Gift Guide 2010: Gifts for Grads

Your student is about to embark on the next leg of their academic journey, and to help celebrate this milestone achievement (and to start that first semester off right) the expert counselors at IvyWise and I have put together a list of celebration-worthy gifts for any graduating senior.

This touch-screen, tablet computer is the newest innovation from Apple, and is sure to please almost any high school graduate. It’s the perfect device for researching on the web, checking email, reading e-books, and listening to music. The device features a keyboard dock that makes typing notes a breeze, and listening to class lectures is a sure bet. Plus, Apple’s App Store has several education applications that will help your student get through their toughest college courses, such as the Spanish language learning app, Hello-Hello, and the interactive periodic table app, The Elements: A Visual Exploration. Like the idea of a tablet, but not in the market for an Apple product? The iPad has some competition, such as the Archos 9 tablet, the forthcoming Dell Streak and Looking Glass tablets, and netbook-to-tablet convertibles like Lenovo’s IdeaPad S10-3t.

College Swag
Acceptance letters and emails were sent out last month, and by now graduating seniors have sent in their deposits and know what college they’ll be attending in the fall. It’s the perfect time to load up on gifts from their new alma mater. Classic presents include sweatshirts, mugs, notebooks, baseball caps, and bumper stickers emblazoned with the school logo. Or pick up something trendier, like a tie, eco-friendly water bottle, flip-flops, flash drive, license plate frame, fitted tee, or flap hat. You can find many of these items at the college bookstore or online at the bookstore’s website. Just do a search on the school’s homepage.

College Survival Kit
Every student going away to school is going to need a few basic supplies. Give your teen the gift of practicality with a College Survival Kit. Here are a few ideas:

  • Laundry bag
  • Detergent and dryer sheets
  • Shower tote and supplies
  • Flip-flops for the showers
  • Robe & towels
  • First aid kit
  • Photos of friends and family
  • Earplugs
  • Mini tool kit

Don’t forget to make sure your teen is ready for independence. Before the summer ends, give him or her a few lessons on doing laundry, whipping up a nutritious meal, and other handy tasks.

Gift Cards
Contrary to popular belief, gift cards don’t have to be impersonal. Research top restaurants in the area of your student’s new school (try or and give them the gift of a few good meals. You can also get a gift card for the local movie theater. Link a gas card or public transit pass to your credit card to ensure your student always has transportation. For a truly practical gift, try a pre-filled credit card?they’re available at many convenient stores and work anywhere credit cards are accepted. You can even build a card with a custom design at Visa’s Gift Card Lab ( We particularly liked the graduation designs!

Point & Shoot Digital Camera
Freshman year of college isn’t complete without a bevy of photos to show the folks back home. Treat your senior to a top-of-the-line digital camera that can easily travel from the dorm to the student union. Try the new Canon PowerShot A1100IS. It has a 4x optical image stabilized zoom and 12.1 megapixels, which means pictures can be enlarged to photo-quality poster-size prints. The camera even features a self-timer, for those moments when your student wants to include all of his friends in a group shot. Your teen can even upload their pictures directly from their digital camera (without a computer) using the campus Wi-Fi network and the new Eye-fi memory card. Eye-fi works with any digital camera that uses a memory card, and it lets users upload their shots directly to sites like Flickr, Facebook and Picasa. Find out more information at

Dorm Decorations
Dorm rooms generally tend to be lacking in a certain “je ne sais quoi,” so to spruce up your student’s future surroundings, stock up on a few decoration essentials. To start, most dorms have extra-long twin beds, which means you’ll need to purchase special sheet sets. Extra pillows make a great addition, as do bedside reading lamps. Unless your student studies best at a desk, you’ll want to make her bed as reading-friendly as possible, since it might be her main piece of furniture. Storage space is at a premium in dorm rooms, so be sure to get a few space-savers. One popular item is bed risers, which create extra space under a bed for storage tubs or boxes. Floor space will be tight, so hooks and shelves that affix directly to the wall are a great idea. Check out Command hooks by 3M; they can support up to seven and a half pounds and don’t leave a mark, which means your student won’t get stuck cleaning gummy residue of their walls come finals time.

Flash Drive or External Hard Drive
Moving class notes and essays from a dorm room to the computer lab or library is much easier when students carry a flash drive (also known as a thumb drive). However, having an extra copy of their Word documents is where these devices really come in handy. Students can also use online storage and collaboration website services such as and Computer hard drives are notoriously unreliable and there’s nothing worse than having one crash the night before a major research paper is due. One of the best gifts you can give your student is the advice to back up their work!

Skype Account
More and more students are trekking across the country for their college years, which can make it difficult to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Skype is a video chat system that allows users to have face-to-face conversations over the Internet. All you need is a webcam and a microphone (both of which come standard on most laptops and some netbooks). The account is free to start and Skype-to-Skype phone and video calls are free, when using a desktop or laptop computer. Placing calls to landlines and mobile phones is a small additional fee. And if your student is really technology-savvy, she will soon be able to make Skype calls from her iPad to keep you up-to-date in between classes. Check out our current article on Schools for Mobile Technology Lovers for more information on wireless campuses.

Event Tickets
Pick up a pair of sports or performing arts tickets for events at your student’s new school. Reserve a few tickets, and if your student already has a friend (or two) at their new institution, he or she can invite them along. Attending an event is a great way to introduce your student to their school and get them excited for fall. Events can also serve as a networking tool—if your student is interested in joining a dance troupe for instance, a performance can be the perfect place to meet directors and ask questions.

Oh The Places  You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
This was the last book published by Theodore Geisel, famously known as Dr. Seuss. With its sage advice and whimsical optimism for the future, this is the quintessential graduation present for high school seniors. Here are our favorite lines:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.

Hopefully we’ve given you a few great ideas on how to surprise and delight any graduating seniors in your life. For even more great gift ideas, like the MinoHD video camera from Flip, check out our December Gift Guide.

Congratulations from all the counselors and staff at IvyWise!

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