Graduating from high school or college is a huge rite of passage. It’s so huge that (at least if you’re anything like me) you can probably think back and remember yours clear as a bell. So even if your grad may choose to "play it cool," you’ll still know the truth—deep down inside, he or she is just as aware as you are that graduation day is a life-changing day! While we’re no longer tribal people who choose to celebrate the passage from childhood to adulthood with ritual tattoos or bringing down our first buffalo (thank goodness) there are other great graduation gifts that carry equal weight and significance. Each of these five gifts lets your grad know how proud you are—and how confident you are that he or she will chart a course to success as an adult!
1. A linked checking and savings account
It’s one thing to gift your child with a prepaid gas or credit card. It’s quite another to give them the very adult "trial and error" experience of managing a checking and savings account. This helps them translate theoretical "in the nest" budgeting lessons into real world situations; watching their pennies, enjoying them as they grow, reaching back for your help and guidance as the need arises. Best of all—it’s a gift that encourages them to begin to take charge of and regularly contribute to their own financial well-being!
3 things to look for when choosing a bank
There are certain specific features to look for when selecting the best bank for a first-time checking/savings account holder.
- Local and nationwide access: Look for local ATMs and branches as well as nationwide options for each.
- Low/no fees: This is a big one for students just learning how to manage their finances! Look for a bank with low/no ATM or overdraft fees, no maintenance fees, no minimum balance fees, no check reorder fees, other hidden fees or strings (such as requiring minimums for monthly account activity).
- Services: Online banking, bill pay, mobile banking, auto-draft options, and account linking are all important to have.
The 5 best banks for student accounts
All of these banks offer student accounts with free checking, multi-state ATMs and branches, fee waivers for students, free debit card with opening an account, online and mobile account management, bill pay, and student-specific account options.
Tip: You can use this linked account system to deposit any contributions you or other family members may be making to the graduate's college or "starter professional" fund. You can also help your graduate set up useful time management and financial tools like automatic bill pay, automatic withdrawals to savings, automatic IRA contributions, and more.
Note: To go the extra mile, include one free consultation with a financial planner to help your new graduate begin planning for their long-term financial future!
2. One-year membership to a professional networking organization
If your graduate is off to college to study for a specific degree (or fresh out of college and off to work in his or her chosen field) those professional dues can get pricey! Why not offer a gift of a one-year membership to a relevant professional association or organization that offers local networking, continuing education, mentorship, and career advancement?
Here are some examples of popular professional organizations
- Accounting: The American Accounting Association – http://aaahq.org
- Marketing: The American Marketing Association – https://www.ama.org/
- Education: The National Education Association – http://www.nea.org
- Psychology: The American Psychological Association – https://www.apa.org
- Nursing: The National Student Nurses Association – http://www.nsna.org
Tip: A professional magazine subscription can also work very well—and is easy on the budget!
3. A "wardrobe start-up" fund (or shopping trip)
Buying interview and/or professional work clothes often requires a distinct mindset shift for a young person. One of the graduation presents my own parents gave me was a trip to a very nice department store and personalized help from a salesperson to pick out three new suits for the marketing job I was starting right after graduation. As a new graduate facing pressure to start paying back student loans right away, this was a godsend!
Tip: Call ahead to a nice department store or boutique and make an appointment to have a wardrobe consultation with an associate skilled in picking out professional wear. Make sure to include any needed alterations in your gift so the new outfit(s) will fit your graduate well!
4. Help setting up a new pad
Whether it’s assistance with picking out (and paying for) kitchenware or buying that all-important starter couch where your graduate can relax after a long day at a new college or office, helping to outfit his or her new dorm room or after-graduation apartment/home can take some of the pressure off of starting life as an independent adult. If it’s not feasible to help with tangible items, gift cards or an offer to pay a certain bill (such as the all-important Internet) for the first year can also be a great graduation gift!
Tip: You don't have to spend a lot to support your new grad—a plant, a set of dinnerware, a coffee brew system…when you're just starting out, every little bit helps!
5. An "in honor of" donation
Even after all those years of hard work, it can be all too easy to take for granted the help you have given to enable him or her to get an education. So a great way to celebrate graduation is to make a gift in their honor to help someone less fortunate go to school.
Here are some charities that help others afford an education
- H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Pursue Education): http://www.thehopescholarship.org
- The Education Trust: http://www.edtrust.org/dc/about/donate
- Donors Choose: http://www.donorschoose.org
- Girl Rising: http://girlrising.com/donate/
- AAUM (American Association of University Women): http://aauw.org
Note: These organizations (and many others) are nonprofits that are grateful for donations in any amount!