Grad. School Gift Bag
June 25, 2005 5:36 PM   Subscribe

If you were putting together a fun, funny, gift box for a friend who was about to enter grad school, what would you want to put into it?
posted by .kobayashi. to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
cyanide capsule.
posted by mokujin at 5:39 PM on June 25, 2005

A guidebook to local outdoor activities, to remind him or her to get some air. A gift card at a coffee shop, because coffee is scholarship in its liquid form. A calling card, with your phone number written on the back. A copy of whatever citation guide is used for the discipline--MLA, Turabian, whatever. A bottle of something special.
posted by LarryC at 5:51 PM on June 25, 2005

Aww, that's nice. And I was gonna say pot.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:53 PM on June 25, 2005

If you have the room, whatever he or she drinks (that is, soda, water, juices) and some healthy snacks. I am talking large quantities of these-- one of the best gifts I got while in grad school was a case of soda. It kept me alive.
posted by oflinkey at 6:19 PM on June 25, 2005

Something coffee-related- a pound of good beans, a travel mug.

A pair of really comfortable pajama pants (indispensable for marathon paper-writing and study sessions).

If they have an office, glade plug-ins. My office in grad school had no windows and the air was always stuffy and stale. The grapefruit-scented plug-ins really helped the atmosphere.
posted by elisabeth r at 6:25 PM on June 25, 2005

If the person is a caffeine junkie and likely to become more of a caffeine junkie, then do a caffeine gift basket: Not just coffee, but also caffeneitted caramels, caffeneitted gum, caffeneited soap, caffeneited body lotion etc. etc., and of course a Barista action figure.
posted by duck at 6:56 PM on June 25, 2005

This travel mug, a gift certificate to the office supply store closest to them (because school supplies are fun!), a big hooded sweatshirt from the school they're entering (myself and fellow grad students like pulling the hood up tight while writing papers, almost like blinders to everything else and, since you are a poor grad student, you probably don't have the heat on in your apartment and the hood and front pocket for your hands in breaks helps to stay warm).

I'm sure there are more things, but that's off the top of my head.
posted by stefnet at 6:58 PM on June 25, 2005

As someone in their last quarter of grad school I'd recommend a flash drive, rolls of quarters for laundry (if they live in a building where they have to pay), ingredients for PB&J (that's all I eat right now), advil, and numbers for all the really late-night delivery places in the area. And definitely include good booze of some sort.

If it's a "she" or a well-groomed male, maybe get them a gift certificate at a local spa or salon -- luxuries like highlights, pedicures, and massages, were the first to go.
posted by awegz at 7:04 PM on June 25, 2005

Lots of Emergen-C
posted by scarabic at 7:53 PM on June 25, 2005

Some pre-printed IOU cards.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:50 PM on June 25, 2005

I bottle of "Extra-Strength Screwitall", sold in gag gift stores. (candy tablets, a play on the Extra-Strength Tylenol scare).

A spray bottle of something harmless (Ozium?), labeled "Under-grad repellant".

If male, a bottle of lubricant suitable for self-pleasure.

A box of [crackers/cookies/cereal?] with photoshopped label to read (with appropriate trademarks) "Purina Grad Chow"
posted by Goofyy at 10:14 PM on June 25, 2005

A notebook, a Bible, some ibuprofen, twenty dollars, gift certificates to fast food, a little LED flash light, cheap breathalyzer, index cards, new keychain, and a little basket to keep next to the door.

Mostly, just a hug for luck. :)
posted by sled at 10:43 PM on June 25, 2005

The flash drive idea is brilliant.

Office supplies *are* fun -- some of those little book page post-its, some nice binder-clips and other paper-clippie things, and also a high quality stapler. If they have a laptop, then a security cord is nice. That and the flash drive could really save their bacon.

Lots of other good ideas up above. Some blackout-goggles for library naps? Some good earplugs or noise-cancelling earphones? A pro flickr account? Some nice small notebooks? A book along these lines?
posted by Rumple at 11:30 PM on June 25, 2005

As a grad student myself, I second the notion that you should emphasize the life that isn't academia. One of the greatest aspects of grad school is that you surround yourself with people in one field of study and absorb information and culture like nothing else. Unfortunately, it also means that you sometimes forget to have a life outside of school, and I never feel healthy in the long term without that. So maybe a guidebook or even something more specific to hiking/camping in the area.

Also, if their department is anything like mine, liquor is never a bad thing to have around. Makes friends, if nothing else.
posted by Schismatic at 4:32 AM on June 26, 2005

You know, the flash drive idea is great. But if you can spring for it, consider giving her/him a real large-capacity hard drive. I'm a professor, and a former grad student. About once a year tragedy strikes some grad student I know because s/he did not have a safe backup of her/his work, including in one case (last year) a student whose dissertation was entirely on a laptop that was stolen. This can well-nigh end one's grad school career, and cause huge psychic trauma. For about $120 you can get a decent 60 or 80GB external drive, and maybe throw in some backup software and advice -- "back up regularly, and keep this drive somewhere safe." You would be amazed how many students (like everyone else) live on the edge about data safety, and in the case of putting in 5 or so years of work, that's a giant disaster if one's luck runs bad. A flash drive, over time, won't be big enough.

Or if you are really generous, how about an iPod that can also be used for data backup?

But don't forget the pot.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:45 AM on June 26, 2005

And the cyanide. [/bitter ex-grad student]

I confess I didn't have the faintest idea what a "flash drive" was, but I do now thanks to Google, so this has been a very educational thread.
posted by languagehat at 7:10 AM on June 26, 2005

I hear cynaide has a bitter taste as well
posted by realcountrymusic at 7:30 AM on June 26, 2005

You're not alone languagehat. I didn't really become familiar with 'em until I went to grad school. EVERYONE carries them on their keychains. They're especially useful when you're working on big projects in computer labs and jumping from one computer to another.

There are all sorts of fun things you can do with a USB flash drive (on PCstats via Lifehacker via Make).
posted by awegz at 8:06 AM on June 26, 2005

Jeez, why all the bitterness towards grad school? It is a great intellectual adventure. Your friend could well love every minute.

A couple more ideas: A good cookbook of easy but healthy recipes. Jane Brody got me through without ruining my health, but maybe on of those books that advertises simplicity and a low number of ingredients would be better. If they don't have a bicycle, that would make a great gift. You could buy an old 3 speed at a garage sale, add a big basket and some funky accessories (a horn, spoke beads, a lock), spray paint it some wild color. A nice book bag.
posted by LarryC at 9:26 AM on June 26, 2005

The best funny/cheeky gift box i've ever received was from my college mates and was themed around a date night. Something similar might be fun for a college student but you need them to open it with you to explain the reasoning behind it (or they might get offended).

It contained (from what I remember - it was a long time ago):
• A joke can of 'femfresh' in prep for some attention later on in the evening ;)
• A bottle of wine and a corkscrew for drinks with my date
• Toothpicks to get rid of any food after a meal in prep for a snog
• Lots of condoms (no explanation needed)
• A pack of throat lozenges called 'Throaties' because I used to complain of a sore throat after certain 'jobs' ;) That was the funniest of all the pressies!
posted by floanna at 10:37 AM on June 26, 2005

I second the flash drive.


1. getting what you came for.
2. the book "learned optimism" by Seligman, so you don't get consumed by cynicism
3. a copy of the article/chapter "Habits of Productive Scholarly Writers"

Not funny stuff, but useful.

/almost done, still bitter
posted by craniac at 11:59 AM on June 26, 2005

Oh yeah, and tell them to bookmark Invisible Adjunct. It hasn't been updated since a year ago, but the archives are an invaluable source of useful information for those suffering the grad-school experience and trying to figure out what comes next.
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on June 26, 2005

If you are going down the "useful book" road, Howard Becker's *Tricks of the Trade* and a subscription to *Lingua Franca.*
posted by realcountrymusic at 3:50 PM on June 26, 2005

Or if you're going down the "funny book" road, how about one of the PhD comic books and a package of ramen?
posted by sanitycheck at 4:08 PM on June 26, 2005

Lingua Franca still exists? Did it not go tits-up in 2001? So claims my copy of Quick Studies.
posted by kenko at 4:39 PM on June 26, 2005

You are correct. I stopped reading LF after grad school and hadn't noticed its disappearance. No great loss.
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:47 PM on June 26, 2005

Oooh, the ear plugs are a great idea. Go to Walmart and get the orange foam 29db Smith and Wessons.

Get them a yoga session gift certificate at the local [name for yoga place]
posted by craniac at 7:02 PM on June 26, 2005

I second the idea of a guide book, information of activities to do off campus, or healthy recreation. Hell, even movie passes can be a life saver.

The best thing you can do is keep your friend in touch with the real world, with people who aren't bitter, sarcastic and insecure. There are people like this in graduate school, but not as many as there should be.

I liked parts of graduate school, and was only really unhappy when I had no life outside of campus.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:21 PM on June 26, 2005

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