Ah, high school graduation season. For the grads, it’s a time that brings on a roller coaster of emotions: excitement toward making a huge life transition, FREEDOM from curfews, and the thrill of meeting new friends. But, there’s also a certain bit of anxiety surrounding classes, moving away from home, and – gasp – student loans.

For the rest of us, those wonderful folks so proud of someone donning a cap and gown, we can’t decide whether to get a super awesome gift or dole out cold hard cash (which, of course, is always kindly accepted in large sums). If you’re really looking to wow your grad with something extra special, check out these ideas for their dorms that are guaranteed to have them more excited than the last day of school.   

iHome – Your grad will really appreciate a nice set of speakers for their iPhone or iPod, since they’ll probably be hosting lots of study parties in their dorm. The great thing about an iHome is that it doubles as an alarm clock, which I know very well to be vital in making it to those 8 a.m. classes (or in my case, 6 a.m. golf team workouts).

Beats by Dr. Dre – THESE ARE SO COOL. I WANT SOME (hint: dad, mom, boyfriend, friends, family, coworkers, beloved cat, and dear readers of Zing!) If you get the grad the over-the-ear set by the famous doc, you’ll also give their hearing a bit of a break from the more popular bud style. Plus, they’ll be the envy of all the cool kids on campus. And well, me too.

Digital camera – This is the perfect gift idea from someone like an aunt or uncle who is looking to spend a little bit more. Even though a lot of us consider our smartphones to be our camera of choice these days, a digital point-and-shoot version is an awesome item to have on fun Friday nights and study abroad trips. Whether or not the camera will remain unscathed for four years… now that’s another story.

Light up candles – So, as you can imagine, candles aren’t really allowed in dorms. Strangely enough, blenders were also a no-no in my dorm. I guess they wanted to make sure we weren’t whipping up (virgin) frozen piña coladas and margaritas in our tiny little rooms. Buy your grad friend or family member a few of these and they’ll be so happy they’ve got a serene element to offset the harshness of cinder block walls. 

Magazine subscription – What’s better than a gift that keeps on giving, month after month? Just think: when the magazine subscription you ordered for the grad shows up in their dorm mailbox every four weeks, an image of your beautifully smiling face will come to mind. It’s an awesome option if you’re not looking to spend a ton (check Groupon and Living Social deals on mags), and it’s something they’ll look forward to browsing during a study break!

Kitchen essentials – We all know Ramen is a staple for hungry college grads, but what else might they appreciate receiving from you to keep their stomachs from rumbling? If you’re the crafty type and want to make a gift basket complete with a tulle bow, throw in the following: reusable plastic cutlery and dinnerware, travel coffee mug, sturdy plastic water bottle, and microwave splatter cover. Add a few packets of Easy Mac and Swiss Miss for good measure.

Personalized towel – When I graduated, I got one of these from a family who made the gift a tradition among all the kids in the neighborhood. Not only does it inform the grad of your stance on proper hygiene, it also keeps them safe from mistakenly picking up a mass produced towel from Target that’s not their own.

Keurig Brewer – I got one of these coffee makers a few years back, and while I still consider my traditional brewer to be my standby, I like the convenience of Keurig’s single serving cup of java. Since dorms are pretty conscious of harbingers of fire, a Keurig machine is a very safe option for those times when a trip to the caf just isn’t going to happen after a late Saturday night.

Mini tool kit – When I got one of these when I was in college, I thought something like, “Can’t my dad just come over and fix it?” As it turns out, I didn’t need to depend on my dad to drive two hours to hang up a picture (though I know he gladly would have) and the tool kit came in handy for tons of things. You can find a nice one of these at Bed, Bath, & Beyond or Ikea.

Longchamp tote – These are all the rage right now: I saw tons of young women carrying them while I was in Europe recently, which meant I just had to break down and get one. So what makes it different from an ordinary tote? The sturdy bag is PVC coated and made of nylon, making it perfect for any kind of weather the grad might encounter on a trek to class. Another awesome thing is that it folds neatly into itself and snaps shut with a clasp!

Computer sleeve – Since your grad will likely have to invest in their very own laptop to complete the truckloads of work thrown at them, they’re going to want something to keep it safe from wear and tear. I’d suggest checking out sleeves from Incase: they come in a range of colors and are available for multiple laptop sizes. I have one on both my work and personal MacBook Pro, and even use their cases for my iPhone. What can I say? I’m a fiercely loyal Taurus.

Rolling duffel – What can’t a grad use a rolling duffel for? It’s perfect for the big move into the dorm, weekend trips home, spontaneous trips with pals, or even toting massive loads of laundry to the machines. You can even get an awesome personalized one from LLBean, and they come in a ton of fun colors!

If you don’t have enough time to snag one of these cool gifts for the grad, don’t worry. Cash is always accepted. Just be sure you make a note in the card that reminds them to spend it on something useful, like 2 a.m. trips across campus to Taco Bell. Happy shopping!

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