Members of the class of 2012 soon will be flinging their caps into the air, as high school and college students prepare for their final days in school. If you have a graduating high school senior to buy for, think practical.
For high school seniors graduating and heading off to college, useless stuff is the last thing needed — they'll be facing downsizing their belongings to fit into a small dorm room shared with another person.
Here are some practical ideas for graduation gifts aimed at high school seniors who will be starting college in the fall, straight from my 17-year-old daughter, Amber Gillmore, an Edmond Memorial High School senior who will be doing just that.
For schoolwork and entertaining themselves, every college student will need to compute. If you want to impress your graduate but don't want to spend the big bucks on a computer, consider a tablet as a digital gift. Many tablets, such as the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, allow users to write and draw on touch-sensitive screens, perfect for taking notes in class.
Look for a tablet with as much internal memory as is available (16 to 32 gigabytes is pretty standard) that also features a USB or a memory card drive for extra storage. There are many choices in tablets, and you'll likely only know whether your student prefers an Apple or an Android operating system by asking.
If you're thinking of buying your graduate a laptop computer, avoid tiny Netbooks. They're trendy because they're small and convenient as Web surfing tools, but they are not what your student needs for his or her schoolwork.
Some features your student will definitely want in a laptop: a DVD drive to watch movies, USB inputs for flash drives and other external devices, lots of internal memory (since this is where the bulk of your students' work will be stored, along with photos, music, etc.) and a comfortable-size keyboard (or a full-size external keyboard that connects via Bluetooth).
Gift cards are a great gift idea, but think like a starving student. Instead of a mall gift card, consider a gas card or a grocery card.
For decades, the mini refrigerator and microwave oven have been dorm room staples. Your student will think of you each time she opens her fridge to grab an energy drink.
A nice set of luggage is a thoughtful graduation gift for your student. She'll use the full set for moving into the dorms, then can use the carry-on to pack for weekend trips home. Look for a set that fits together like nesting dolls since dorm rooms don't have much storage space. A tip for extra storage room: Bed frame risers (or a simple substitution such as stacked bricks) will lift dorm room beds high enough off the floor to store stuff underneath.
Bundle together supplies your student will need for laundry, cooking, cleaning and tools. For example, buy a laundry hamper and fill it with all the essentials: laundry detergent, fabric softener, spray starch and stain remover. Or, buy a prepackaged tool kit that includes screwdrivers, a hammer, duct tape, wrenches, pliers, batteries and flashlights.
Noise canceling headphones are a little pricey as headphones go. But when your student is studying for a big exam and needs quiet, there is no substitution other than a trip to the library.
Dorm room decor such as rugs, lamps and throw pillows will help warm up your student's otherwise institutional dorm room.
To keep her feet safe from fungus, your student will appreciate some shower flip-flops. And to help stay as healthy as possible while living in the dorms, a big bottle of vitamin C tablets is a good idea.
Finally, to keep her important paperwork in order, a simple filing system such as an accordion file is a gift idea that is low on cost and high on practicality.