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The best high school graduation gifts in 2024

Here are some practical gift ideas for grads heading to college or entering the workforce.

Engadget

Surviving high school is a major milestone, but the transition to young adulthood that comes after is often as overwhelming as it is exciting. If you have a recent high school grad in your life, a pragmatic gift to celebrate the occasion could make their next chapter just a bit easier to manage. Below we’ve put together a list of tested and approved gadgets, gear and services that should delight, regardless of if your giftee is heading to a new campus or starting a new job.

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If your grad needs a new set of wireless earbuds that’ll work during the commute, at the gym or just while listening to music at home, the Anker Soundcore Space A40 should satisfy. The top pick in our budget wireless earbuds guide, this set is compact and comfortable, with a pleasantly bassy sound and strong active noise cancellation. It doesn’t have the best mics for phone calls, but it gets a good eight hours of battery life per charge, and it can connect to multiple devices simultaneously. Provided your grad doesn’t insist on getting AirPods, it should be a great value for you as well, as it usually costs around $60.

$49 at Amazon

For keeping warm during the cold winter months or simply not walking around the dorm barefoot, a set of OluKai slippers should be a great gift to make your grad’s day-to-day more comfortable. The Kipuka Hulu (for men) and Ku’una (for women) both slip over the whole foot easily and have delightfully soft interiors (the latter has a bit more fuzz around the heel). Both have simple yet attractive leather exteriors, plus sturdy rubber outsoles that will allow your grad to make quick jaunts to the bodega or around campus with minimal discomfort.

$130 at OluKai

An air fryer is a no-go in many college dorms, but for grads moving into a new apartment, it’s a fast and accessible tool for cooking many smaller meals. Among these, the Instant Pot Vortex Mini is a good option for cramped living spaces that we recommend in our guide to the best air fryers. It’s a two-quart model that takes up very little countertop space, and while it can’t cook a ton of food at once, it can still prepare things like wings, tofu and roasted veggies with minimal fuss. Its controls and pre-programmed settings are all dead simple to operate, and like most air fryers, it’s not a pain to clean. For grads who could use something beyond a microwave, it should make meal time easier. If you’d rather buy something bigger, consider the top pick in our guide, the Instant Vortex Plus.

$40 at Amazon

Having a dedicated sleeve for their laptop can give your grad an extra bit of protection for one of the most important (and expensive) gadgets they have to carry around every day. There are a ton of suitable options here, but we’ve found Tomtoc’s Defender A-13 series to offer a tight yet secure fit, enough protection to fend off scuffs and scratches and enough water resistance to withstand spilled drinks. Plus, it has a pouch for holding accessories. Several colors and sizes are available, and at $30, it’s relatively affordable.

$27 at Amazon

A portable power bank will keep your grad’s devices alive while they’re out of the house (and save you a little stress in the process). Anker’s 733 Power Bank is a particularly versatile take on the concept, as it can plug into an outlet and double as a wall charger. It has two USB-C ports and a USB-A port, so your grad can top up multiple devices at once. In wall-charger mode, it can deliver up to 65W of power, which is enough to charge some smaller laptops. As a portable battery, this drops to 30W, but that’s still enough to charge any iPhone at full speed. The 733 itself is fairly compact given its functionality, but if you think your grad would prefer something more pocketable, the Anker 511 Power Bank is a much smaller 2-in-1 option that we recommend in our guide to the best power banks.

$100 at Amazon

When your grad doesn’t feel like sitting at their actual desk, a lap desk can make working from the couch more comfortable. If nothing else, it’s a more organized solution than having them prop their laptop up on a throw pillow. If you think the graduate in your life could use one of these, the LapGear Designer is a fine choice. Its underside is soft yet stable, while its smooth top surface is easy to clean and large enough to fit a 17-inch laptop. There’s a stop at the bottom that helps keep their stuff from sliding off when the desk is slanted at an angle, as well as an elastic band for holding pens and notepads and a storage slot for phones. The accessory only weighs about two pounds on its own, while a built-in handle makes it easier to carry around.

$34 at Amazon

Belkin’s BoostCharge Pro is a sturdy wireless charger that can refill an iPhone, an Apple Watch and a set of AirPods (or any other wireless earbuds) at the same time. It supplies up to 15W of power to an iPhone, which is the fastest rate possible for this kind of device, and its MagSafe-compatible mount makes it all but impossible to align the device incorrectly. It also just looks nice, with a slick metal branch that extends from its base and makes the phone and watch look as if they’re floating in the air. If your giftee is all-in on Apple gear, it should be a stylish yet practical addition to their nightstand.

$127 at Amazon
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

It’s 2024, so we’re guessing there’s a good chance your grad won’t be subscribing to cable once they get an apartment. If that’s the case, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is a speedy and uncomplicated way to get streaming apps on their TV. It performs well, it’s dead simple to navigate and it supports just about all of the major services (Twitch aside). It also works with Apple AirPlay, so your grad can beam shows to it directly from an iPhone. An Apple TV 4K is faster and less ad-heavy if you can afford it, but the Roku stick gets most of the way there for less than half the price, and its smaller design is much more convenient for travel.

$48 at Amazon

There are any number of backpacks that could work for a graduate in need of a bag refresh, but Timbuk2’s Lane Commuter Backpack is one we’ve recommended before. This 18-liter bag isn’t the largest pack, but it’s light, comfy and sturdily constructed, with a pair of bottle holders, a compartment for a 15-inch laptop and enough pockets for carrying the essentials to work or class. It has reflective panels on the front and shoulder straps to keep itself visible at night, and while it’s water-resistant on its own, it comes with a removable sleeve for full protection from heavy downpours.

If your grad needs more space for stuffing lots of tech, Timbuk2’s Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe (28L) might be a better buy. SwissGear’s 1908 ScanSmart is another hefty option (32L) that has served yours truly well for years and costs less than $100, though it doesn’t look as nice and is more likely to show more signs of wear over time. You can read our roundup of our favorite backpacks for other suggestions, too.

$189 at Timbuk2

A meal kit service is a relatively approachable way to get your grad in the habit of cooking for themselves. There are roughly two quintillion meal kit services to choose from these days, few of which are actually bad, and some of which may be better than others depending on your grad’s preferences. If you just want us to pick one, Blue Apron is a particularly no-fuss choice for newbie cooks, with straightforward recipes, various menu options, generally high-quality ingredients and an intuitive website. While none of these services deliver meals on par with a good restaurant, they should still please most tastes.

$70+ at Blue Apron

Reading! Sources say that it’s something your grad should continue to do, even when they don’t have a professor forcing their hand. Gifting them a free book or two with a Bookshop.org gift card is a good way to keep them going, or reignite their love of reading for fun. Apart from having a wide selection, the marketplace doles out a percentage of its profits to independent booksellers, so you and your grad can feel a bit better about supporting a good cause (or, if nothing else, a better cause than Amazon’s). It also allows you to order books from one local bookseller and direct the full profit to that specific store alone.

$10+ at Bookshop.org

The Hulken bag is a big rolling tote that your grad can use to more comfortably wheel around groceries, laundry or any other large hauls. It’s available in three sizes, and while it’s not exactly cheap, it feels comfortably durable. (Anecdotally, mine has shown little sign of wear after about a year of weekly use.) The bag folds up for tidier storage, and there are a few built-in handles that make it easier to lift up stairs or carry around campus. All told, Hulken says the bag can carry up to 66 pounds. Something like this might be most useful for city dwellers, but if your grad hasn’t done their own laundry and grocery shopping much before, it should take some weight off their shoulders, literally and figuratively.

$90 at Amazon

Xbox Game Pass remains a great value for any grad who owns an Xbox or gaming PC. The subscription’s library includes big-name series like Halo and Minecraft alongside more experimental gems like Hi-Fi Rush and Pentiment, and it still gets you access to first-party Xbox games on day one. Everything is available to download on-demand. The Ultimate tier includes perks like cloud gaming and online play, but there are cheaper options for just Xbox consoles or PCs as well.

If your graduate plays more on PlayStation or the Nintendo Switch, there are similar services you can gift: PlayStation Plus for the former, Switch Online for the latter. These will almost certainly be appreciated if you’re buying for someone who games frequently, though they’re not quite as strong a value as Game Pass in terms of cost or included games.

$15 at Xbox
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$15 at Amazon

The popular Away Carry-On is a stylish and sturdy hard-sided suitcase your grad should appreciate when it’s time to come back home. Its polycarbonate shell is tough but not overly stiff, and it’s available in several bold colors. Its zippers, adjustable handle and fully rotatable wheels all feel substantial. As a 40-liter suitcase, it can fit enough items to last a week or so on the road, plus it comes with a breakaway bag for dirty laundry. Away sells larger models as well, and it backs all of them with lifetime limited warranty.

The Carry-On has been my personal suitcase for several years now, and while it has caught some scuffs over time (like most polycarbonate cases), it hasn’t shown any major signs of degradation after several international trips. You can get luggage with more compartments if efficiency is your main concern, and it’s hard to call this a strong value, but as a gift, the Carry-On should delight any grad who’d like a fashionable and lightweight suitcase.

$275 at Away

Your grad probably won’t need them for a few more months, but the Moshi Digits are the rare winter gloves that are both warm and not impossible to use with a smartphone. Their knitted exterior and microfleece lining are sufficiently protective from the cold, while a set of rubber strips make it easier to keep hold of a phone. Typing with the Digits on isn’t as fast as using your bare hands, but it’s responsive enough to pull off brief texts and searches without constant typos. The gloves aren’t perfect: They’ll run tight for those with large hands, and they can be susceptible to loose threads. But if your grad is heading somewhere cold and needs to text on the go, they should help.

$30 at Amazon

If your grad spends a good chunk of time on YouTube, the first thing you should probably do is remind them that there are much better ways to spend their time. (I speak from experience.) But the second, and more practical, thing you can do is buy them a YouTube Premium subscription. This will let them download YouTube videos for offline viewing and play videos in the background on a mobile device and, most importantly, remove ads across the service. It also includes access to YouTube Music, a full-on Spotify competitor and a recommendation from our guide to the best music streaming services.

The catch here is that there’s no easy way to actually gift the subscription, so you may have to just pay their bill for however long you’re comfortable doing so. Premium costs $14 a month for individuals, which isn’t cheap, though it drops down to $8 a month for students. You could also put multiple users on a family plan, though that hikes the price to $23 a month. Regardless, for those who watch YouTube almost as much as traditional TV, most of Premium’s features are borderline indispensable once you’ve had them. Yes, that’s partly because the ad experience on YouTube is so terrible, but an upgrade is an upgrade.

$14/month at YouTube

Here’s a simple one: Regardless of their current culinary skills, your grad is probably going to use a food delivery service like GrubHub sooner rather than later. We’ve yet to find a young adult who will say no to free food, so gifting them a couple of meals is an immediate and practical way to make their early days of independence more manageable.

$50 at Amazon
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$50 at GrubHub