Planning graduation gifts for friends can feel a little overwhelming. There are oodles of friends graduating with you, and you probably have different reasons for wanting to give each of them gifts. Plus, your bank account has likely already committed to a long-term relationship with tuition or rent—or both. But fear not, for we’ve created a thorough guide to help you find and create inexpensive, meaningful DIY graduation gifts and care packages for every type of friend.
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Maybe you consider all the friends in your group to be your best friends, maybe it isn’t quite that deep, maybe it’s kind of weird to hang out individually—we don’t know your life.
We do know that somehow the combo of friends in your group created a dynamic that made you feel more at home when you were together. That’s something to celebrate.
- Guarantee some reconnection time. Give paper calendars or planners and draw in reunion suggestions if you’ll all be in the same area occasionally. Bonus cuteness if you use stickers and fun pens. Or go virtual with scheduled video chats at whatever your preferred frequency is—make them gift-y with calendar invites or even a shared online calendar.
- Give little gifts that remind everyone of something you loved to do together to sprinkle some nostalgia into your squad’s daily life. Did you always get coffee together or snarf donuts to get through study sessions? Get inspired by typing “coffee” or “donuts” (or “wine” or “beer”) into the Hallmark.com search bar.
- Take this great opportunity to give custom playlists, perhaps titled “Songs Y’all Annoyed Me With” or “Carpool Vibes.”
- Hype them up. Graduation is equal parts scary and exciting. This is the moment for uplifting messages to acknowledge the scary but increase the excitement. Check out these car accessories, travel goodies, this heckin’ adorable sloth keychain, and the elusive non-mom-sounding wood quote sign.
- Personalize the gifts to your friends’ plans. Give something school-related, dream job-related or location-related. If they’re going to culinary school, give them a cute or funny or very serious apron. If they’re moving to a big city with a bunch of roommates, give them some earbuds to drown out the chaos. We’ve got more ideas for giving meaningful graduation gifts.
Choosing your best friend’s graduation gift goes beyond commemorating the amazing friendship you’ve had so far. In addition to reminiscing about the stories you’ll repeatedly tell slightly annoyed new friends, you can show you care about the future of your friendship.
Send any one of these gifts on their own—or bundle them together in a BFF graduation care package decorated with pictures of the two of you together.
- Start a long-distance book club. Pick one of your favorite books—you can grab it right off your shelf—and fill it up with your thoughts. Use these pastel stickers to add comments and bookmark the best parts. Send it with a note encouraging your BFF to send the book back with comments of their own.
- Fill a colorful journal (like this one) with inside jokes, poems, quotes and memes.
- Add a picture of you both to a grad photo frame and deliver it with a displayable card to brighten up their living area and remind them of you.
- Make a bestie’s day better with a bundle of mini cards, gift cards, favorite candy or compliments labeled with “open when you’re feeling [insert icky emotion]” labels. Fill up a gift box—or make it portable with a zipper bag (this one feels super appropriate). Whenever your friend has a bad day, they can open one of your cards or gifts and get an instant mood boost.
- Keep them busy with something creative. Give some arts and crafts projects—or for the professional doodler, step it up with Crayola Signature art supplies.
Helpful Tip: The range of emotions for your “open when” labels can be vast. “Open when you’re drowning in homework” is just as important as “open when you’re feeling sad.”
They made you smile every time you saw them before class, after tests, at meetings, during practice, at rehearsals, for archaic rituals, whatever. In big and little ways, they sure did help you survive academia. Giving tiny grad gifts to a friend who always lent you a pen or laughed at your jokes is a really nice way to let them know they matter.
- Cheer them on. These upbeat stickers or a book full of pep talks will help them feel encouraged on the daily.
- Class acquaintances can be mysterious, but you know they’re graduating. You know they have dreams. You’re pretty sure they’re human. A little encouragement means a lot. A sweet mini card is just the right level of appreciation and you can get a filled-in one or a blank one if you want to say a little something extra.
- Go for the joke. The class- or club-related inside jokes between you and this friend are possibly the only connections you have. But that’s what got you through the day, and they’re worth celebrating. Write a fun reference to a dumb classroom poster, a phrase the teacher always said, or a memorable group project in a funny grad card. You can slip the card into their yearbook or locker, casually give it to them in person or awkwardly give it to them in person. No matter what, they’ll appreciate it.
Helpful Tip: When all else fails, give like you’re a distant relative who was told they like a certain thing one time, and now you only ever give them gifts related to that thing. Example: If you notice they have a lot of plant-related stuff, add to the collection with a displayable card bouquet or just literally anything plant-adjacent.
When your older friends graduate and selfishly leave you behind, you’ll still want to show them you appreciate their friendship. They’re on to a new chapter, so even if you feel heartlessly abandoned, you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t want to wish them luck.
- Wish them good luck. A short and simple graduation card says just enough if you’re not supertight. If you are closer, you can step it up with something more heartfelt and tuck in a favorite quote, a friendship bracelet or pin, whatever. There are so many possibilities.
- Help them stay in touch. If you feel nervous about being left, your friend is probably nervous about leaving. Gifts that can help your friend stay in touch, as well as help them make new friends, are thoughtful AF. We recommend fancy stationery and a game or deck of classic cards.
- Send them off with some snuggles in the form of stuffed animal friends. If you’re after matching stuffed animal friends for both of you, look no further than these adorable big friend “Warmies”—the filling contains French lavender so when you heat them in the microwave they smell good and reduce tension. (Just don’t forget to reunite them every once in a while—they’re a bonded pair.)
Helpful Tip: If you want to go handmade, you could make a bingo game of all the stereotypical experiences coming your friend’s way. Example: an off-to-college bingo chart might have squares like “stay up all night,” or “get locked out of your dorm” or “actually drink a full bottle of water.”
- Stumped on what to write in a grad card? We’ve got you covered.
- Want to go the extra mile with presentation? Check out how to make a tiny care package.
- Giving to a friend who’s younger than you and off to college? Our College Survival Guide will help you offer them advice and gift cards in a fun way. (Maybe grab a group of friends to fill it in.)
- If one of your best friends happens to be in the same extracurricular clubs or teams as you, you can make them a T-shirt quilt with all the T-shirts you undoubtedly got from events and programs.
- Still need help? Check out these grad gift ideas and this article about making gifts more meaningful.
Graduation is such a wild and pivotal time. Everything feels like it changes in an instant, so it’s important to celebrate the friendships you’re grateful to have found and to nurture the ones you’re hoping to carry forward.
Happy giving—and congrats on graduating!