It sure is nice getting lots of thoughtful, generous gifts for graduation. You might even feel a little surprised to realize there are so many people who know you, care about you, and want to wish you well. Of course, when the confetti finally settles, you’re going to have some graduation thank-you notes to write.
And you truly appreciate the gifts! You really are grateful! There are Just. So. Many. You’re going to need a plan. Relax—we can help you with that.
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If nothing else, a graduation thank you acknowledges that you received someone’s gift. Yes, technically, you could do that with a text or a social-media post. But when someone goes out of their way to give you a gift, the gracious thing to do is to go ever-so-slightly out of your way, too, by sending them a handwritten thank-you note.
And if you take it one step further, infusing your note with genuine gratitude, it can serve as more than a simple receipt. It can become a reminder of how much you value your relationship with the gift giver. It can thank them, not just for giving you something, but for being in your life. And that will make both you and the person you’re writing to feel great.
- When should you send a graduation thank-you note? For big life events like graduation, etiquette guides give you a longer window to get your thank-you notes written and sent. Aim to get yours in the mail within three months after graduation. The sooner, the better, though.
- Where should you send them? In a world where most of us don’t send as much physical mail as in days of yore, you might need to track down a few addresses. If you have a parent or other family member who’s good at keeping up their address book (physical or digital), they’ll be a good resource. After that, don’t hesitate to reach out via phone, text, or social media, asking for addresses.
- How much should you write in a thank-you note? Thirty to sixty words. Three to five sentences. Those aren’t hard-and-fast rules—just guidelines to help you say enough, without going on and on.
- What should they sound like? Graduation thank-you notes don’t need to be stiff or formal, especially for people you know well. If you use humor and casual language to communicate with your recipient in everyday life, then feel free to do the same when write them a graduation thank you.
- How can you make it easier? You want to sound grateful, not annoyed by writing cramps, so limit your thank-you writing sessions to five notes or one hour—whichever comes first. It will be much easier on you to write five notes a day over ten days, as opposed to fifty notes in one day.
A good general plan for a graduation thank you is to 1) acknowledge the gift, 2) elaborate on why you like it or how you’ll use it, 3) compliment the giver and make a personal connection, and 4) say thanks again. Like so:
Dear Aunt Susan:
Thank you for the beautiful watch you gave me for graduation! It’s going to come in handy when I head to college in the fall. I’m not exactly known for my punctuality, so I’ll think of you whenever I make it to class on time. It also means a lot to me that you made a point of coming to commencement. I loved seeing you there, so thank you again!
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones:
Thank you so much for the book you gave me for graduation! I’m already busy enjoying it. It was very thoughtful of you to think of me on my big day. So glad I got to grow up with great neighbors like you.
Pro tip: What to say
Here are a few questions to help you say more than just “Thanks for the towel set!”:
How did you feel when you opened the gift?
What plans do you have for it?
Why is this a good choice for you?
How will the gift make some part of your life easier, nicer, or better?
Whatever the gift, personalizing your response just a little bit is a way to sincerely thank someone for their thoughtfulness.
Dear Cooper Family,
Just a quick note to tell you how much I appreciate your graduation gift! I was thrilled when I opened the personalized throw blanket. It’s SO soft, and I love the way you had it wrapped. Very cool.
It was great catching up with you all at my reception. Thanks so much for being there!
Hi, Eric and Linda:
Thanks a million for chipping in on the group gift for my graduation. The laptop is exactly what I needed for college. Not that I’m saving it—I’ve already had a lot of fun trying it out. ☺
It was thoughtful of you to help make it happen, and I appreciate it!
Pro tip: Helpful adjectives
Need a good word to describe the gift? How about one of these: thoughtful, wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous, fantastic, perfect, generous, awesome, amazing, touching, heartwarming, one-of-a-kind, unique, creative, handy, much-needed, practical
These might make up the majority of the thank-you notes you write for graduation. If you have specific plans for the money or gift card, it’s great to mention them, but not strictly necessary. Rather than stating the specific amount of money given, you can just refer to the generous gift or gift card.
Dear Uncle Ray and Aunt Jane,
I’m so grateful for the generous gift card you sent for my graduation. I’m wanting to invest in a nice set of luggage that I can use for a long time to come, and this will help so much.
It means a lot to know you’re thinking of me and wishing me well at such a special time in my life. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness!
Lots of love,
Dear Miss Nicholson,
Thank you very much for the thoughtful graduation gift. You really didn’t have to…but I’m grateful you did. For now, I’m saving it for a rainy day, but I know I’ll be able to put it to good use. Thanks again for your generosity.
Pro tip: Getting names right
Double-check that you’re using the correct form and spelling of your recipients’ names. When in doubt about what level of formality to use, opt for your recipient’s last name with the correct title (Mr., Mrs. Miss, Dr.). (Here are some tips on titles and addressing envelopes.)
Sometimes a person’s presence is the graduation present, and that’s worth a thank you—especially when they’ve traveled or made a special effort to be there for you.
Dear Grandma Nancy,
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for making the trip to come to my graduation. For as long as I can remember, you’ve been encouraging me to study and get good grades. I hope seeing me cross the stage proved that I was listening all along!
I loved the time we spent together over graduation weekend, too. You’re a wonderful grandma, and I love you.
Wow! My graduation day went by way too fast. I wish we’d had more time to talk…but still, I hope you had fun, and I hope you know how happy I am that you were part of this day that was so important to me. You’re a great friend.
Pro tip: Closing it up
A warm closing is the perfect finishing touch for any thank-you note. Create your own, or choose from these favorites: Sincerely, Thankfully, Gratefully, Warmly, Fondly, Blessings, God bless, Yours truly, Warmest thanks, With heartfelt thanks, Love, With love, Lots of love, Love always, All our love,…
These graduation thank-notes might go to friends or family who helped manage the little snafus and big moments of the day, or to the caterer or other pro went above and beyond for you.
Thank you for all your help at my graduation reception. Knowing you were taking lots of great pictures, I was able to just relax and enjoy all my guests. It was so kind of you to offer to do that…and the pictures turned out amazing! Thanks for having it all covered.
Dear Mrs. Tate:
Thank you for your expertise in planning and pulling together the food for my graduation party. Everything looked and tasted excellent. (I should know—I tried every single thing!)
Thank you for going above and beyond for me.
Pro Tip: Sharing your thanks
For a caterer or other pro, a glowing public review and promise to recommend them is a nice touch.
“Thanks, Mom/Dad.” You’ve probably said it to them in person already, but for an occasion this special, it’s worth putting in writing, too.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Graduation comes with all kinds of feelings—some happy, some a little sad. Just wanted to make sure you know that one of the biggest things I’m feeling right now is gratitude for the loving, supportive parents you are. The two of you did so much to make my graduation weekend unforgettable. And then there’s the whole 18 years leading up to graduation, which you made unbelievably happy, too…
As I look ahead to what’s next, I see lots of changes ahead. But there’s at least one thing that will never change—how lucky I’ll always feel to have parents like you.
Pro Tip: Making it meaningful
If you can include a specific graduation moment or memory your mom or dad made special, your thank you note will mean even more.
Getting bored with the phrase “thank you”? Here are some other ways to say it:
- “I really appreciate…”
- “I’m so grateful for…”
- “Your graduation gift means a lot to me.”
- “I’m deeply thankful for…”
- “You really blessed me [by coming to the graduation/with your wonderful gift].”
- “Wow! The [stationery set] you sent is just perfect!”
- “It really warmed my heart when I opened [the senior year photo book].”
- “I was touched by your thoughtful gift.”
- “You really outdid yourself!”
- “You couldn’t have picked a better gift for me.”
- “I’ll always cherish [the monogrammed pocketknife].”
- “I’m blown away by your generosity!”
- “The [framed print] is perfect! Do you know me or what?”
- “I love the [weekend bag]! We’ll think of you every time I [take it on a trip].”