14 holiday gift ideas to fit any upcoming grad

Stumped on what to buy? Look no further

Simone Coletta/stock.tookapic.com
Simone Coletta/stock.tookapic.com

Looking for the best gift for a recent or soon-to-be college grad? Who better to ask than one of those college students? We went straight to the source. As part of Adrian College's Bulldog Project, student Sean Cain is sharing his advice for some fitting gifts ideas.

This list of top-notch holiday gifts, in no particular order, will have the recent graduate or grad-to-be in your life more than ready to enter the workforce.

-- Gift cards

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blown $20 at Buffalo Wild Wings, or $10 at Chipotle. Those places aren’t going anywhere, so why not consider a gift card?

Whenever I have one to use, I don’t feel nearly as guilty for going out, and it's nice not to have to hand over my actual debit card.

-- A Netflix account

As nice a guy as I am, when I graduate, I plan to kick all my friends off my account faster than you can say, “‘Fuller House’ was not as good as ‘Full House.’” (Hey, we’re all thinking it). So, if you suspect you might have a Netflix leech in your life, buy that person his or her own account, so (s)he can enjoy shows alone, without invading someone else’s profile. Believe me, nothing ends a relationship faster than when on the first movie night, “Sex and the City” pops up on your Recently Watched list because your pal Becky wanted to cry it out yesterday.

-- Alumni gear

Even if your grad didn’t attend any sporting events on campus, or wasn’t much for school spirit, it’s always nice to receive a shirt that reminds you of Sparty, or whatever your mascot happened to be. Plus, all of us will return at some point, and who wants to be that loner who’s wearing a plaid button-down to a football tailgate? (Remind me again when homecoming usually takes place?)

-- A vacuum cleaner

We are messy. Especially when we get that first job, and we’re working late hours. Who has time to cook up that five-star meal you spotted in a cookbook?

When I envision myself hunched over some Chinese takeout at 2 a.m., watching reruns of “Saturday Night Live,” I’d feel great comfort knowing that whatever crumbs I dropped will be sucked up by a new vacuum.

-- A plant

Remember in "Marley and Me" -- don’t cry yet -- when Sebastian tells Owen Wilson to get a dog instead of a baby, because a dog is less work? Well that’s us, but like, six steps below the dog.

As much as grads or almost-grads probably want to have a dog or cat to come home to after a long day at work, they won’t have the time or money for that, so why not a plant? They require water once a day, maybe twice, and will not run through any screen doors, or eat a significant other’s expensive new necklace (I'm starting to cry. Dang, I miss that dog). Graduates: After you prove to the world you can handle a plant, then you can get a live animal. I suggest a rabbit or hamster. Name it Pebbles.

-- A gym membership

If your grad is anything like me, well, his biggest fear is that after college, he or she will get fat. When my metabolism slows down, I’m going to be in for a rough ride, and I’d really like a gym membership so that I can at least pretend that I give a crap about my figure.

So, at least buy the membership, so that your loved one can make an appearance once a week on Pizza Tuesdays. (Yes, Planet Fitness is a gym). But if all else fails, maybe your grad will meet a cute guy or girl on the adjacent elliptical machine while stuffing down pepperoni pizza. Ah, 21st-century love stories are the best.

-- A briefcase or a nice bag

The key indicator that you are a college student is that crummy backpack you carry to every class. The one with that zipper that never actually worked, but you just said it was a representation of your life. Well, in the workplace, it’s time to be a little classier. Make sure the grad in your life shows up to the first day of work rocking a shoulder bag, and every professional in that office will know (s)he came to play. Hey guys, just be sure not to show anyone the extra pair of clothes you packed, in case you nervously sweat through the ones you have on.

-- A tailored suit

Let’s get serious. Nothing is more impressive than a young professional who has taken the time to get a suit that fits properly. Nobody wants to walk in on the first day or arrive at a big interview in your parent's dress pants that are two sizes too big and rolled up at the waist. (Sorry, I am not good at being serious).

There is a saying, "dress to impress" -- and a tailored suit will not only impress, but it could potentially get your grad the job over some other broke college student who did not have awesome parents. Use those exact words.
And women, be sure to ask for some pantsuits that fit. Yes, skirts look nice, but when it’s minus 6 degrees out, and for some reason, your boss did not call for a snow day, a skirt is probably not a smart choice.

-- Business cards

I’ve said before that buying 250 business cards is the greatest investment of my college career. But in reality, nothing will make you stand out more than whipping out a business card with your name on it. Then, imagine handing it to that successful stranger you met in line at Starbucks, who somehow knows your second-cousin Jeanie, and now wants to give you a job. Maybe now you will add Jeanie back to the Christmas card list. Business cards are actually really cheap, and gifters, if you want to push the envelope, give a holder, as well. It just makes the whole experience a touch better.

-- A book

When’s the last time you read a book for your own pleasure? For the almost-graduate in your life, now is probably a great time to start, or to get back into it again. (Required college reading kind of takes the fun out of it for a bit). If you really want to gift someone a great book that will make an impact on his or her life, I suggest one that offers advice on how to make it in the workforce. I’ve learned in my time that this is a dog-eat-dog world, and I am more than prepared to take any advantage I can get. I highly doubt that advantage will come on page 145 of Kim Kardashian’s new novella, but it might come in some of these:

"When Reality Hits: What Employers Want Recent College Graduates to Know"

"There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow"

-- A new laptop or tablet

Usually these last about three to four years, and if the young person in your life still has that HP dinosaur with his or her fourth-grade book report about sedimentary rocks on it, then maybe it’s time to upgrade. Also, make sure you order the Microsoft Office package. There will be times when your grad will have to finish a report on the way to a meeting, or on the plane, and Google Docs does not work without internet access. And a word to fellow grads: When you get your new device, buy a large drive and store your files from your old computer on there. So, in 2026, when you really need to know what the algorithm is to find the percent of a fraction -- ugh, math! -- you can pull it up.

-- A watch

Hey, fellow grads or soon-to-be graduates, did you guys know that back in the day, TVs were black and white, cellphones were connected to your car and PEOPLE WORE WATCHES ALL THE TIME? Believe it or not, it’s true. It also looks a lot better to just turn your wrist over to check the time, rather than digging in your pocket for your iPhone. A watch also can really compliment your outfit, and make you look a lot more professional. Remember, it goes on your non-writing hand.

-- A pen set

For those of us who relied on the pencils our neighbors in class had throughout the four years of college, this one is really going to pay off. Having a pen set, again, adds to the professionalism we should be displaying to our employers or future employers. Putting it in the cubicle for all the co-workers to see is great, but pulling a pen out of your chest pocket when your potential boss wants to write a note on your resume might just land you that dream job.

SPOILER ALERT: You cannot sign anything in pencil. I will let you figure out why.

-- Jewelry

I am no fashionista, but nothing says confidence like a gold bracelet that looks as if King Tut wore it in Egypt. Hey gifters, like if you’re the parents, maybe you could get some sentimental message engraved on the jewelry, to remind your son or daughter where he or she is from, or where this person is heading. Dang it, I told myself I would not cry again.

Likewise, some nice cufflinks and a tie clip really put the finishing touches on a great outfit, and the best part is, you can brag about how you have cufflinks. Isn’t that what they’re for?

Anyway, accessories are key to an outfit, and with the right ones, your professional status can go from "poor" college kid to a "making it" professional.

By Sean Cain
Originally posted on The Bulldog Project