Graduation gifts that keep giving after
It's graduation time. Let's get one thing straight:
Gifts are optional.
So if you receive an announcement from the purported
son of your second cousin, twice removed, whom you haven't seen
in 20 years, don't feel obligated to shower him with anything other
than best wishes.
"A nice, congratulatory card is in order,"
says Peter Post, author of the etiquette book "Essential Manners
for Men." (His great-grandmother Emily Post taught him the
But if the announcement is from a favorite member
of the class, here are some gifts to celebrate the milestone and
help the new graduate once the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance"
The College Board reports that the annual tuition and fees
in 2003-2004 at private four-year colleges averaged $19,710. Although
public college costs a lot less (around $4,694), that's still a
big expense. High school grads heading to university certainly will
appreciate any help here from friends and family.
But if you're going to do this, give the gift discreetly,
advises Jim Miller, dean of admissions at Bowdoin College, a highly
competitive (and expensive) private school in Brunswick, Maine.
When colleges find out about the financial gifts, either because
paid the tuition bill directly or deposited the money into junior's
account, the schools usually reduce the student's financial aid
"Lucky you, your grandparents gave you $5,000,
so we're reducing your scholarship by $5,000," Miller says.
The best way to contribute to schooling costs is for
grandparents to hold onto the money until the bill comes due, let
junior's parents do the paying and then compensate them. Tax law
allows gifts of up to $11,000 per person per year without gift-tax
implications for either the giver or recipient. If the grandparents
are near the gift-tax limit with the student's parents, Miller suggests
that the grad take out a student loan and have the grandparents
pay it off before interest accumulates.
Once the grad is settled on campus, he or she will
appreciate any of several gifts that will enhance the college experience.
A laptop computer is a necessity at many colleges and a nice
thing to have at all of them. But don't rush out and buy the one
that pleases you. Different colleges have different requirements.
A gift certificate that allows the student to pick the one he needs
makes the most sense. And, Miller points out, this gift won't affect
a student's financial aid package.
Buying a phone and paying for an annual calling plan may seem
like a luxury, but we're talking about a generation that walks around
with cell phones glued to their ears. Some schools even make wired
phones in dorm rooms an option because most students prefer cells.
Just be sure to choose
a plan with free night and weekend minutes, and insist that
the deal includes a weekly or monthly call to the giver.
Your graduate will appreciate a portable DVD player, an MP3
player-recorder or a personal digital assistant. These electronics
will help him blend in with the crowd, and a good set of headphones
will improve his relationship with his roommate.
Ticket to ride
Being left alone on campus while classmates head home (or elsewhere)
during one of college's many breaks is not a college memory anyone
wants, particularly during that first year when a student already
is facing a lot of adjustments. The gift of a round-trip ticket
that your favorite grad can use for a quick trip home or a visit
to Grandma's at Thanksgiving can ease homesickness.