What's the Best Graduation Gift?
Share your stories of the best and worst presents ever.
With graduation season underway, parents across the country are scrambling for just the right gift to congratulate their high school and college grads.
While there may have been a time when the ideal graduation gift was a nice watch or a new suit, today's grads may be thinking more along the lines of smartphones and tablets.
But is a gadget necessarily the best way to say congrats? Or is a more personal touch called for?
For my part, the best graduation gift I ever received was probably the one I underestimated the most—at least, I did at the time. For my high school graduation, a family friend gave me a hot-pink toolset, complete with a heavy-duty hammer, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, nails, painter's tape and several other items that, to this day, I still have no idea what their purpose is.
Now, when I was 17, I was hardly what you would call handy. I was a consumate klutz, a trait which I have yet to outgrow, and the only tomboy-ish thing about me was my wardrobe, full of pants and shorts rather than skirts or dresses.
I admit it, I thought the woman who'd given me the toolset was nuts. She told me her daughter had received a toolset for her graduation years earlier, and it ended up being invaluable. I had my doubts, but I still packed it in my suitcase and brought it with me to college.
Thank goodness I did. Nobody tells you that the first week of college is primarily spent hanging things, nailing things in, painting your dorm room, trying to assemble Ikea furniture and basically making an impressive, if fleeting, transition into Bob Villa. By my third day in the dorms, everyone in the building knew I was the only person with a toolset.
I met almost the entire dorm in the first week, including all the first-year students and most of the upperclassmen. When I left for meals, I'd come back to find three Post-It notes asking to borrow the toolkit with names and room numbers I didn't recognize. "I heard you have a hammer, can I borrow? -Sarah, Rm. 216."
Besides being the most useful gift I received, that toolset, which I nicknamed the Barbie toolset, created a great way to break the ice that first week of college. I learned where the best coffee on campus was, the best places to study, the best places to—ahem—not party, the best place to order pizza from at 1 a.m., and more.
In one week I accummulated knowledge it took others weeks or months to learn. I won't say how many years it's been since I graduated high school, but that toolset can still be found stored in my apartment (though some of the pieces have gone missing over the years.)
What's the most useful, most memorable, or just plain best graduation gift you ever got, or gave? Does your family have a tradition when it comes to grad gifts? Did you ever get a gift you could drive home? Can you possibly go wrong with the old standby, cash? Or, did you ever get/give a gift that went comically wrong, and should be avoided at all costs? Tell us in the comments section. And remember, you may be helping out one of those scrambling parents.