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What Not to Get a College Graduate

Graduation season has arrived, and it's time to celebrate! Yes, I'm excited about finally finishing school and walking across stage to receive a diploma, but let's be real: Like most 2013 grads, I'm also thinking about parties and presents.

What to get the graduate? It's pretty simple, if you remember one rule, it's this: Everyone loves money. Truthfully, all we graduates want is to see lots and lots of cards. Hopefully, inside those cards is money. That way we can put it toward something we actually want, or deposit it into our savings. However, if it were not money then I'd hope the card reads, "Congratulations! Pack your bags, we are heading to Europe for two weeks!" That's the best graduation gift I've received so far, and it was better than any amount of money.

It's understandable, though, if you want to get creative and not give cash or a check like everyone else. Please just refrain from giving one of these items ... because while you'll still get a card that says "thank you" in the mail, those are probably the last words your graduate is thinking.

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First, avoid any items that say "Congrats to the Class of 2013!" Yes, we get it. We will always remember the year we graduated. A jewelry box or picture frame is great, but really does it need to reiterate the words "graduate" and "2013?" No. The likelihood that a graduate will have this picture frame on display in the apartment is quite small. Instead, keep it simple by giving the grad a pretty but generic (and timeless!) picture frame.

The same goes for the multitude of photo albums I've unwrapped. What am I going to do with three "Class of 2013" photo albums? First of all, no college kids print pictures anymore. Second, what am I going to do with three of the same photo album? You may think you're being creative, but most likely these albums will wind up collecting dust in the closet. I know mine are. A better gift would be a Flickr gift certificate, which the grad can use to create her own album without the tacky “Class of 2013.”

Then there are those relatives who thought the really creative route was the way to go. I knew immediately when I saw the graduation card attached to a box, I wasn't going to like it. (The "bigger box = more awesome" rule stops applying after around age 12, when giant toys cease to be the objective.) As I painfully unwrapped the box, knowing there was no hope of a check, my family started laughing. I was holding a waffle maker. "It's great for all those mornings you want to make breakfast," said my uncle. If only the life of a college student included time to make elaborate breakfasts. Realistically, I never have waffle mix anyways ... and I've already almost forgotten that I even have the waffle maker. That's right, it's still in the attic. Next time, consider a Target gift card. That way, if I really want a waffle maker, I can pick it for myself.

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Kitchenware is another go-to grad gift, serving as a sort of welcome into the real world. We graduates see it differently. I get it, I'm in the real world ... but pots and pans are not exactly what I want to open. I'd rather see a gift card to a home goods store or Bed Bath & Beyond. At least with a gift card, I can buy anything I want in the store, and I don't have to learn how to use all these different sizes of skillets.

I'll stop the list of what not to get there, with a little reminder: Rule of thumb, you can never go wrong with a card and money. Promise.

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