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11 of the Best Meaningful Graduation Gift Ideas

Looking for a special graduation gift? Look no further. We’re sharing 11 of the best meaningful graduation gift ideas.

Are you a sentimental person?

Do you like giving the perfect gift to special people in your life?

Yes?

Oh good us too!!!

You’re definitely going to appreciate this list of meaningful graduation gift ideas.

Between both Anne & I…we’ve had three children graduate high school.

I have three kids…my oldest two have graduated high school and my firstborn finished college too.

My youngest has another year of high school.

And then I’m looking at an empty nest!

I’m not ready for that!

Are you?

Anne also has three children.

Her oldest graduated high school and her twins will graduate this year.

If you’re feeling like your not ready either go read Anne’s personal essay about dealing with her emotions of letting go.

It makes me tear up just thinking about it.

Even though we may be be feeling sad about their next milestone.

Graduation is a happy occasion for our kids and we want to celebrate them!

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Why You Need to Give a Meaningful Gift

three different high school graduation photo announcement cardss on wood table

Our boys graduated in 2016, 2018, & 2020.

And our girls in 2021 & 2022!

WOW!

We sure have had a busy few years…with lots to celebrate!

It’s safe to say that we’ve really thought a lot about graduation gifts in the past several years.

And being the sappy moms that we are…it’s always important to us to give gifts that are thoughtful.

Sure they appreciate those laptops and cash they get when they cross that stage and receive their diploma for all that hard work.

But the sentimental gifts…well, I think those are the ones they’ll always remember.

I know the presents that are more personal are the ones I treasure the most.

Don’t you think so too?

So why not give your graduate a gift they’ll treasure!

Here’s a list of our favorite meaningful gift ideas in no particular order.

Photobook

As you may know Anne and I love family photos!

Anne is a family photographer.

And we both have family photo gallery walls all over our homes.

So it’s no surprise that a photo book made our list of meaningful graduation gift ideas.

Creating a photo book is a bit time consuming but so worth the work!

I made a photo book of my son’s childhood from birth through 18.

Just a few pages of each stage of his life in chronological order.

Of course, being a super sentimental mom I love a good quote!

So I included lots of great inspirational quotes throughout his photo book.

Check out all the details of how I organized all those years of memories in pictures and created his photo book here.

And the bonus of this giving this gift is that it’s a gift for me too.

Because of course I ordered two copies!

Now I have a photo book of his childhood all organized and bound in a beautiful hard covered book on my family room shelf.

I plan to do the same thing for both of my other kids too.

Some other ideas for a meaningful photo book:

  • Short on time? Choose one photo for each year along with a quote or note about that time period. Short and sweet! But full of heart!!
  • Did the graduate have a senior photo session? Usually you choose just a couple pictures from the session. Why not create a book with all the images from their photo shoot?
  • Favorites – Pull out your phone and scroll through the pictures. Create a book with photos of the graduates most recent favorite times. A memory keeper for sure!

Wanderer Bracelet

wanderer bracelet with personalized coordinates on table with canvas bag with logo on it and handwritten note for meaningful graduation gift idea

Both Anne and I gave these Wanderer bracelets to our sons when they went away to college.

A Wanderer bracelet with the coordinates of the graduate’s homes is the perfect gift for graduation.

I wrote Jake a letter and put the bracelet with our home coordinates in the envelope then left it under his pillow after making his bed when we moved him in his dorm.

He texted me later that night and thanked me for both the letter and the bracelet.

He really loved finding them when things settled down that night after moving in.

Anne also did something similar when she gave Ryan this bracelet.

It’s a budget-friendly special gift that will remind them of home!

Personalized Journal

young woman sitting outside holding journal in one hand and pen in the other hand touching face with tip of pen

A journal is a great meaningful graduation gift idea.

Give them a place to write down all their thoughts, dreams or even struggles.

And a leather-bound journal engraved with the graduate’s initials makes this gift even more meaningful.

T-Shirt Quilt

woman holding up completed t-shirt quilt as example of meaningful graduation gift ideas

Do you have a bunch of old outgrown t-shirts your child is ready to donate or trash?

Wait!

Don’t toss them yet!!!

Save them and create a wonderful meaningful graduation gift.

Take all those old t-shirts and get them sewn into an amazing one of a kind quilt.

I had saved special t-shirts from my kid’s childhoods, so I included some from when they were little and some from their later years.

I even stole Gavin’s newer t-shirt from his part time job to include in his quilt.

You can check out how I had the t-shirt quilts made here...it’s a super easy process and really pretty affordable.

But what if you didn’t save t-shirts over the years…no worries…get creative!

  • Did your graduate play a sport? Create a quilt out of all their track t-shirts or whatever activity they participated in.
  • Are they graduating from college? Use their fraternity or sorority t-shirts. Or old college tees.
  • Do they have a favorite sports team? Gather t-shirts that represent that team. Or maybe they have several teams and sports they love. Put them all together in one fun sports fan quilt.
  • Are they attending college this fall? Collect t-shirts from that university.

And this list goes one…so many possibilities!

Grab those old t-shirts and create a one of a kind thoughtful gift.

Memory Book of Letters

meaningful graduation gift ideas photo of young man sitting in family room on carpeted floor reading book of letters

When searching Pinterest for graduation gift ideas when my oldest a senior in high school I came across the perfect idea..

A memory book filled with letters for my son.

I reached out to family, friends, teachers and mentors to ask them to contribute a letter, short note, quote, or memory.

Then I typed everyone of those messages we received and created a book filled with love for him.

I’ve done this twice for my sons and will do it again for my daughter.

This was by far one of their favorite gifts!

To read the letters from our family and friends and even favorite teachers was so special to them as they graduated and started the next phase of their lives.

Click here for all the details and the link to the example letter we sent requesting everyone to participate.

This gift will take a little bit of planning but I promise it will be such a meaningful present.

Mapiful

map of unveristy of south carolina hanging from row of hooks and baseball cap on another hook

A map of a special location is a heartfelt gradutaion gift.

When Jake was finishing college we were working with Mapiful and they gifted us this amazing map of his university.

Creating a map of the graduates hometown or even their college town makes a special gift they can hang anywhere they go.

A personal map is also a super affordable option.

Sentimental or Personalized Jewelry

mom and daugter standing together smiling outside with matching necklaces on

You usually can’t go wrong with jewelry.

And personalized pieces make a wonderfully meaningful graduation gift for sure.

Emma has a little while until graduation but we modeled these pretty matching Mother & Daughter double circle necklaces from Dear Ava.

How great would they be for a mom to give to her daughter for this milestone occasion?

Other options for your son or daughter:

Family Vacation

four cards laying on table with printed words in the middle of each as example of meaningful graduation gift ideas

A family vacation after graduation is definitely something your graduate will always remember.

How amazing would it be to take a cross-country road trip?

Or a trip to Europe?

Or even a Caribbean cruise?

Family vacations are filled with memory making moments that your graduate will treasure forever.

Jake loves Disney so we surprised our family with a vacation to the happiest place on earth.

Vacations are gift that the entire family can enjoy!

Engravable Compass

man holding compass in hand on road with arrow on road

Wherever your graduate travels after graduation a personalized compass is a special gift idea.

Have the back engraved with a message or favorite quote and it makes it even more thoughtful.

One of my favorite quotes would be perfect for engraving on the back of a compass.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

– Henry David Thoreau

Do you need more graduation quote ideas? Click here!

Memorable Experiences

man stading on rock formation with mountain range ahead and trees on either side of him as an example of an experience graduation gift idea

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “buy experiences not things“.

What better way to celebrate your graduate than with a memorable experience?

Like a vacation the memories created with a special experience will last a life time.

Have they always wanted to go sky diving?

Or maybe get a tattoo?

Has your graduate always dreamed of driving a race car around the track?

The options are endless when it comes to giving a unforgettable experience as a gift!

You have the opportunity to make their dream come true!

The Night Sky Star Map

custom birth date star map on canvas with small vase next to map

Another sentimental gift idea is a night sky star map.

Customize the map for the date your child was born.

And boom…you’ve got yourself a personalized meaningful graduation present!

We hope you found a sentimental idea that would work for your graduate and your budget.

Do you have another gift idea?

We’d love to hear about it because we’re always searching for memorable ideas to give!

More Ideas for your Graduate

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

Don’t miss any of our tips, tricks, or stories! We’d love for you to follow us on social media! You can find us on TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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Amy Bauer

Wednesday 20th of April 2022

Many years ago I saw an idea to get a small, glass, fillable lamp, the kind you put shells or decorative glass beads in - like this -

https://www.amazon.com/CO-Z-Fillable-Modern-Accent-Certificate/dp/B07SS6NXBV/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=Fillable+Lamps&qid=1650480093&sr=8-6

And fill it with collected memories and toys from over the years. Hopefully it isn't filled with embarrassing items! And hopefully it will fit well in his dorm room. I've collected his favorite Matchbox cars, a few Legos, ticket stubs, small medal awards, the bow tie from his First Communion suit, Disney pins and the candles from his 1st birthday cake. Although my son is a Junior this year, I am planning ahead and will definitely be doing the Memory Book, Wanderer Bracelet and tee shirt quilt.

AnnMarie

Wednesday 20th of April 2022

Hey Amy! I absolutely LOVE that idea! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I wish I had saved some of those things. Maybe I need to go on a hunt to see if I can find some because that sure is a meaningful gift idea. Let me know if you have any questions when you do the memory book. I'm working on Emma's now! Thanks for following and supporting our blog it means so much! :)

Amy Saunders

Wednesday 13th of April 2022

Hey there! My beloved niece is going to have her graduation ceremony next weekend and I want to give something special for her to commemorate the occasion. Your explanation on presenting an engraved memorabilia was such a brilliant idea. Well, I guess I'll have to reach out to a certain company so I can order the right item later.

AnnMarie

Wednesday 13th of April 2022

Hi Amy - Thanks so much for taking time to comment. It's such a special time in a young persons life and we love to give meaningful gifts. Congrats to your niece!

Witty Ryter

Sunday 13th of February 2022

I suggest adding the book Grown-Up Stuff Explained: 75 Topics 18-Year-Olds Should Know to your list. https://rstyle.me/+urTgmlIZnFvZoqeP0LWBAw

It’s easy to read and simple to understand. The book uses concise descriptions and cartoons to explain subjects related to civic responsibilities, employment, living arrangements, paying off debt, owning a car, saving and investing, traveling, and others.

AnnMarie

Monday 14th of February 2022

Thanks for the idea!

Rebecca Gardner

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

I like how you said that grads will appreciate functional gifts, but the sentimental ones will be more memorable and meaningful. My nephew will be graduating from high school near the end of May. I think I'll look for a custom, hand-woven stole he can wear during the ceremony as a sentimental gift for him.

Anne

Wednesday 21st of April 2021

Thanks, Rebecca! That sounds like a wonderful idea and I'm sure he'll love the thought behind your gift. Congratulations to him!