12 Gifts Any High School Graduate Will Truly Appreciate


This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Graduation is an exciting — and nerve-wracking — time for high school seniors as they say goodbye to old friends and get ready to start a new chapter in their lives. Some high school grads will be heading off to college and moving into a dorm. Others will be taking a gap year and traveling the world. Still others will be embarking on a new career, starting an internship or joining the military. No matter what they’ve decided to do next, it’s time to help them celebrate this huge occasion with the best graduation gift ever. 

It’s easy to give them cold, hard cash, which high school grads always appreciate, but they’ll probably be even more grateful for a graduation gift that acknowledges their big milestone. We’ve rounded up an assortment of practical and unique grad gifts that are considerably more thoughtful than a wad of bills. From dorm-room essentials to sweet keepsakes, these graduation gift ideas will get them ready for their next adventure. 


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

Be sure to buy a Twin XL since that’s the standard size mattress for most dorm rooms and residence halls. Sopat’s Twin XL topper is currently priced at $80 on Amazon, but you can take an extra $4 off with a coupon at checkout.


Nothing can replace Mom or Dad’s home cooking, but a cash-strapped grad would love having more food options beyond the dining hall. DoorDash is a popular choice for food delivery, and it’s our top pick among food delivery apps, thanks to its numerous restaurant options and easy app interface. You can purchase gift cards for any amount, customize it with a graduation theme, and send it to your grad via mail, text or email.

David Carnoy/CNET

If your new grad isn’t staying at home, chances are they’ll need to deal with noisy roommates. The newest version of Sony’s top noise-canceling headphones will block out unwanted noise so your grad can focus on homework or just relax with music. Thanks to its strong battery life, comfortable fit and refined sound, Sony’s WH-1000XM5 received our Editors’ Choice award. The older — but still great — XM4 models remain available, and sometimes dip to as low as $280.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review.


Cuddle Clones

Leaving home is especially hard 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 provide comfort and a constant reminder of their favorite furry friend. 

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

Bed Bath & Beyond

Adulting is hard, but it feels especially hard when you have to do your own laundry and cart it from a dorm room to a laundromat. You can make that one tedious chore a whole lot easier for your grad with this personalized laundry bag. It’s large enough to hold a week’s worth of laundry, and the sturdy backpack straps make it a breeze to carry from one place to the next. For an extra-thoughtful touch, you could add some 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 delectable stack of chocolate-y treats. Dylan’s Candy Bar offers a dazzling 12-inch stack of four boxes, including chocolate-dipped pretzels, dark chocolate nonpareils, chocolate-coated sandwich cookies, and delicious clusters of caramel and dark chocolate popcorn. Your grad’s new roommates will probably thank you too.


If your new grad is moving after graduation, chances are they’ll end up living in a smaller space, and that means there will be less room for their precious piles 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, a 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 value their sleep (don’t we 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 actually block out all light. Bonus points: It’s designed to muffle noise since the band fits over your ears. 


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 overhead bins, and it’s perfect for weekend trips and longer vacations back home. This durable roller bag can also take a beating. It’s got a limited lifetime warranty, which means the company will cover any damage to the suitcase’s shell, wheels, handles, zippers and more.

The standard carry-on costs $275, but if you want to include a USB charger for charging a phone while on the go, then it’s an extra $20. And if you want to add on a personalized luggage tag with their initials, it’s another $10.


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

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


If the new grad in your life will be 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 natural soy wax blend and fragrances tied to the geography of each state. So no matter where your grad ends up, they can light this up and let the nostalgia kick in.


The grad in your life no doubt has a favorite movie, TV series or sports team. Any grad would smile ear to ear to see a personal video from their favorite celeb or reality star congratulating them on their graduation day. Cameo lets you seek out the person you think would most delight your grad and pay for a quick video from them. Prices vary quite a bit, but the end result is always pure joy.

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