There’s an undeniable pomp and circumstance in the air, which means every weekend for the next month will be a cake-comatose blur of graduation-party RSVPs, but one important question is hanging in the air like a graduation cap that was tossed perhaps a little too high: what thoughtful, profound gift should you bestow upon the graduate in your life?

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 5.43.11 AMTo help you make that all-important decision, here’s a definitive list of five gifts graduates do not want to receive to commemorate their commencement:

1. A copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

On the surface, this gift seems like an optimistic, literary promise that your little magna cum laude is on a rhyming path to greatness. Unfortunately, it won’t be long before reality sets in, and this kindhearted hardcover will mock an innocent graduate right from his or her bookshelf. Instead of seeing great sights and joining high fliers, the graduate will soon be receiving job rejection emails and joining the ranks of ugly criers. Not to mention, until a college grad gets on his or her feet, a more accurate title would be, Oh, The Places You Can’t Afford To Go!

2. Any stuffed animal wearing a graduation cap

Who among us hasn’t fallen victim the charms of the graduation teddy bear? Unless you want to put a recent graduate in a really uncomfortable position, leave ConGRADulations Teddy on the shelf in Hallmark. No one has successfully discerned the etiquette for owning a stuffed animal that’s wearing a graduation cap. Sure, it’s cute and commemorates a special accomplishment, but what happens when graduation season is over? Does it go in the closet until next year? Is it thrown away? Once the graduation ceremony is over, grads will be focused on resume writing, scoring interviews, and nursing rejections, is this really the appropriate time to throw an identity crisis-prone stuffed animal in the mix?

3. A coffee mug with the graduate’s graduation year on it

A mug that exclaims, “Class of 2014” in bold bubble letters seems like a great idea now, and it will still be a bit of a novelty in 2015, but once ten years have passed and 2024 rolls around, no one wants any coffee mug to remind them that they graduated a decade ago. You don’t want your gift to be the painful realization mug that gets hidden in the back of the coffee mug cabinet.

4. An overpriced, fancy pen (with or without engraving)

What might have been a status symbol and guaranteed indicator of success in 1991 BI (Before iPad) has become a gift that says, “Here’s a little trinket that will inspire revulsion in your future colleagues while simultaneously bringing back the inferiority complex you cultivated in third grade thanks to your struggles with writing a cursive letter ‘G.’ Congrats Grad!” It doesn’t help that fancy pens often come in a box that is also the ideal size for holding a stack of cash. Assumed stack of cash > fancy pen.

5. Anything else that doesn’t involve money

The phrase, “It’s the thought that counts,” is great for birthdays, holidays, or anniversaries, but when it comes to graduation, it’s the dollars and Annual Percentage Yield that counts. This is one of the rare gift-giving instances when you’re encouraged to channel your inner forgetful uncle and write a check for an odd sum of money. Do not fall into this trap: “But they’re going to get money from everyone else! I want my gift to stand out!” Wrong. No graduate teetering on the precipice of the real world has ever received cash, and thought, “Gee, I really wish so-and-so had made an attempt to stand out instead of providing me with currency I can spend in any way I choose…” Graduation gift-giving is not the time to showcase your originality.

No matter what gift you end up giving to the graduate(s) in your life, as long as you stay away from Dr. Seuss (and Pinterest), you should be okay.

Originally published on Huffington Post

22 thoughts on “5 Graduation Gifts to Avoid This Year (and Forever)

  1. Congratulations on getting your post on HuffPost, maybe I’ll buy you a congratulations bear 😛 we don’t really celebrate graduation that much in the UK, at least none of my friends did, but I think your rules could really apply to any gift giving situation.

    1. Thanks! And really? Maybe because your schooling there is a little different, isn’t it?

      We make into a huge thing here. Parties, gifts, bears–everything.

  2. To show your disgust with the gifts, I advise throwing them on the ground and saying, “I guessed you missed the memo. It’s cash, check, or GTFO.”

  3. Of course, you know I give the most bitter and not gifts of all. Thanks for making me not want to go to a graduation party at all ever. I’m also very bitter that you got Huffington Posted. That’s way better than getting FP’ed.

    1. Attending graduation parties are awful (because you have to give money), but having one thrown for you is great (because theoretically you get money, unless you get a bad gift-giver). I don’t really think it’s a big deal. I just sent them a pitch, and they responded.

      1. I guess I need to graduate from something. Like maybe a correspondence school. Do they still have those?

        Well, good job on getting in the Huff post. I think I will pitch them an idea and fail.

  4. Way to go HuffPo! Enjoy the royalties! (HuffPo is the unpaid internship of publishing, recent grads.)
    Messing with you. Great piece. My parents gave me a typewriter, which was both thoughtful and useful. #gramps

  5. Congrats on being featured on Huffington Post! I am slightly jealous. Only slightly. 🙂

    I agree with all of these, and I was inwardly agreeing and cracking up the minute I read the first item. Especially in this economy early post-grad life is NOT FUN, and possibly some of the most depressing months (or years, depending on the person) ever.

    1. Thank you! You should send them a pitch! That’s all I do. It’s not like they plucked me out of obscurity or anything.

      The book just seems like a mockery when you really think about it.

  6. Hooray for Sass on HuffPo! Also, yeah… unless it’s money, a nice bottle of liquor, or – in my mom’s case – a realllllly sweet scrapbook, it’s not worth the time.

    1. That’s probably the worst aspect of the non-cash graduation gift: there’s no way to re-gift it because it’s so achievement specific. You’re going to be holding onto that bear a long time before you can pawn it off onto someone else.

  7. HuffPo! You fancy!

    In college my friends & I took a road trip and stopped at South of the Border, this horrible (racist) tourist trap on the border of North & South Carolina and one store had dozens of these little metal signs you might prop up on a table or a desk or somewhere, emblazoned with “Class of 92!” It was 2007. OBVI we bought one and carried it with us wherever we went (including Barcelona like 3 years later, we are so weird). Semirelated story to hijack your comment thread.

    This post is great!

    1. HA! That’s awesome, though! It always strikes me as odd when people who graduated 10+ years ago are still toting stuff around that say “Class of _____” on it. I mean, you don’t need to be ashamed of your age or anything, but at what point is this accomplishment no longer relevant in your life?

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

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