Forget weddings—for many of us, June is all about juggling graduation invites, both at the high school and university level. This of courses raises the question, “What is an appropriate graduation gift?” Read on for advice on proper graduation etiquette.
Unless you are a family member or good friend, you should not feel obligated to attend every graduation ceremony that you are invited to, though it is always a nice gesture to do so. However, if for whatever reason you are unable to attend the ceremony, you should acknowledge the person’s achievement with a card and a thoughtful gift.
For older graduates, I recommend giving a tasteful but useful gift such as a stainless steel keychain, leather business card holder, engraved pen, or a beautiful paperweight. For instance, when I was in corporate, a colleague invited me to his MBA graduation. I gave him a silver pen from Tiffany’s. It was not excessively expensive, but when one receives a gift that comes in the “blue box,” it’s always special. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. The receiver will almost certainly cherish the gift and will always remember you when they use it—and they will use it.
For younger university graduates who are just starting out, you may want to splurge on a gadget, such as an iPhone or an iPod (which can be engraved). Of course, if that is out of your budget, consider getting them a present related to their degree or career plan, such as a subscription to a trade publication. You could also get them a gift certificate to a clothing store that specializes in career wear, such as Ann Taylor.
For high school graduates who will soon be leaving for college, a gift certificate to Starbucks (for those late-night study sessions), Target (for outfitting a dorm room), or their local campus bookstore will always come in handy. As far as a monetary amount, it really depends on how close you are to the graduate or his/her family. For relatives and close friends, I would aim for $50-$100 or more; for acquaintances or less intimate friends, I would aim for around $25.
P.S. Congratulations to all of those 2009 graduates reading!