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Countdown to college: Great gift ideas to help you say congrats to your grad

By Lee Shulman Bierer, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Education News

Cash may be still be king when it comes to what high school grads want to see when they open their graduation cards, but if you're interested in igniting a spark of creativity or trying to personalize your gifts, here are some fun suggestions.


Students are constantly connected electronically, so most anything to make that connection easier and more convenient will be appreciated.

Amazon Prime membership ($99, Amazon.com): This could be every student's favorite gift. I think it's worth it for the free delivery alone, but access to free movies, music and discounts is truly a gift that keeps on giving. To make it extra special, you can order it in a gift box and include a small gift card with it.

Mophie juice pack reserve ($59.95, mophie.com): this is an iPhone and iPod charger that students can carry on their key chains. It can be used when they run into a situation where they find themselves with a low battery and a must-have app download or a photo upload that can't wait.

Jackery portable charger ($29.99, Amazon.com): It's a fabulous, affordable gift, and every time they run out of juice on their phone or tablet, they will think of you for saving the day.

Bedphones ($89.00 - $169.00; dubslabs.com): One of the toughest adjustments for many freshmen is adapting to a roommate's sleeping/working/partying schedule. The Bedphones are earphones designed for sleeping with foam-covered speakers that lie flat against your ears. There's even a free app with the product that turns the music off when they fall asleep.

Card iPhone cases – What else do students need besides their phone, their student ID and a credit or debit card? Just a convenient, good-looking place to keep their lives together. They're everywhere, just google "card iPhone cases."


Removable wallpaper ($50, www.dormify.com): What a great way for students to personalize their rooms with a cool variety of fun design choices. Be sure to check with your RA (resident assistant) before papering your walls.

Travel HoodiePillow ($20, www.dormify.com): Featured on the popular reality show "Shark Tank," this hooded pillowcase is made from a soft sweatshirt material that covers a pillow insert which deflates.



Create your own "off to college" survival kit. This is a great idea if you are industrious, frugal and have multiple gifts to purchase. Some items you might include:

Put together a laundry basket with the supplies they'll need to do their own laundry: soap, a roll of quarters, stain remover, fabric softener, etc.

Design your own basket filled with their favorite candies and snacks, plus gift cards to their favorite coffee shops and restaurants.

Purchase a hot pot for cooking their favorite soups, snacks, hot cocoa, etc. Personalize it by adding a hand-compiled recipe book of simple things they can make with limited kitchen resources.

Keep them safe with a first-aid kit. You can buy one ready-made or put together a kit yourself. Include bandages, anti-bacterial cleansing wipes, Advil, Neosporin, Benedryl, matches, tape, gauze and scissors.

Get them a basic tool kit that includes a hammer and screwdriver, or find a kit with a little of everything.

Homesick candles offers large scented candles with a label displaying a student's home state. ($30.00, www.uncommongoods.com)

Check out etsy.com for creative grad gift boxes ($28.00).

Lee Shulman Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website College Admissions Strategies.

Visit The Charlotte Observer at www.charlotteobserver.com

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