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Not Another Book! (Great Graduation Gift Ideas … Really)

High school graduation time is upon us, and with it, the proverbial “what’s a good graduation gift?” conundrum. My suggestion? A book. Surely that’s the last thing a graduate would want, is another book. But wait, hear me out.

Though it sounds like the kind of gift that won’t elicit the most enthusiastic response from the graduate the indispensable guidance found on the pages of these books will be a resource the graduate turns to again and again. And they will be grateful.

The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen gives a behind-the-scenes look at EVERYTHING you need to know about college (but never knew you needed to know). This essential book for new college students is packed with real-life advice on everything from making friends to managing stress. Hilarious, outrageous, and telling stories from students on over 100 college campuses cover the basics, and then some in this required text for students starting life in college.

How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You're There) by Andrea Malkin Brenner and Lara Hope Schwartz guide first-year students and their families through the transition process, during the summer after high school graduation and throughout the school year, preparing students to succeed and thrive as they transition and adapt to college.

Your Turn: How to Be an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims is a former Stanford dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising. She has encountered hundreds of twentysomethings (and thirtysomethings, too), who, faced with those markers, feel they’re just playing the part of “adult,” while struggling with anxiety, stress, and general unease. In Your Turn, Julie offers compassion, personal experience, and practical strategies for living a more authentic adulthood, as well as inspiration through interviews with dozens of voices from the rich diversity of the human population who have successfully launched their adult lives.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Could Change Your Life and Maybe the World. On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement day. Taking inspiration from the university's slogan, "What starts here changes the world," he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career, but also throughout his life; and he explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves-and the world-for the better.

Will This Be on the Test? What Your Professors Really Want You to Know About Succeeding in College by Dana T. Johnson is the essential survival guide for high-school students making the transition to college academics. In this entertaining and informative book, Dana Johnson shares wisdom and wit gleaned from her decades of experience as an award-winning teacher in the freshman classroom—lessons that will continue to serve you long after college graduation.

173 Pages Every College Student Must Read: Getting into college is great. Getting the most out of it is crucial by Randy Shain is designed to help college students (principally those focused on the liberal arts/humanities) learn how to make the most of their four (or more) years of undergraduate education. If I do my job, every reader will learn how to determine what they really like to do, what they’re good at doing, and how those two things translate to a job they want to do.

College Rules! by Sherrie Nist-Olejnik and Jodi Patrick Holschuh is the go-to for incoming college students — preparing them for the huge transition ahead and offering tips to dodge rookie mistakes. From topics like time management, alleviating stress, the anatomy of a syllabus, and how to interact with professors, this is the kind of guide they might hide from their new roommate but will be oh-so-grateful to have as a resource when it starts to feel like everyone’s speaking another language.

How to Survive Your Freshman Year: By Hundreds of Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors Who Did (Hundreds of Heads Survival Guides) by Lisa Rothstein is the perfect send-off gift for college-bound high school graduates. This revamped edition of America's #1 college advice guide includes new advice from hundreds of college students from around the country, alongside the best timeless advice from earlier editions. This ultimate “insider’s guide” to college life helps entering freshmen navigate the challenging transition to college life. In addition, the book features expert advice from college advisers and administrators, mental health professionals and others.

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden gives honest and telling passages about virtually every aspect of life, Coach shares his personal philosophy on family, achievement, success, and excellence. Raised on a small farm in south-central Indiana, he offers lessons and wisdom learned throughout his career at UCLA, and life as a dedicated husband, father, and teacher.

Don’t Forget the Most Important Part

Write a thoughtful and heartfelt inscription in pen on the inside cover to the graduate. Be sure to sign your name and include the date. Your gift will be sought for advice more than once, and each time, this young adult in your life will see the note and be thankful for you!


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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

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