High School Graduation Gifts, 2020 Edition
May 21, 2020 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Somehow, it snuck up on me that I have two high school seniors who are graduating next week, and I need to buy two nice gifts for them!! But I'm at a loss as to what!

I feel compelled to get something like, pewter and engraved, but that's not quite their style. And I'm having a mental block in thinking of anything else.

Because they're graduating in such a wild time and have had so many fun events cancelled (not to mention a really awful 2018-2019 for family/grief reasons), I really want to get something good for them. They're both going to college in August, love STEM research stuff, love to sew and cook, and enjoy a good pair of earrings and a fair amount of makeup/beauty stuff. They are identical twins, so whatever it is I need two of them. And quickly! Thanks!
posted by witchen to Shopping (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I got a bike for my high school graduation. It was a FANTASTIC gift that gave me a solid way to get around on the cheap.
posted by aniola at 11:08 AM on May 21 [9 favorites]

Also biking is a lot of fun, and exercise helps people be happy.
posted by aniola at 11:09 AM on May 21

My dad's gift to all graduating seniors of family friends going off to college is a AAA membership.
posted by phunniemee at 11:18 AM on May 21 [7 favorites]

Bike is a good idea, depending on what their college town(s) will be like.

If they like jewelry and beauty stuff, they might really appreciate a nice organizer thing to store it in, like this or this (not specific recommendations). I got one as a birthday gift from my mom after moving out and it made me feel very grown-up. Very useful in the context of a dorm, where you have limited space for all that stuff, but also something that they can use forever. I still use mine.

Re: cooking, my best grad present ever was a very fancy sauteuse pan which I've kept and loved for over a decade now, but that was for college graduation. Less appropriate for people going off to college, but keep it in mind for four years from now!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:32 AM on May 21

Nice set of pots and pans for college?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:36 AM on May 21

This might not meet your deadline for shipping, but if you can wait, Nervous System sells beautiful, high-quality STEM-themed jewelry. (If you go for earrings, make sure they always wear backings with any pair with French hooks. Otherwise one of the pair is guaranteed to get lost.)
posted by prewar lemonade at 11:50 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]

A nice durable bag or backpack is nice and you could even have a charm engraved to put on it.
posted by BibiRose at 11:54 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]

For my high school graduation, I received a nice cut crystal bud vase and a moissanite solitaire pendant from a rich aunt and uncle that I didn't know very well. At the time I was like, "Huh, how about that." But I'm 39 now, and I still have/use those things and remember who gave them to me. I was not a "pewter and engraved" type 18-year-old, either.

If you know them well (or at all), I'm sure you can think of something better. But if not, that kind of gift can be interesting and surprising as a young woman --- in some cultural traditions, like mine, it's kind of the only time you might ever get a "grown-up" gift like that before you get married.
posted by slenderloris at 12:01 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

Maybe a fountain pen with ink and a nice notebook. It wouldn't be hard to get them something nice and still stay within a budget, but you could also splurge. Goulet Pens is a good place to look.
posted by Sokka shot first at 12:03 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

An engraved key fob with their contact info and some Tiles.
An engraved thin metal label with contact info for their phone. Many lost phones are not returned because it's inconvenient to find the owner. I use my google voice # or non-primary email.
If you have moolah, the new iPhone SE is 400US.
Bike lock.
Laptop lock. I think many laptops still have lock ports, and if not, a loop can be glued on. Laptops (tablets, phones) vanish incredibly quickly; it's opportunistic, if a laptop is secured, the thief will usually move on.
Or a classy mongrammed frame with their graduation date; keepsakes are nice; add some cash, also nice.
posted by theora55 at 12:27 PM on May 21

My go-to is a really nice multi-tool.
posted by padraigin at 12:47 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

Really nice oversized towels for transiting from dorm room to dorm showers.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:58 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]

Do they have some decent luggage to use between school/ home?
posted by WeekendJen at 1:37 PM on May 21 [6 favorites]

Cute earrings and a Sephora gift card. That way, if the pandemic prevents them from going anywhere in August, they won’t have one more reminder that they’re not where they had planned to be.
posted by corey flood at 2:05 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

My partner got a nice set of pots and pans for high school graduation. His roommates always had pots & pans, so he never used took them out of the box. Eventually he moved away from the college town, and then they sat in his parents' garage (until their house burned down).
posted by aniola at 2:41 PM on May 21

Prepaid debit cards with a good chunk of cash on them. College freshmen NEVER have money and almost always want/need some.
posted by nkknkk at 3:45 PM on May 21

Thank you for these suggestions!! They are my stepdaughters and they live with us full-time, so I know them pretty well. And they're very comfortable financially (in a way that blows my mind, as a perennially broke student-young adult), thanks to doting grandparents and some impressive scholarships, so I don't think cash/gift cards would have as much impact as something tangible and/or personal.
posted by witchen at 5:45 PM on May 21

I would do two things. One, I would write each of them a personal note about how happy and lucky you are to be their stepmother and how proud you are of how they have grown up into nice ladies. Even if that is not 100% true.

Two, I would find a service such as laundry by the pound in their college town and either get them a subscription to the service or give them a gift card for it.
posted by AugustWest at 6:11 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

What sort of STEM? Maybe a really nice soldering station and multi-meter, or nice USB microscope.
Maybe getting both of them the same thing sort of negates their individuality.
posted by Sophont at 1:26 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

If either's got a particular academic interest, an antique related to that might be nice. e.g., a 19th century microscope, a wood-case resistance bridge, or an astrolabe. The most thoughtful graduation gift I received is a working model of one of the first portable electronic calculators. (A Sharp EL-8). I doubt most people would be impressed, but it was perfectly matched to my interests and I treasure it 20 years later
posted by eotvos at 3:15 AM on May 22

Also, on reading the above - bikes are a really nice and thoughtful idea - but, just in case it's not obvious, the right way to do that is to take them to a bike store to get fitted for the right one. (Perhaps with a bike-themed card or cake in the moment.) Surprising someone with a physical bike is unlikely to result in a good bike riding experience.
posted by eotvos at 3:44 AM on May 22

I was going to say a good raincoat is super practical and something most don't think about. High school kids rarely own them but in college you have to walk all over the place in the pouring rain. But now that I see you are a parent, you may want something "fancier" or memorable. A nice necklace with a charm that has a special meaning for you/them might be good.
posted by maxg94 at 5:56 AM on May 22

I think a good gift is something that's practical, but also durable, so that they can use it for years and think of you/that milestone each time they do. In that vein:
-A really nice suitcase (or duffel bag, or whatever is suitable for back-and-forth travel given your location)
-A tool kit
-Nice-quality cookware, sheets, or other living essentials that are suited to their dorm/apartment situation (many classic "wedding gifts" would actually be better as graduation gifts, imo)
-Anything that they really love from your shared home that you can give them "their own version" of to take to school - you know them best, maybe this could be something like a family-favorite spatula or a cutting from a favorite plant

If you want to go more keepsakey - I think jewelry, particularly something in a "classic" style (if that's their jam at all) is always pretty special. In particular, if there's anything that's a family heirloom for you that you plan to pass down to them eventually, then this may be a good opportunity to do so (I realize that's unlikely to mesh well with your identical-items plan, though.)
posted by mosst at 10:43 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]

Something from this question
posted by aniola at 11:25 AM on May 23

I got a cheap, crappy toolkit for high school graduation. Despite the cheapness it was remarkably useful and I still have it.
posted by Tehhund at 1:14 PM on May 24

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