, Sony’s WH-1000XM5 received our Editors’ Choice award. Older – but still excellent – ​​XM4 models remain available and sometimes drop as low as $280.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review.

Cuddle Clones

Leaving home is especially difficult when you have to leave a beloved pet behind. If you have a new grad who adores their pet, consider getting them a plush Cuddle Clone to comfort them and constantly remind them of their favorite furry friend.

The ordering process for Cuddle Clones is quite simple. Simply start with the name of the animal, followed by the type of animal and the breed. Then answer a few simple questions, upload photos and voila, your graduate will have a fuzzy version of their pet in eight weeks.

Bed bath and beyond

Being an adult is tough, but it’s especially tough when you have to do your own laundry and haul it from a dorm to a laundromat. You can make this tedious task much easier for your graduate with this personalized laundry bag. It’s big enough to hold a week’s worth of laundry, and the sturdy backpack straps make it a breeze to carry from place to place. For a more thoughtful touch, you can add laundry essentials to the front pocket, like coins, detergent pods, and fabric softener.

Dylan’s candy bar

If your grad has a sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong with a delicious stack of chocolate treats. Dylan’s Candy Bar features a dazzling 12-inch stack of four boxes, including chocolate-dipped pretzels, dark chocolate nonpareils, chocolate-covered sandwich cookies, and delicious dark chocolate caramel popcorn clusters. Your grad’s new roommates will probably thank you too.


If your new grad moves out after graduation, chances are they’ll end up living in a smaller space, which means there’ll be less room for their precious stacks of books. The Kindle Paperwhite is a great choice for bookworms who are attached to their physical book collections and want a similar experience. It features warm light settings, long battery life, and is completely waterproof. While the retail price is $140, this model is often discounted, sometimes as low as $80.


All young adults enjoy their sleep (don’t they all?) so your new grad will appreciate this silk sleep mask. Not only is it washable, but the wide band ensures you have enough coverage on your face to block out all the light. Bonus points: It’s designed to muffle noise since the band fits over your ears.

A way

It’s hard to say goodbye to your new grad, which is why you want to give them a good excuse to visit. The Away carry-on can fit in most luggage bins, and it’s perfect for weekend trips and longer vacations at home. This durable roller bag can also take a beating. It has a limited lifetime warranty, which means the company will cover any damage to the case’s shell, wheels, handles, zippers and more.

Standard carry-on costs $275, but if you want to include a USB charger to charge a phone on the go, it’s $20 more. And if you want to add a personalized luggage tag with their initials, it’s an extra $10.


If your new grad is moving into a dorm in the fall, shower shoes are a must. Flip flops or slides help protect their feet from fungus and bacteria that thrive in shared bathrooms (ewww).

Adidas’ hugely popular Adilette shower slides are a classic – and for good reason. They’re comfortable, durable, and have plenty of textured traction to prevent accidental slips on wet tiles.


If the new grad in your life is moving to a different state, a Homesick candle will give them a sweet reminder of home. These 13.75 ounce candles are created with a blend of natural soy wax and fragrances tied to each state’s geography. So no matter where your grad ends up, they can turn that on and let the nostalgia in.


The graduate in your life undoubtedly has a favorite movie, TV show, or sports team. Any graduate would smile ear to ear to see a home video of their favorite celebrity or reality TV star congratulating them on their graduation day. Cameo lets you search for the person you think your grad would love the most and pay for a quick video from them. Prices vary a bit, but the end result is always pure bliss.

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