Grads' ideas for gifts often bigger than givers' wallets

May 15, 2007|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Columnist

It is graduation season, and parents and other significant grown-ups are stumped for a gift for the high school or college senior.

I was going to offer a list of suggestions that had always worked for me, but apparently I was kidding myself.

If survey data are to be believed, my children and their friends have ridiculed every one of my graduation gifts.

And here I thought Anne Morrow Lindbergh's A Gift From the Sea was the perfect book to help a girl bridge the gap into womanhood. Wow, was I wrong.

According to the folks at, who have their own ideas on what to give graduates, a list of the 10 worst high school graduation gifts would include, at No. 9, motivational or inspirational books.

Presumably, Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go! and Wear Sunscreen by Mary Schmich would fit into that category.

But picture frames and albums are No. 1 among the worst gifts, followed closely by stuffed animals. Key chains and cards with no money are on the list, too, along with socks. (What loser adult gives socks for graduation?)

According to a student quoted in the survey, anything that commemorates the year of graduation is a drag to the young people who have, like, so-o-o-o moved on.

These gifts are corny, the student said, and commemorate only one year in a life that is stretching forward like an untrammeled meadow. Senior year -- college or high school -- is something they'd like to put behind them, not engrave on a picture frame.

Other lists of the worst graduation gifts ever included flowers, a desk clock, a sweat shirt from the college they will be or have been attending and a fancy pen.

I bet you can guess what the most appreciated gift is -- cash or gift cards. These kids recognize that they will be setting up housekeeping, and they'd rather have the money they need to furnish a room than a knickknack to dust.

While this was a list of what not to give the graduate, there are plenty of acceptable gift suggestions from other Web sites, most of which fall between expensive and really expensive:

A laptop; an iPod (although I'd like to meet the graduate who hadn't snagged one of these before now); a digital camera; a windsurfing board; a flat-screen TV; a trip to Europe; TiVo; a DVD player; a gym membership; airline tickets to Las Vegas; a hotel stay; or a very expensive watch.

Or a car.

All of this is very discouraging. It appears that high school graduation has escalated in its need for financial reward just as it has declined in value on the job market. You can't make much of a living with a simple high school diploma these days, but you can have a heck of a graduation party.

I am inclined to revisit the attitude toward high school graduation first expressed by my friend Nan when her oldest boys made this passage.

No parties or lavish gifts. She bought them a funny T-shirt that made fun of graduates and said to them gently, "This is not the finish line."

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