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 hard work, and begin preparations for the next phase in the journey. Let us help answer your puzzling ponderings about how to be gracious during the graduation gift giving season.


Do I Attend the Graduation Ceremony? 

Friends and family may attend the ceremony if they receive an invitation. Many times graduates receive a very 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 many guests. If invited, always RSVP within 24 hours. A graduation party invitation is mailed separately.

What is the Difference between a Graduation Announcement & Invitation?
Many families 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 are mailed on the day of the commencement to announce the graduation; however, an invitation to attend the ceremony is not included. There is no obligation to send a gift, although some recipients may, depending on their relationship to the graduate.

What is a Good Gift for a Graduate?
Coming up with the perfect gift for a new graduate can be a challenge, even when you have known them for years. Is your grad 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:

  • Crane monogrammed stationery/initial note card
  • Universal chargers for graduates on the go
  • Industry tools
  • Fine pen and pencil sets
  • Luggage
  • Investor’s Business Daily on-line subscription
  • Briefcase/Leather Portfolio with school logo
  • Tiffany’s desktop gift
  • Waterford desktop clock
  • Mont Blanc business card organizer

Is it appropriate to give money or a gift card?
Yes, both are appropriate and it is important to stay comfortably within your budget. A Hallmark study highlighted appropriate giving amounts:

  • 95% believe money is an appropriate graduation gift for high school or college.
  • Many would not give a gift for a not-so-close friend, but might give a card.

Monetary gifts can be paired with, or substituted by, a good book fitting for the grad. For example, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Guide, may be the choice for an aspiring international business or MBA grad. The Defining Decade is an excellent choice for an undecided undergraduate.

If I am Giving Money, What is a Generous by Sufficient Amount?
The sum given depends on the amount you are comfortable giving, and your connection with the recipient. Hallmark study found the average monetary gift amounts:

  • 67% believe that $50 or more is appropriate for a close relative.
  • $25 is average for a close friend (or child of a close friend).
  • $20 is the average for a not so close friend.

What Gift do I Give as a Fellow Student Graduating?
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 special gifts.

At the end of the day, the graduate will greatly appreciate the time and energy you have put into your gift. Remember to stay within your budget, give thoughtful and creative gifts, and enjoy the graduation season!

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is a regular on-air contributor and has been quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times, The Vancouver Sun, The Bangkok Post and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, which was named to the Best Books of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews.