You got the announcement. So what do you get a graduate – if anything?

Graduation season is upon us. What’s the appropriate gift to give?
Graduation season is upon us. What’s the appropriate gift to give? Courtesy photo

The envelope arrives. Inside, a card featuring professional photos of your Bunco friend’s beaming daughter announces that she’s about to graduate.

Now what?

Are you supposed to attend the graduation? Send a gift? Does she want a pen? Cash? How much?

Graduation season has arrived, and with it always comes an onslaught of postal announcements trumpeting the academic achievements of friends and relatives. And although most people know what to do when a wedding invitation arrives – select steak or chicken, send in the RSVP, check the registry, buy a gift – it’s much less clear what is expected of someone who receives a graduation announcement.

According to etiquette expert Emily Post’s website, this is a common dilemma.

But etiquette-ly speaking, a graduation announcement comes with no obligation. And it doesn’t necessarily double as in invitation,.

“It is an etiquette myth that if you receive a graduation announcement you must send a gift,” says the site’s entry on graduation etiquette. “Announcements do not equal invitations to a graduation. You are not obligated to give a gift, although you may choose to do so. Whether or not you send a present, a card or note of congratulations is always appreciated.”


But what if you do want to send a gift? What’s appropriate?

Nancy Robinson, who owns the Wichita gift shop Best of Times, 6452 E. Central, says that most people she sees in May are shopping for cards to stuff graduation cash in.

“They say, ‘Yeah, all they want is money. I’m going to just put a gift card or money in this card,’ ” she said.

Some will buy something more personal, like a bracelet with an inspirational saying on it for a girl. But cash is tops.

Robinson said she personally gives a bit more cash to college graduates than she does to high school graduates. A college-aged employee at her shop who’s graduating might get $50, she said, while she’ll give a niece or nephew $150. She lowers that amount for high school graduates.

We asked readers via Facebook what they consider to be appropriate graduation gifts, and here’s what some of them had to say.


Most gift givers seemed to agree that cash was the most desired graduation gift. How do they know? Because that’s what they wanted.

“My brother got money,” said Sarah Kallail. “I got countless amounts of perfume and lotions I didn’t need because I was a girl.”

Kallail said that she thinks $25-$30 is appropriate for friends’ children and $50 is good for family members.

Monica Schlegel gets even more creative when deciding how much cash to give.

“For casual acquaintances, I like to give a cash or gift card in the amount of the year of the graduation, i.e. $20.17,” she said.

Closer friends or relatives get $200.17. “Maybe it will buy a textbook,” she said.

Gift cards

Gift cards for food, drink, gas and dorm decor also were popular.

“I ask if they are going away for college and then get a gift card so they can decorate their dorm room,” Deana Heath said.

Janiece Baum Dixon is even more practical when shopping for graduation gift cards.

“I always give QT (QuikTrip) gift cards,” she said. “Everyone needs gas money while looking for a job.”

College gear

Brandi Koskie remembers that when she gradated from high schools and chose to attend the University of Oklahoma, she was too broke to outfit herself in appropriate college gear.

Now she makes sure her graduating friends and relatives don’t face the same problem.

“I always buy them a nice hoodie for the college they’re headed off to and throw in some cash,” she said.

The classic pen

Roni Dino Attari voted for the classic graduation gift – the one that keeps on giving.

“I say a nice engraved fountain pen that they can have for a long time, use through college, and sign important documents throughout their career,” he said.

And a tip for graduates

Karen Combs’ advice was more for gift recipients than gift givers. She said she usually gives $25 to $50, depending on her relationship with the graduate.

But no matter what a graduate receives, he or she should graciously acknowledge it, she said.

“What I’m about to say is more important than the money,” she said. “I am sick and tired of giving gifts and not getting a thank you note. I would guess over the years of sending money to children I have taught and others, the thank you note return is a low percentage. It’s not OK. I love these young people. Truly love them, and it grieves me to think that they have not internalized at this point in life the importance of gratitude. Rant ended!”