Tips for Graduation Gift Etiquette, from Preschool to College

Not sure what’s an appropriate gift for the grad? Follow these guidelines.


Photo by: skodonnell


By: Amanda Mushro

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As graduation season gets into full swing, you may start receiving invites or announcements from friends and family who are celebrating their graduates. This is usually the time when we start asking around "How much is the going rate for a graduation gift?"

If you’ve found yourself asking this exact question, we’re here to help. According to the National Retail Federation, in 2022, Americans gave an estimated $5.8 billion in graduation gifts with money being the top gift. While there was a wide range in the amount given, the average was around $114.

While graduation ceremonies are usually reserved for high school and college students, there are other students celebrating milestones too, and we don’t want to forget them.

Things to remember:

  • These are just suggestions and you should give an amount you feel comfortable with and can afford.
  • You can always give a gift or a gift card instead of money.
  • Family usually gives more than friends. Think about the relationship you have with the graduate before choosing an amount.
  • If there is a party and you are not attending, etiquette rules say you are not required to send a gift. Obviously, you can send a gift if you want, but it shouldn't be expected.

College Graduation

There is a wide range for college graduation gifts, but the typical amount given to college graduates is between $100 and $500. Since these grads will be starting new careers, possibly moving, and paying off student loans, giving more is acceptable. Again, the amount you give depends on your relationship with the student. If the college grad is receiving a Master's or PhD, etiquette experts suggest adding an extra $100.

High School Graduation

For high school grads, the average gift is around $50 to $200. To decide an amount, consider if this is a close friend or family member. You may also want to talk to other people who are giving gifts to decide how much you will give to the graduate. For example: if this is a family member, ask another relative how much they are placing in the card. Remember that an announcement does not mean you are invited to a party or that you are obligated to send a gift. It’s simply an announcement and you can reply with a congratulations message. If you would rather give a gift instead of money, here’s a list of great gifts.

Middle School

An average range for a middle school graduation gift is $15 to $30. A smaller amount is totally acceptable. Also consider a gift card for their favorite restaurant or a sweatshirt from the high school they will be attending.

Elementary School

Much like middle school graduation gifts, elementary school is around $15 to $30 and the same rules apply. It’s a small monetary gift, but still a very nice acknowledgment.


For the youngest graduates, you may want to skip money altogether and offer up a gift card for a bookstore or their favorite ice cream shop. If you are looking to give a larger gift, consider a stock that can be used when the child is older.


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