What should I get my little sister for her High School graduation?
May 20, 2007 8:15 PM   Subscribe

What is the perfect gift from a brother to my little sister for her High School graduation?

Ok, I know that this has been covered before,
but my situation is somewhat different (brother/sister vs uncle/nephew), and google is just full of people trying to sell me packaged crap.
I thought you guys might have some useful ideas.

Anyway, I'm looking for a cool gift to a sister from an older brother (2.5 years older). Something that she would get some practical use out of while she's at college, and ideally something tangible. Within the $50-$100 range, though I would perhaps be willing to go a bit over that for an absolutely perfect gift.

Now about my sister:
She's an excellent, well-rounded student, national merit *finalist*, played basketball in high school...
She's fairly straight-edge (and the parents are too), so the bottle of vodka is out.
She likes animals and wants to be a veterinarian (don't ask me why).
She likes to read well-written novels (she likes Jane Austin, for example, but she likes modern authors too.).
She likes popular country music, and probably whatever other music her friends listen to.
And she spends a lot of time with her friends too.

Oh, she's my only sibling, and she'll be coming to the same college as me in the fall.

The graduation is Thursday, so I probably need to be able to get something locally (i have access to most major retail chains).
posted by itheearl to Shopping (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
an amazon gift certificate is always great--she can get almost anything she wants. i like to couple a big gift certificate with a small personal gift in cases like this. a cute, not necessarily expensive piece of jewelry or a favorite book of yours that you think she'd like would both be great, or maybe a college sweatshirt if she doesn't have one yet.

or you could give her something that saved your butt your first year of school--a great mattress pad, a white noise machine, a little desk-top coffee maker with a timer so it starts brewing when your alarm goes off...

also, although you will want your separate lives on campus, it would be sweet to promise her a "sibling date" once a month (even just for coffee between classes). or, since she's gonna date, take her to parties and introduce her to guys you approve of. :)
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:28 PM on May 20, 2007

Create a survival kit for your college. A T-shirt with the college name on it. Some gift cards for stores, restaurants in the college town. A list of all the "gut" courses. Something useful for her dorm room like a reading pillow. A "get out of jail free card" that she can use to have you come help her out, cheer her up, buy her a meal, etc.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:33 PM on May 20, 2007

i agree with the survival kit. the best present i got for my high school graduation was a shower caddy packed full of stuff that my (2 yr) older cousin had found useful in college/dorm life--things like cold medicine, silverware, bandaids, shower shoes, gum, tape, visine (hey man, straight edge is as straight edge does), a roll of quarters for laundry, highlighters, an alarm clock, hot sauce, and all sorts of other small things that i found to be totally indispensable. i also remember there being a gift card for the bookstore.
posted by kelseyq at 8:58 PM on May 20, 2007

My hands-down favorite high school graduation present (which I happened to get from my grandfather) was Webster's Third. I used it constantly through college and still use it on a regular basis 20 years later.
posted by scody at 9:19 PM on May 20, 2007

Swiss Army Knife - maybe get it engraved?
posted by k8t at 9:31 PM on May 20, 2007

Don't get her a gift card. It's a symbolic occasion - get her a gift.

A nice reference book that she will keep for a long time - eg a good dictionary, an anatomy/medical reference book if she's going pre-vet, an atlas. Write a nice short message to her on the inside front cover, with the date of her graduation.

A piece of jewelry - eg a necklace with a pendant that means something for you and her. This could easily be within your budget and still be very nice looking. Her birthstone (scroll down for the chart) would be an easy fallback for the pendant. You can get a nice gift, and then also get a cheap funny gift alongside it - but the nice gift will mean a lot to her.

A nice symbol for a graduation gift is a compass, "to help her find her way".

Is there anything that you found especially useful in your first year in college?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:31 PM on May 20, 2007

posted by mdonley at 9:32 PM on May 20, 2007

Swiss Army Knife is a great gift, if you think it would fit her taste.

A nice basic tool kit is in a similar vein, for the right person.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:33 PM on May 20, 2007

I hate to contradict another suggestion, but I'd have to go with the AHD4 (sometimes I enjoy being a dictionary-elitist). That and the MLA Handbook were the best gifts I received when going to college.

Ah, a better idea just struck me: no college student should be without Catchphrase. Seriously, there is no better game for college students, drunken or not.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:35 PM on May 20, 2007

For novels, if she hasn't read it, she might like Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is supposed to be Harry Potter meets Jane Austen (ie, it's like a Jane Austen novel set in a world with wizards) and well-written. That might be a fun, read-this-over-the-summer kind of gift.

You could get her a nicely-bound set of the Jane Austen novels as a graduation gift, though I'm not sure how much it would run.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:37 PM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd rather have a Leatherman than a Swiss Army Knife, for what it's worth (I actually have both, the Leatherman gets used frequently and the SWK languishes). I am a girlie girl and a Jane Austen reader too, for what that might be worth.
posted by padraigin at 9:39 PM on May 20, 2007

I know you said something tangible, but might I suggest that she might appreciate a gift of something the two of you could do together. Everyone will be getting her books and jewelry and trinkets of all sorts, and in a few months, she won't be able to remember what came from whom. But years from now, she'll remember the really special outing she went on with her big brother to a play or a nice restaurant or whatever. You can do it over the summer or when you get to school, but I really think that spending time together is more valuable than any object you can buy her.

But I do like the idea of the "Get Out of Jail Free" card, or some sort of assurance that no matter what happens, you'll be there for her, no questions asked, and no telling mom and dad unless it's absolutely necessary.
posted by decathecting at 9:46 PM on May 20, 2007

A Timex watch.
posted by rhizome at 10:15 PM on May 20, 2007

Doesn't have to be Timex, of course, but it makes a good traditional gift and they have great models in your price range that will serve her well.
posted by rhizome at 10:17 PM on May 20, 2007

iPod shuffle plus iTunes gift certificate
posted by metahawk at 10:41 PM on May 20, 2007

wow, a Leatherman is a good idea... but I'm a geek...

The 'things you wished you had freshman year' is a good idea. Maybe a nice set of noise canceling headphones, it's amazing how quiet they can make things. An eye mask and earplugs for those nights when the roommate is up studying.... A small safe/lockbox for those few secret things. A nice bathrobe and slippers and basket for shower time. Silk sheets. One of those pre-paid credit card type things with $100 of emergency funds.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:41 PM on May 20, 2007

It might be too early for this, but you could get her the Merck Veterinary Manual (or remember to give it to her when she graduates and enters vet school!). It could be nice for her to skim now and validate whether it's the right field for her.
posted by girlhacker at 11:02 PM on May 20, 2007

I got my brother a high quality leather planner...the one thing I found indispensable in college, and a graduation-themed book (I think it was Al Franken's). As a sister, from my brother, I would have loved to receive a special book, maybe something graduation themed or even a dictionary, with a thoughtful something inscribed in the front.

And hey, way to be an awesome brother and put some thought into it. For my college graduation, all my brother did was sign the car that my mom picked out, "Thanks for driving me home after the ceremony; I was tired."
posted by messylissa at 1:40 AM on May 21, 2007

This might be more of a one for college graduation but when my sister started her vet course she needed a stethoscope. This is the one her college recommends http://bookstore.ucdavis.edu/Display.cfm?itemId=4760
though it might be a little early.
posted by missmagenta at 1:42 AM on May 21, 2007

A lot of good ideas, especially the survival kit, get out of jail free card and the bicycle.

Jewelry is also a good idea, because it would mean a lot to receive it from her brother. It acknowledges that she is a grown up and a woman. While still being your little sister, she is now also an equal and your relationship will be much more equal, although you will still be there to protect her or to give good advice when necessary.

Ask your mother for advice about which type of jewelry she likes.
posted by lioness at 5:33 AM on May 21, 2007

One of my fave presents was a silver proof with the year on it---so in this case a 2007.

Or really any coin, preferably one in some sort of a protective case and not of a normal denomination so there's no pressure to spend it.

And/or 2 coins, one with the date of birth, one with the graduation year.

Barring that, an individual pearl is cool, and then for special occasions (easter, whatever) you can add another pearl. I've usually seen this done starting when the girl was little so she has a string by about 20, but it's never too late to start a tradition. :)
posted by TomMelee at 5:48 AM on May 21, 2007

The one gift I got for my high school graduation that I consistently used and still use was a dictionary. Although you might want to spring for a more tech-savvy and fun version in an OED subscription . It's a little off your price range with 6 months going for $160, but it's a thought.
posted by sweetmarie at 10:36 AM on May 21, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, the dictionary is out.
She might use it some, but online is probably better - and usually free.
The OED is wonderful, and I could only imagine using it online... but it's out of my price range.

I'm liking the survival kit, and think I could make it a little more personal by including a paper inventory of the kit - complete with explanations of why i found each of the items essential.

I think I might throw in a gift card or two as well - as long as they provide a good life lesson.
For example, the one for a gift card to Papa Johns would read:
'Here is your "free" pizza.
You DON'T have to fill out two credit card applications to get it. '

I'll post more (and my final list) when i get the chance, though it may well be after the fact as i'm low on time at the moment.

Oh, and i like the get-out-of-jail card idea.
But i think i'll have to give her that one separately, one-on-one.
posted by itheearl at 10:05 PM on May 22, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, here's what i did:

I got her a book and wrote in the cover instead of getting her a card.

I put together a 'college survival kit', complete with a typed (my handwriting sucks) manual that listed all the items and why i thought she would find them useful.
I broke the items up into small segments, for example:
'stuff you always want to have with you'
'late-night studying essentials' (i sneaked some visine in here)

I also threw in some essential tools, a roll of quarters. and a gift card to the pizza place.

All told, i dont know how much i spent... though it was over $70 just with the book, quarters, gift card, and tools.
I had to run all over town to get things like the book, gift card, quarters...
And i spent several hours typing up (and proofreading... she's picky) the manual and putting the whole thing together.

And the verdict..
The short: It's not an ipod...
The long: But it was very thoughtful of you.

Ok, so every single gift that my sister got is still sitting in the family room downstairs, right where she put it all after she opened them. The book made it to the living room upstairs, where it appears she abandoned it a week ago after getting to page 13.

But all is not lost:
Both my mother and my grandma(who came up for graduation) cornered me on separate occasions and told me that my gift had been very thoughtful.
I'm inclined to agree - my gift was second in time and effort only to grandma's hand-knitted, school-colored afghan.

I'm starting to think that if i would have just gotten her a nice mp3 player that at least it would have been something that she wanted, even if it wasnt the 'perfect' gift... at least i would have gotten some cheap positive feedback right then.

She's too hard for me to read... i really dont know what she thinks... Perhaps at least she can look back on this and realize that i tried.
posted by itheearl at 10:45 PM on June 6, 2007

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