If there is one piece of advice I could give my friends that are approaching college graduation next week it would be this: this next year will challenge you, terrify you, completely surprise you, be absolutely nothing like you expected, and change everything...embrace all of it. The good parts, the bad parts, the really lonely and scary parts, and the ones that put you the most out of your comfort zone.
Realizing it has been almost exactly a year since I wore my cap & gown with my closest friends, packed up the house I called home for two years, and drove away from a campus that changed my life is a very unsettling feeling for me...it seems like more often than not, I was telling friends how frustrated I was with how certain things were turning out for me in Chicago...but now that I'm really looking back on everything this year (trips, work accomplishments, decorating my apartment, making new friends, and exploring such an incredible city) - all of the good more than balanced out the bad, and I have grown more than I ever could have imagined (as cheesy as that sounds, it's true!)
I have a lot of people that are very near & dear to my heart who are about to be in that very same position in exactly a week, posing for pictures and smiling in their red caps and gowns with their families and friends (and with any luck, they won't have the torrential downpour during the outdoor ceremony like we did!) which has had me scrambling to come up with graduation gifts for everyone!
In case anyone else is as stuck as I was a few weeks ago, I've thrown together a little gift guide to help you find that perfect gift - some sentimental, some incredibly practical, and some just personal and fun!
Picture Frames + A Special Photo
Any sort of housewarming gift is great - decorating my apartment is a never-ending game to me and I loved all of the little gifts I received that helped me make it a home.
The 52 Lists Project + My Bucket List Journal
I was gifted both of these books when I graduated and I love them - took me a while to start filling them out (had about a million other things going on...) but once I was settled, I loved being able to daydream and start planning things like travel and bucket lists. (Like my bucket list posts here, here and here!)
The Greatest Portable Phone Charger - Ever
No seriously...these things have come a long way. I have never found one that does even close to this little box. It's lightweight, comes in bigger or smaller sizes (there's also one for charging two things at a time for those of you who are super plugged-in!) Holds 3-4 full chargers (but honestly I think I've gotten up to 5 or 6) and it doesn't run down if you aren't always re-charging it either. It lasts for weeks and weeks! By far the most useful and practical thing I've purchased now that I'm always on the go and my days are a lot longer post-grad.
Sometimes the last thing you want when you're graduating is more stuff to pack, move, and find a place to cram into whatever small city apartment you might be shuffling off to in the big bad real world. All of the moving & stress can really take it out of you, not to mention the grad parties, family parties, dinners and events that seem to last for months around graduation! Treat them to some pampering with a free blowout (or even a mani + pedi, or massage!)
A Classic Watch
Having a go-to watch is a professional staple in my opinion. Everyone has different tastes, but Michael Kors has always/will always be my favorite when it comes to watches. Classic, timeless (no pun intended!), and always elegant - men and women's watches from Michael Kors are a great place to start.
A "Grown-Up" Wallet
This may not be the case for everyone, but for me and the majority of my friends, we all carried around little wristlet zipper wallets that were pretty cheap (mostly for fear of losing, breaking, or ruining them in our various college weekend activities...) and when I graduated this was the first thing I purchased for myself. I knew I would need a real "adult" wallet now that I was entering the working world, and I have been using it every single day since I purchased it.
A Spacious + Comfortable Tote for Everyday
I recently did a post on these for absolutely every budget and occasion...but this is definitely a home-run in terms of graduation gifts. Right alongside needing a real wallet, every single one of my friends went out and bought themselves a tote they could carry to work everyday to carry whatever they may need: laptop, documents, packed lunch, gym clothes...I definitely depend on my tote every day!
This is by far my favorite on the list. If you want something really personal and thoughtful, this is my recommendation. Leaving your campus and home, with your friends and the sidewalks you've been roaming every day for the last four years is scary and above all, incredibly sad. For me, leaving my house on campus was the hardest part of saying goodbye to Oxford, so the coordinates of that house on a necklace would be something I'd cherish forever. You can also get it for the town or campus itself, or even a two-sided item with their hometown and the city they're moving to next. The sky is the limit!
Personalized Journal + Tumbler
Anything monogrammed makes a great gift year-round, for any occasion. It always shows that little bit of extra thought. Having a tumbler or coffee cup for work every day is definitely a must, but I also remember the first few months after graduating I was constantly making lists. Every single day. Packing lists, to-do lists, moving lists, important things I needed to remember, thank you notes that needed to be written...it went on. and on. and on. Either of these would make a great and useful gift for your grad!
Luggage Tags (or anything travel-related)
In addition to moving, travel is about to (most likely) become a much bigger part of any graduate's life. You can finally afford all those weekend trips with friends, bucket list adventures, amazing getaways, and for some people, work trips are factored in as well! Up until now, most college students have been borrowing their parents luggage, but it's definitely time to get your own (and it can get very pricy...so it's an ideal gift if you're wanting to spring for something extra nice!)
What was your favorite grad gift you ever received or gave to someone else? Anything else you think my list is missing?!