Graduate Gift Etiquette

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The month of May is a time to celebrate the graduation of high-school and college students in your personal network. One of the best ways to support a new graduate is to offer a gift to help celebrate the transition into a new school or into the world of work. While there are no strict rules on graduation gifts, there are a few basic social etiquette guidelines that will help you in the gift-giving process.

Who Should Give Gifts?

There is no obligation to give a gift to a graduate whom you do not know personally. But if the graduate is somebody you know, such as a family member, it is proper etiquette to acknowledge her accomplishment with a gift. If you are invited to a graduation celebration party, it is appropriate to show up with a gift in hand.

Type of Gift

Money is one of the most common graduation gifts, especially when the gift is sent in the mail. But money is not the only gift option. Cynthia Lett, founder of the International Society of Protocol and Etiquette Professionals, suggests giving a gift that is “youthful and tasteful,” such as a high quality pen set or a luggage set. Lizzie Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, says the gift can be a simple low-cost token of appreciation for being included in the celebration. It can even be a e homemade gift, says Post, adding that the choice between giving money and another type of gift depends on the preferences of each individual family.

Timing of Gift

There are several different opportunities to send out the graduate gift. If the graduate holds an open-house for graduation, this is a great time to bring over the gift. Another option is to send the gift to the graduate's address either shortly before or after the graduation ceremony. The Eli Lily Federal Credit Union's Life Lessons Blog discourages people from giving graduates their gift on graduation day during the ceremony because it can easily get lost on this busy day.

Thank-You Notes

Graduates are expected to send thank-you notes to every person who gives them a gift. Jay Remer, etiquette expert and editor at StagesOfLife, says it's important for graduates to write handwritten thank-you notes to gift-givers because this is a skill they will need in their post-graduation life – after a job interview, for instance.