Image credit: RODNAE Productions via Pexel

By Sharon Schweitzer

Graduation Gift Giving Tips for 2022

May and June are the months of college, high school, nursing, trade school and university commencements. A time filled with exams, finals, papers, and bells ringing freedom. Graduation parties and open houses are common as students celebrate meeting their goals, after years of challenging work, and begin preparations for the next phase in the journey. Let us help answer your puzzling ponderings about how to be gracious during graduation gift giving season.

Attending the Graduation Ceremony

Friends and family may attend the ceremony if they receive an invitation. Graduates may receive an extremely limited number of admission tickets for the ceremony due to size of the graduation class, facility limitations and other factors. In other circumstances, graduates may invite an unlimited number of guests. Always RSVP within 24 hours.

Sending Graduation Invitations

Depending on the graduate, families may mail printed invitations only to close family members due to limited seating. Historically, the invitation is issued by the college, university, trade school or graduating class. Today, graduates order social cards with their names printed on them and include them in each invitation so guests know who has invited them. A graduation party invitation is mailed separately.

Graduation Announcement or Invitation

Due to graduation ceremony seating limitations, families may send announcement cards informing friends and relatives of the new graduate’s accomplishment. Announcements may be ordered through the school, or creatively printed with a local stationer. These cards mailed on the day of the commencement announce the graduation, however, an invitation to attend the ceremony is not included. There is no obligation to send a gift, although recipients may, depending on their relationship to the graduate.

Gift Giving Reflects Relationship Significance

It is important to weigh your relationship with the graduate, their parents and family, your budget, resources, and time to determine your gift giving. National Retail Federation (NRF) conducted a 2022 survey stating that the average person plans to spend $115 on a graduation gift. So, if you have genuinely connected with the graduate, express your genuine pride. If you are not sure, send a thoughtful card.

Fellow Student Gifts

As a fellow student who may or may not be graduating, handcrafted gifts serve as a wonderful capstone to your friends. A small card, a homemade video filled with your college adventures, or framed photos of college memories are extraordinary gifts.

Gift ideas for Graduates

Producing the perfect gift for a new graduate can be a challenge, even when you have known them for years. Is your graduate finishing a PhD, nursing degree, trade school certification, or obtaining their B.S. or M.B.A? Gifts that may assist them as they take their next steps include:

  • Universal chargers for graduates on the go
  • Picture frames, mugs
  • Fine pen & pencil sets
  • Monogrammed luggage
  • Investor’s Business Daily on-line subscription
  • Briefcase / leather portfolio with school logo
  • Hallmark recommended books: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving After Graduation and Seize Your Dreams: Inspirations to Follow Your Heart Now Is the Time
  • Waterford desktop clock
  • Electronic tablets
  • Crane monogrammed stationery / initial note card

Gifting cash or a gift card

  • Be mindful of budget

It is crucial to determine your spending and comfort level for all gifts, including graduation gifts. Depending on family sizes, far-flung friends, and neighborhood sizes, gifting may be extensive. Remember a thoughtful card also celebrates the graduate. Determine what you can afford, stay within your budget, and then write the check or personally hand them a card with cash. Remember, avoid sending cash through the mail.

  • Closeness of relationship with the graduate

How well do you know the graduate and how deep is your relationship? Is s/he a family member or casual acquaintance? The closer the relationship to the graduate, the higher the amount of money that is appropriate.

  • Consider the range of $10-$300.

Since the relationship with the graduate is a determining factor and the cost of living varies regionally, it is difficult to determine an exact gift amount. The cost of living can be calculated by the location of the graduate’s high school, college, or workplace. These guidelines may be helpful:

  •  Acquaintances and friends: $10-20
  • Children of family friends: $20-50
  •  Relatives (sibling, niece): $50-100
  • Children from (grand)parents: $100-300

Remember the graduate will be pleased to receive your sage advice and thoughtful card, regardless of your budget.


Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.