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22 Best High School Graduation Gifts They'll Actually Use

Get high school grads get ready for their next chapter with these practical and thoughtful gifts.

Desiree DeNunzio Editor
Desiree DeNunzio is the gift guide editor for CNET's Commerce team. When she's not writing and editing, she's either hiking through the redwoods or curled up with a good book and a lazy dog.
Expertise Desiree has been a writer and editor for the past two decades, covering everything from top-selling Amazon deals to apparel, pets and home goods. Credentials
  • Desiree's previous work has appeared in various print and online publications including Search Engine Land, PCWorld, Wired magazine and PBS MediaShift.
Desiree DeNunzio
7 min read

Graduating from high school is a big milestone -- it's the first step into real "adulting," and for some grads, it means they'll be moving far away from family for the first time in their lives. Whether your graduate will be starting a new job, taking a gap year or heading off to college, a great gift can help prepare them for whatever life throws their way. Cold, hard cash is always appreciated -- but the best graduation gifts are considerably more thoughtful than a wad of bills -- and they won't immediately get blown on gas and groceries. 

We've rounded up an assortment of the best high school graduation gifts to get them ready for their next adventure. From dorm room essentials to sweet keepsakes, these graduation gifts will help them navigate that next stage of life. And if you're looking for a gift for the college grad in your life, be sure to check out ultimate college graduation gift guide.

Lands' End

Whether they head home for a long weekend or visit friends nearby, your grad will need a practical duffle. We like the size and sturdiness of this duffle, the adjustable straps, and how easy it is to stow in an overhead compartment. Add a monogram to make it extra gift-worthy. 

Levain Bakery

A quick way to a grad's heart is through their belly. That's why a box of delicious cookies from New York bakery Levain is guaranteed to be thoroughly appreciated. Each cookie assortment comes artfully wrapped in cellophane bags, ribbons and Levain's signature blue box. You can choose from a variety of flavors, though the Signature Cookie Assortment checks all the boxes. Don't forget to pop them in the oven or microwave to enjoy them at their ooey-gooey finest.


A lot of grads like to take a "senior trip" with their friends after graduation. It's a fun tradition -- but not one that every new graduate can afford. Help them out by surprising them with an Airbnb gift card. You can choose any amount between $25 and $2,000, and send them off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Oak and Luna

This Oak and Luna bracelet is both elegant and sentimental, and it can be personalized in a number of ways -- whether you want to have their name or the date of their graduation engraved on it, or add a sweet reminder of their home town. Choose from sterling silver ($113), 18k gold vermeil ($153) or 14k solid gold ($370).


Yeti isn't cheap, but new grads will get a whole lot of use out of this popular compact cooler. Not only can they take it to outdoor gatherings or tailgating at college football games, but it's also convenient for stowing extra beverages to share with roommates.


If your graduate is moving away from home, their healthy eating habits may very well take a nosedive. A Nutribullet blender will help them easily pack fruits and veggies into their daily diet. It's easy to use, powerful and involves way less cleanup than a standard blender. And it comes with a flip-top lid so they can take their smoothie on the go.

James Martin/CNET

If you want to get your grad a full-featured Alexa smart screen, you could spring for the bigger, pricier Echo Show 10, but we think the Echo Show 5 is a better size for a dorm room or small apartment. Like its bigger sibling, the Echo Show 5 can serve as an alarm clock and is great for taking video calls, as well as streaming movies and music. Bonus points: Your grad can set it up to display photos of friends and family.

Read our Amazon Echo Show 5 review.


Nothing can replace Mom or Dad's home cooking, but a cash-strapped graduate would love having more food options beyond the dining hall. College students may not always have the option to cook food in their dorms. So if you're looking for high school graduation gifts, this could be perfect.

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 between $25 and $500, customize it with a graduation theme, and send it to your graduate via mail, text or email.


If your grad likes to make a daily run to Starbucks, they'll appreciate the Breville Bambino Espresso Machine. It churns out Starbucks-worthy cappuccinos, espressos, lattes and more. It's easy to use and doesn't take up much counter space. And the steaming want produces a thoroughly Insta-worthy milky froth.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If your grad is a bit messy and disorganized, that's only going to get worse once they leave home. An AirTag makes a great gift for anyone who's constantly misplacing things. These little item trackers can be slipped into luggage, backpacks and wallets or attached to keys, bikes and more. And if you order them through Apple, you can even personalize them with your grad's initials for free.


Spikeball is a popular activity on college campus quads. This super-trendy, fast-paced game combines elements of volleyball and four square. Instead of hitting a large ball over a straight net, you're smacking a softer, grapefruit-size ball onto a bouncy, ringed one, sort of like tetherball but without the string. It's fast, fun and requires some diving and maneuvering if you want to score the most points. It also packs up easily, so you can take it with you to the beach or park.


If you've ever slept on a dorm mattress, you know just how horribly uncomfortable they can be. So if your favorite graduate will be moving into a dorm room in the fall, they'll be grateful for an upgrade. This mattress topper is a great gift and 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.

David Carnoy/CNET
Battery life Rated up to 40 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint NoHeadphone Type Over-ear wireless headphonesWater-Resistant No IP rating

For college-bound grads who aren't staying at home, chances are they'll need to deal with noisy roommates. The Beats Studio Pro are some of the most popular headphones of all time. While they're not as highly rated as the AirPods Max, they're a lot more affordable, and this latest iteration offers improved sound quality and noise cancellation over their predecessor. Read our full review to find out what makes these headphones great with some caveats.

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.


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 $50. And if you want to add on a personalized luggage tag with their initials, it's another $35.

Pottery Barn Teen

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 laundry backpack. It's large enough to hold a week's worth of laundry, and the sturdy straps make it a breeze to carry from one place to the next. For an extra-thoughtful touch, get it personalized. And you could even add some laundry essentials to the front pocket like coins, detergent pods and fabric softener.


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. 

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 (ew). 

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. Prices start at $25. 


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.

Personalization Mall

Personalization Mall specializes in personalized gifts for all occasions, including high school graduations. If you're looking for a keepsake that will help capture the day forever, this is the perfect high school graduation gift idea. There are a number of frames available, with prices starting at just $20.