What should I get my little brother for high school graduation?
May 25, 2011 7:48 PM   Subscribe

What should I get my little brother for high school graduation?

My little brother is graduating from high school this weekend and I'm at a loss what to get him. He's not overly sentimental, but I am. I like getting presents for people that have meaning to them based on the occasion, but I also want to get something that is useful and won't just be tossed aside. A little background:
-He's going to a Big 10 school
-He's planning to major in engineering of some sort
-He's an athlete - played soccer his whole life and is quite good
-He's a talented guitar player and it is one of his passions
-He's very popular, funny and an all around cool kid

I don't want to get him something cheesy or useless. Other than money, what does an 18 year old boy really want?
posted by angsolom to Shopping (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
For some reason, I'm reminded of the old Ann Landers bit. Forget what he wants; get him a tie.
posted by mhoye at 7:50 PM on May 25, 2011

Get him a gift card for a store in the area of where his school is (Target, Walmart, etc.).

Get him a family pack of condoms. Better to have them and not need them than the other way around. It wouldn't hurt to get him some lube either.
posted by AMSBoethius at 7:54 PM on May 25, 2011

Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool?
posted by 2N2222 at 7:57 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

A map of the city where he's going to school; a book of day-hikes in the area; gift certificate to the local indie guitar shop in that town.
posted by headnsouth at 8:05 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take him on a road trip with you to some place connected with his interests. The spousal unit and I took his little bro to the aquarium in Chicago (he's now working on his PhD in marine biology). It'll give you a chance (probably one of the last you'll get) to connect with him in more than a passing way.
posted by miss patrish at 8:07 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

A simple bottle opener, somehow connected to your hometown. If he's any good he'll keep and use it until it's so worn down it's just a showpiece.
posted by kcm at 8:08 PM on May 25, 2011

Also, you could get him a bus pass / mass transit pass if he doesn't have a car.
posted by AMSBoethius at 8:08 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Give him money plus a small gift of something you know will be meaningful to HIM.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:15 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Swiss Army Knife. Terrifically useful, and you can have them engraved!
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 8:15 PM on May 25, 2011

I was given 'practical' presents when I graduated from high school. I don't know that I was terribly excited to get a dictionary, but it has been useful and I never would have bought one otherwise. That and a high quality laundry bag. A three hole punch would definitely fall into this category. He won't think to buy one until halfway through the semester, when it will require an epic bus journey.

If he'd be into nerdy soccer books, anything by Jonathan Wilson. How Soccer Explains the World isn't any good. Soccer Against the Enemy, while harder to find and full of typos (they used find and replace to change football to soccer for the American edition), is a much better version of the same idea.

My engineer housemates got far more use out of my graphing calculators than I did as a math major. I can't remember if they wanted the TI-89 specifically or not. Talk to an engineer first or study the university's website, but you could get him or subsidise something like the student version of MATLAB. (He may be able to get it for free from the university, though.)
posted by hoyland at 8:16 PM on May 25, 2011


As a chef, my two favorite gifts are Larousse Gastronimique (upon graduation from culinary school) and Unmentionable Cuisine by Calvin W. Schwabe - both excellent reference tombs that just make plain good reading!

Coincidentally, I met an older gentleman last week who was an engineer. He made a humorous comment to me about how unusual engineers are by nature... Perhaps there is some fantastic memoir or reference book that would fit the bill here for your brother?
posted by jbenben at 8:18 PM on May 25, 2011

A Digital Caliper and, if the school is out of state, a guidebook for the area or city. If he likes games at all, and is social, maybe a deck of Fluxx, Apples 2 Apples or Cards Against Humanity (the obscene version of A2A).
posted by unmake at 8:22 PM on May 25, 2011

a large amount of money. he'll remember it.
posted by bunny hugger at 8:23 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Amazon gift certificate. When he graduates from college you can get him a pack of multivitamins.
posted by parmanparman at 8:25 PM on May 25, 2011

An open airline ticket, so he can take a Spring Break trip somewhere?
posted by xingcat at 8:26 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

i got my sister a pair of beautiful bookends, which she still has and uses.
posted by wayward vagabond at 8:35 PM on May 25, 2011

For-real grooming implements. Basics from Tweezerman, a Mason Pearson brush, Kent comb, some shaving niceties. Beautiful toothbrush. A leather bag for it all if that doesn't already blow your budget.
posted by kmennie at 8:36 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

A nice messenger bag. IMHO, a stylish bag can add years of maturity to someone's look, while most backpacks usually subtract a few.
posted by matlock expressway at 8:42 PM on May 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

There are so many good ideas here - I don't think there's one I didn't like. Just remember - you're his sister! You don't have to get him a sentimental token of your relationship (i.e. "something to remember you by") because you are his friend for life. I'm sure he's very nervous about making the right impression and so forth - so I like the idea of splitting your gift (whatever the budget) between some useful object(s), and some discretionary cash or gift cards (so he can feel less anxious about being unprepared).
posted by moxiedoll at 8:49 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by sebastienbailard at 8:52 PM on May 25, 2011

This is not sentimental, but the most popular high school grad gift I give is a combination from minimus.biz (one of my favorite web shops) with their condiment package (for making dorm food taste better) and their cold & flu care package (for when they're too sick to manage to go get dorm food). Everyone always exclaims over the condiment package but I always get e-mails in January going, "Dude, the cold & flu pack saved my life."

They also sell mini rolls of duct tape that are super-popular with college students and a dorm medicine cabinet kit with single doses of benadryl, immodium, hydrocortisone cream, etc. It's like a pre-emptive care package, you know? Useful, thoughtful things, in copious but miniature quantities.

You could package it up cute in something keepsake-y, and include stuff like #2 pencils and a quality hole punch and a USB drive and things like that, if you wanted. Little necessities.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:53 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Can you find out if any of his favorite bands are scheduled to play in his college town (or nearby) sometime this year? Two tickets to a show would be nice.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:35 PM on May 25, 2011

If he's going to be living on his own for the first time, how about some basic tools? I'm thinking of a little kit that has supplies he would use to decorate his space.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:48 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best high school graduation present I received was a sewing basket. My aunt put 6 or 7 spools of thread, a jar of safety pins, a box of straight pins, some needles, some embroidery floss, velcro, snaps, a tape measure, and fistfuls of buttons in every imaginable shape and color in a box with a lid on it. I received a number of other nice, thoughtful gifts, but the one I remain most grateful for even now, 2 weeks away from graduation, is that sewing basket. It's so useful!
posted by coppermoss at 10:11 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

A nice new backpack/messenger bag/laptop case (but you should ask him to help you choose).
posted by acidic at 10:35 PM on May 25, 2011

My brother gave me a "get out of jail free" card. He wrote that he knows at some point my first year of school I will screw up, have a crisis, get arrested or need his help and he would be there no questions asked and no need to involve the folks. Just the knowledge that he would be there, and he would have been there without the card, was a great comfort. Funny thing is, I did screw up that first year of school and if he wasn't there with me and part of the reason, I would have called him. As it was, we called our younger brother, the high school student, to help us out.

Give him the gift of love and piece of mind. Let him know you will be there for him when he gets arrested for public drunkenness or urinating in public or running out of funds because he road tripped and his budget didn't actually have room for it or because he wants to take this terrific gal out to a nice dinner and he cannot afford it so you slip him $50 to do so.

Best gift I ever got.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:54 PM on May 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh man, what can he use and desire almost as much as sex at that age? A nice clean white envelope of green, crisp cash!
posted by nogero at 11:04 PM on May 25, 2011

Fleshlight. Well, you asked!

It's really one of those "Do not open until I am 200 miles from this awkward situation" sort of presents, though.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:48 PM on May 25, 2011

I vote for an "experience gift," something he can do that he'll remember as being one-of-the-crazy-things-I-did that novel summer. Would he jump out of a plane? Would he drive with you for 1000 miles?

Also a passing knowledge of wine and spirits can go a long way in dorm room...
posted by vecchio at 12:05 AM on May 26, 2011

Also, a nice gift somebody mentioned in a post I just tried and failed to find: a compendium of Mefi life advice.
posted by vecchio at 12:08 AM on May 26, 2011

Ah, found it.
posted by vecchio at 12:10 AM on May 26, 2011

Only a slight variation on the "other than cash" idea - cash on an installment plan. I'm the big sister, and I wrote my baby brother a fairly decent sized check at the beginning of each semester. In _theory_ it was book money, but I really don't care what he did with it. An extended gift of peace of mind (similar to the fantastic get out of jail free card) is one of the best things a sister can give. :)
posted by librarianamy at 4:37 AM on May 26, 2011

A decent laptop and a decent black and white printer. Much better than hoofing it to library and paying through the nose for printing.
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:11 AM on May 26, 2011

A backpack or messenger bag and fill it with a few office supplies. You don't realize how much you really need office knick-knacks when you first start school. Good things are tape(masking and clear), scissors, stapler, staples, staple remover, flash drives, pens, pencils, some sort of poster mounting stickies, and post-it notes. My friends and I also got good use out of a small tool kit with hammer, assorted nails and screws, screwdrivers, and pliers.
posted by PJMoore at 7:25 AM on May 26, 2011

He will absolutely use a good graphing calculator as an engineering student. No question. And, even though it might not appeal to you (I wouldn't want one), it will be a godsend to him and something he will be loathe to throw away even after he has something better. I say this as someone who has dated, married and lived with an engineer for 29 years total.

A laundry bag for college that is distinctive and won't be confused with everyone else's (that's why I *wouldn't* get him one in the school colors).

Cash. There's a reason why people give grads cash! They'll need spending money in school.

One surprising item: A pack of thank-you notes. One of many presents I gave seniors in gift bags at my own son's graduation party (including cold hard cash!), I had so much positive feedback on this one you would not believe it.
posted by misha at 9:56 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

My little brother is graduating in a few weeks, too. I would not buy him a bag unless you are absolutely sure that it is the kind of bag that he likes and definitely something he would use often. I like the suggestion of a printer, but only if you buy extra cartridges and make sure that the ink is cheap!

Personally, I'm giving my brother 2 things: a blanket and an IOU care package. My brother has never liked or used anything I've gotten for him (including cash) as much as the fleece-tie blanket I made for him for his 16th birthday, so I'm making another one in his school colors. I'm also giving him a set of IOU care packages- a promise that I'll send him a care package every few weeks. There is nothing better than getting care packages, especially your first year away from school.
posted by kro at 10:33 PM on May 26, 2011

I have lots of tools, this is the one I find most useful.
posted by PaulBGoode at 1:59 PM on May 27, 2011

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