The best graduation gift might not be a gift at all

Hi, my name is Maggie and I’m a recent graduate. Actually, it’s been almost a year since my graduation, but time flies when you’re having fun. I guess. 

As some of my dearest friends are due to graduate this year, I looked back on the past year to find inspiration for the right gift; something special to commemorate their own rite of passage and to help them ease into adulthood. A mug with a profane joke, a bottle of alcohol, and money in an envelope were all options, but, armed with the wisdom from this past year, I knew I could do better. 

You see, life after graduation can be quite the pickle. You know that you’re more than a student but don’t feel quite like an adult yet. You move away from your University friends but find new ones in your new town and work. Money comes and goes; mostly the latter, though. It’s a whole different life and most new graduates feel lost in the game of adulthood for which they didn’t get instructions. 

Graduation gifts then are the best opportunity to help out a new graduate at the start of their adventure, and the best gifts in life, I like to think, are more than things. So this graduation season, pick graduation gifts that will make a difference. Incidentally, those are also the graduation gifts that I wish someone had gotten me this time last year.

Hi Mom. 

Proofread their CV 

If your graduate planned well (and had luck), they probably have their sharpest shirt ready for their first day of work. But in today’s economy, chances are, your graduate might leave the education system without a job. Just like me.

I spent ages sifting through job advertisements, sending CVs and attending interviews ad nauseam, until I finally found The One. So to help your graduate navigate the labyrinthine labour market, why not gift them your time and proofreading skills and offer to have a look at their CV and cover letters? 

Granted, this might not directly secure them a job, but at least they will be putting their best foot through the door. The aforementioned bottle of alcohol might help in the process as well.

Open a savings account for them 

Everyone tells new graduates to start saving money, but no one tells them how. Not only that, but physical cash is becoming more and more obsolete, so money flies out of your digital wallet without you even noticing

As a recent graduate starting off on the career ladder, I can tell you that hard-earned cash is very, very scarce. Don’t ask me how I survived on an intern salary for half a year. 

Between this outside pressure to save, the scarcity of actual money, and the desire to spend like an adult for things like smelly cheeses at farmers’ markets, you can imagine how zero units of money get saved. 

Don’t let your graduate get lost in this financial limbo. Instead, open them a savings account, or get them an actual piggy bank that they can look at every day and remember to save. Bonus points if you put some cash in to get them started. 

Feed them

I remember when my family would visit my grandparents and, upon leaving, our car would fill with boxes and boxes of food from grandma and grandpa. Cooked food, canned food, sweets, homemade liquors. What oddballs, 9-year-old Maggie thought. We have food at home

Fast forward 14 years and, God, how I wish my grandparents were here. In between the stress of my first job and the financial ups and downs, there were days when I either forgot to eat, or looked at my bank account and googled ‘meals for under £1.’ (Spoiler alert: it’s either pasta or rice with a side of nothing). 

So, earn yourself a super gold star and send food to your graduate. Buy them groceries. Take them out to eat. Ask them if they want to finish your sandwich. Anything, really. They will appreciate it, I promise. 

Give them your best advice

I don’t remember if I got any advice when I was graduating. And even if I did, as a type A Aries there was no way I would accept advice. I jumped straight into adulthood. 

And in doing so, I made a lot of mistakes, learned plenty of lessons the hard way, and ultimately got a little closer to having my stuff together. Whatever that means. 

If I had been told in July 2018, ‘Hey Maggie, buy your fruit and vegetables from shops with handwritten signs.’ or, ‘Look, the faster you correct your mistakes, the quicker they don’t matter.’, or even ‘Hey Maggie, don’t let the honey jar get sticky’, would it have improved my life? Probably. Would I have remembered it? Maybe not. 

Neither might your graduate. So give them the best gift of all: your advice, kindness and support in a form that will last forever. Maybe they pay it no regard at first while they’re still riding high on their graduation glory, but in the moments of hardship they will turn to it and feel grateful it was there.

You could write your advice in a heartfelt letter, on little pieces of paper sealed in a jar, or, hassle-free, in a beautiful book to make it last forever and guarantee that it won’t get chucked out during yet another house move.

And above all, the greatest gift for any graduate is knowing that their most important people are by their side, on their special day and beyond, offering them unconditional love and support. Life after graduation can be a difficult, confusing, curiously amazing journey, so if all else fails, simply being there for your graduate will mean the world to them. It did to me.

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