What Is a Proper High School Graduation Gift for a Friend?

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When a friend graduates from high school, it is an occasion to celebrate that person’s accomplishment with family and other friends. The fun part is celebrating, but the hard part is determining an appropriate graduation gift to give to the new graduate. Is a card enough or should you pair it with a meaningful gift? Deciding how much to spend, or to give as a cash gift, can be agonizing. Take the pain out with these high school graduation gift ideas.


Before jumping into gift ideas, consider an appropriate budget for your friend’s graduation gift. Remember that you are a friend and not a relative, so expectations are different. Your friend is likely just hoping you will celebrate his graduation with him rather than shower him with an expensive gift. While there is no set amount or range that you must spend on a friend’s graduation gift, one idea is to give in cash, or spend in equivalent, the amount equal to the graduation year. So, if your friend is graduating in 2011, you would give or spend $20.11. If graduating in 2012, give or spend $20.12, and so on. It’s a nice way to make a gift of cash not seem tacky and gives you a framework for buying a fun gift.

Photo Frame

Buy a nice frame and mat to accompany it. Select a shot of you and your friend together and place it in the frame. Write a message to your friend on the mat with memories of fun times together and well wishes for a successful future. If you are part of a small group of friends who are all celebrating someone’s graduation, you may choose to make a framed photo collage or select a group shot and have every member in the photo write a special message to the graduate on the mat. Wrap the framed and matted photo and present it along with a card to your friend at his graduation party. It will make a nice addition to his dorm room or first apartment.

Graduation Gift Basket

Another way to celebrate your friend’s graduation is to prepare a handmade graduation gift basket for him. Incorporate food and drink items such as favorite candy bars and soda or juice into the basket. If your friend likes coffee, you may include a coffee mug with a photo of the two of you or a favorite place scanned onto it as well as a pound of fresh-ground coffee. Or, you might add items from favorite restaurants, shops and places, such as a vial of sand from your favorite beach or a piece of turf in a small glass vial from your campus lawn where you played sports or ate lunch regularly. The key is to take the time to choose personal and memorable items. This kind of gift may require more time than money, but should leave a good impression on your friend.

Care Package

Similar to a gift basket, you may want to prepare a care package for your friend that he can take with him to college, trade school or work if he is entering a job after high school. Whatever your friend’s ambitions are, even if that includes world travel, celebrate them and encourage him with a thoughtful care package filled with items that he can use on his new endeavor. For example, a college care package might include a few packages of ramen noodles, a pack of pens, some coffee or energy drinks, a pre-paid calling card and book reader night light. A travel care package might include a passport holder, travel journal and maps to the places your friend has mentioned wanting to visit.