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Great Gifts for the College-Bound Kid

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Updated on Apr 17, 2014

High school graduation is a joyous milestone, but selecting a gift for the college-bound grad has always been a challenge.You want to get them something they'll use and enjoy, but without knowing much about their dorm room or their future roommate, it's impossible to know what that something might be. Relax—some gifts truly do fit all. Here are some gifts guaranteed to pamper, protect and inspire your soon-to-be-college student.

  • A city pass. If the grad's headed out of town for college, surprise him with the tools to explore his new home: a travel guide to the city, a public transportation pass, and a gift certificate to a local attraction, be it a factory tour, a guided trip around the city, a theater, or a great restaurant.
  • A car care package. If she's bringing a car, make sure it's stocked with jumper cables and an emergency hammer for a quick exit. A gift membership in the American Automobile Association will ensure she's never stranded by the side of the road and provide discounts at participating shops and services as well.
  • A toiletry tote. The shift from private to public bathroom probably isn't the highlight of anyone's freshman year, but you can ease the transition with a sturdy plastic carryall stuffed with a bathrobe, flip-flops, and toiletries.
  • Personal Finance 101. On top of loans, first year college students are inundated with credit card offers, tempted with ads for pricey spring break getaways, and presented with laundry lists of textbooks and supplies to buy. A copy of The Teen's Guide to Personal Finance may be the best investment you ever make.
  • Personalized decor. The right artwork takes white walls from bland to fabulous and personalizes shared space. Instead of opting for a generic poster, buy an inexpensive shadow box at a crafts store. Line the back with an old drawing or scraps from baby clothes and glue. Use a hot glue gun to add personal mementos for a one of a kind wall hanging.
  • Photos. Short on time? Load a digital photo frame with pics of family and friends. Short on funds? Fill a pretty photo album with your favorite pictures, noting the special memories surrounding each one. Looking for a splurge? Have an evocative photo blown up and printed on canvas at www.shutterfly.com or your local Costco.
  • One last hurrah. Sure, she'll be home at Thanksgiving, but there's nothing like the summer after high school graduation. Celebrate with a family outing to a local amusement park, night at a campground, or afternoon at the lake. Sometimes the best gifts of all are the ones they can carry in their hearts.
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