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Gifts for grads are better than ever

By Lee BiererBy Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

I always believed that Hallmark was responsible for creating the catchy marketing moniker “Dads and Grads.” Just as Father’s Day gifts have thankfully moved beyond standard-issue ties, graduates can expect something more creative than a Cross pen or an oversized dictionary.

Here are some suggestions for less traditional graduation gifts:

Survival kits These are uniquely packaged, themed items. The Ultimate Dorm Survival Kit has Band-aids, a laundry bag, stereo speakers, a head massager and more, $94. The A+, Cram, Bam, Thank You, Ma’am exam study kit includes a bamboo fiber mug, tension and stress shower burst, ear buds, five-minute sand timer and school supplies, $46. Feel Better Soon get-well kit comes with hand wipes, a pill box, tissues, a migraine wrap, organic tea and other items, $33.50.

Personalized gifts You can personalize just about anything, from stationery and note pads to luggage or even flip flops.

Commemorating graduation Engrave acrylic scrolls and mugs with the student’s name, graduation date, etc. Or take photos at graduation and the graduation party and then display them in a pre-engraved frame.

Electronic gifts Everything from a practical flash drive or noise-reducing headphones to a digital memo pad will surely be appreciated.

Funky gifts The Runaway Alarm Clock, $69.99, is virtually guaranteed to rouse the student from bed. This one jumps off the night table, rolls around on the floor and spouts favorite songs from its MP3 player until it gets turned off. You can even record a customized alarm message with the built-in microphone. Check out the YouTube video before purchasing.

Gift cards, prepaid credit cards and digital subscriptions Let’s be honest, this is what students really want. As impersonal as a Starbucks gift card is – and it is – you know they’ll enjoy it. The prepaid credit cards from Visa, MasterCard and American Express are great alternatives to the standard graduation check. You can also make their dorm room “the place to be” with a digital subscription to Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu or Pandora.

Zipcar membership A car-sharing service such as this allows students to rent cars for a few hours or days. This is an especially great gift since so many colleges don’t allow freshmen to have cars on campus.

Collegiate gear Purchase a T-shirt or sweatshirt at their soon-to-be college home; this is always a hit.

Best gift ever In June 2012, Brenna Martin of Kenly, N.C., received Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” as a graduation gift from her parents. But it had a surprise twist. They had purchased the book when she was in kindergarten and each year collected comments from her teachers, who sprinkled their words throughout the book. The parents were somehow able to keep this a secret for 13 years. Brenna was so touched by her gift that she posted her thoughts online and has received more than 25 million views. She and her parents were guests on the “Today”show. (Google “Today Show - Brenna Martin.”) She has just finished her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

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