Start of menu
Search US website
Close Menu
College Graduation Gifts

Prepare Them for the Real World: 6 College Graduation Gift Ideas

Some of the best college graduation gifts are ones that can help graduates make the transition from college life to the real world. Give them a gift they can use along with an American Express Gift Card, so they can pick out something for themselves.

Smart Gifts for College Graduates

After the processional, speeches and requisite cap toss are over, graduates everywhere will pack up their college lives and make their way into the real world. Some might pursue an advanced degree. Others may take time to travel. And many will join the workforce as young adults, adapting to a new set of rules in a place that looks and feels a lot different than college.

The best gifts for college graduates are ones that can make their transition easier. Wherever they’re headed, whether it’s a first job, an unfamiliar city or a new home, you can help them prepare as they take their next steps. Choosing the right thing isn’t always easy, but we have six college graduation gift ideas that can point you in the right direction. And any of our suggestions can be enhanced with an American Express® Gift Card. That way, you can give your graduate a gift they need, along with the freedom to choose something they really want.

American Express Gift Cards: The Gifts that Stand Out
  • Can be used virtually anywhere in the U.S. where American Express Cards are accepted
  • Safer than cash because the funds can be replaced if lost or stolen*
  • Choose from a variety of designs appropriate for celebrating a graduation

1. What’s Cooking?

Graduates no longer have access to college meal plans and they shouldn’t rely on ramen noodles to sustain them. Enroll them in cooking classes and give them the skills they need to make their way around the kitchen. Pots and pans, a good set of knives, a coffeemaker and other kitchen essentials also make fitting college graduation gifts. Or you can present them with an American Express Gift Card and let them choose any other gastronomic gadgets they might need.

2. Sweet Dreams

Give your graduate the gift of a good night’s sleep. Whether they’re dealing with city noise, loud roommates or stress from work, there are a number of college graduation gift ideas that can help them rest more easily. A white noise sound machine or a memory foam pillow will help lull them to a comfortable dream state. You can also supplement either gift with an eye mask, earplugs, a soft blanket and a selection of soothing aromatherapy scents.

3. Band-Aid Solution

Every home should be stocked with first aid essentials. Make sure your graduate is prepared to handle minor cuts, scrapes, bumps, bruises, headaches and common colds. Real world survival kits are appropriate college grad gifts and can include band-aids, cotton balls, rubbing alcohol and peroxide, anti-bacterial cream, tweezers, scissors, aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin C and cold medicine. Add in an American Express Gift Card for chicken soup, ice cream, a massage, new clothes or anything else graduates might need to help them feel better.

4. Tooling Around

How many graduates does it take to screw in a light bulb? It doesn’t matter how handy they are. Every graduate should be prepared to hang a mirror, level a picture or assemble basic furniture (or at least give it the old college try). Starter toolkits make sensible college graduation gifts. And that hammer, wrench, tape measure, pliers and screwdriver will come in handy at some point. Consider upgrading the gift with a cordless screwdriver and save them multiple minutes of turn time and countless hours of frustration.

5. When It Rains

Graduates might look smart in their new business attire. But what happens when they get caught in the rain? Flimsy umbrellas that bend and break in the wind won’t cut it anymore. Arm them with a strong umbrella to keep them dry and looking good. There may be flashier college grad gifts out there, but they’ll thank you after they weather that first major storm.

6. It’s in the Cards

That first job out of college will likely come with a fresh set of business cards. Graduates will look professional every time they pull out a card from their leather or stainless steel business card holder. RFID (radio-frequency identification) card protector wallets also make nice gifts for college graduates. The cases are designed to keep sensitive information safe and block RFID readers from scanning credit and debit cards, banking information and driver's licenses with RFID chips. Either gift can be monogrammed or engraved. And an American Express Gift Card will fit nicely in either.

Gift Cards are available in various designs appropriate for graduation. They’re safer than cash since they can be replaced if they’re lost or stolen. And they can be used virtually anywhere American Express Cards are accepted.

Gift Cards for Graduation

Terms and Conditions

* Terms may apply.

Click here for information about addressing complaints regarding our money services business, lists of our money services business licenses and other disclosures.

Fee-Free offers and Free Shipping offers valid with promotion code at checkout until advertised expiration date. Offers cannot be combined. Offers are only valid on americanexpress.com/gift and do not apply to National Parks, United Way, Children’s Health Fund and Logo Reward Cards or Gift Cheques. Purchase Fees or Shipping Charges may apply subject to terms of the offer. Read specific offer for complete details. Please note that a promotion code provided in connection with a particular offer on americanexpress.com/gift is intended only for use by the recipient of the offer and is not valid on Gift Card or Business Gift Card purchases made through any third party sites. Purchase must be made via the link provided in order to redeem the offer.

Gift Cards or Business Gift Cards may be used at US merchants that accept American Express® Cards. However, Gift Cards or Business Gift Cards may not be used at ATMs or for Recurring Billing. Additional limitations may apply. See American Express Gift Card Cardholder Agreement or American Express Business Gift Card Cardholder Agreement, as applicable. Gift Cards and Business Gift Cards are not available for sale to VT or HI residents. American Express does not ship Gift Cards or Business Gift Cards to the states of VT or HI.

The following prepaid cards, issued by American Express® that have been fully registered by the Card Member and approved by American Express, may be used to make purchases on americanexpress.com/gift: American Express Serve®, Bluebird, One VIP™ Card, and Target Prepaid REDcard® by American Express. No other prepaid cards, including single load gift cards, may be used to make purchases on this site. American Express does not accept any payment methods with addresses from the states of VT or HI for Gift Cards or Business Gift Cards.

For questions about American Express Gift Cards or Business Gift Cards, please use the Search box located in the upper right corner. Alternatively, you may call 1-877-297-4438 for questions about American Express Gift Cards. Or, for questions about American Express Business Gift Cards, please call 1-800-297-7327, seven days per week.

American Express Prepaid Card Management Corporation, c/o American Express Executive Consumer Relations Team, 4315 S, 2700 W., Salt Lake City, UT, 84184. For Customer Service, please call 1-877-297-4438.

You are now leaving this American Express website.

You are about to enter a third-party website where all use is governed by that website's terms and conditions and subject to its privacy and security policies and practices.