This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

When searching for a gift for a college graduate, you’ll want to give something special but also practical. Cash is always welcome, but for milestones like graduation it’s nice to give something more personal. But finding just the right thing for a young person entering the real world can be tricky. That’s where this handy guide comes in. Check out CNET’s top picks for college grads this year.

Young folks heading out on their own can generally use basics like dinnerware or a coffee maker, especially if they’re moving to a new place. If your grad is preparing for job interviews or starting a new position, upgraded accessories like a bag or jewelry make for fitting gifts. You could go the sentimental route with a candle that reminds them of their home state, or get them a house plant for good luck or a beautiful ring they can treasure for years. Whatever you choose, the graduate in your life is sure to appreciate the sentiment as they start this new chapter.

Our Place

Our Place is known for the Always Pan and Perfect Pot, but the brand offers cool tableware as well. Pick up a set of four plates, four bowls and four glasses and set your grad’s future table. Choose from an array of colors, including Azul and Rosa from Selena Gomez’s new collection. Splash out and add a cast-iron Always Pan — a brand favorite that returns in June.

Uncommon Goods

These hand-poured soy wax candles have different scent profiles for each state. Arizona, for instance, smells like desert sand, blue agave and citrus. Kentucky’s got notes of bourbon and praline while the Colorado candle evokes spruce, sandalwood, amber and cinnamon.


Cold brew is so tempting, especially in the summer months, but new grads often need to cut costs. Help them out with an at-home coffee maker. The Vinci Express Cold Brew whips up cold brew beverages in as little as 5 minutes (traditionally the process takes over 18 hours). Bonus: This model’s compact size is perfect for first apartments.


A great gift for a style-savvy graduate, Madewell’s leather totes are on-trend and practical for office jobs. The woven leather Transport Tote is a fresh take on the brand’s classic bag and will lend some polish to your grad’s grown-up life. A laptop fits nicely inside, and an interior pocket keeps essentials at the ready.


Give your grad their grub of choice, delivered right to their door. A gift card to Grubhub means they’re guaranteed a delicious meal, something that most new grads don’t take for granted. Available at Target, you can opt for various denominations, from $25 to $100. Email delivery makes this a great last-minute gift option.

Dr. Martens

New grads often need to augment their wardrobes as they start careers. A gift of classic, cool footwear like Docs will surely be appreciated. The leather Chelsea boot is a versatile and stylish option that’s Gen Z (and Millennial) approved. Bonus: These boots easily pull on and off, no need to mess with laces.


Trendy brand Baggu is tops when it comes to fun prints. Their coveted goods include puffy laptop sleeves, a perfect gift for a new grad. Laptop sleeves come in 13-inch and 16-inch sizes, and they’re available in 10 colorful prints. Bonus: Baggu’s laptop sleeves are made from recycled ripstop nylon. And they’re washable!


If you’re up for gifting something a little pricier, go for a timeless piece of jewelry like Gjenmi’s Baby Signet diamond ring. A little white diamond is handset in the 14 karat gold signet for a fresh take on classic design. Bonus: Gjenmi jewelry is handmade in Los Angeles and uses conflict-free diamonds.

Instant Pot via Amazon

The Instant Pot Duo is just the right size for a singleton, and any grad interested in delicious, fast meals will appreciate this popular appliance. The Instant Pot Duo has seven functions: rice cooker, steamer, pressure cooker, slow cook, yogurt maker, sauté pan and food warmer. This is one practical graduation gift.

Read our Instant Pot preview.


Lively Root

Gen Z loves houseplants, so a plant is already a good gift idea. But a Money Tree is a slam dunk: It’s said to bring fortune and luck. $38 gets you a small plant, or splurge for the $118 XL size (extra luck?). There’s also an option to add a pot or basket to your gift. Bonus: Money trees are great for beginner plant parents.

David Carnoy/CNET

Bose’s SoundLink Flex speaker is a small but mighty speaker that can go from the shower to parties to campsites with ease. It’s waterproof (and actually floats), wireless and rechargeable. The SoundLink Flex provides up to 12 hours of music on a charge and it pairs with Bluetooth-enabled devices up to 30 feet away. What’s not to love? 


Cuff links are one of those things that a young adult may not buy for themselves, but they’re nice to have on hand. They can be worn for weddings and other formal occasions, and they might even work in the office. This classic sterling pair from J.Crew makes a thoughtful graduation gift.

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