By Stephanie Humphrey
This past school year wasn’t pretty, but your favorite student made it — congratulations to them! Through all the online classes and missed milestones, they hung in there and will now be participating in some sort of ceremony where they will finally get to walk – or virtually Zoom – across a stage and be handed a diploma or degree. If you’ve been struggling with what to get your high school or college grad as a gift, these tech ideas could be a good start.
Computers: If you’re considering a new laptop or desktop as a gift, there are three things to think about when purchasing: processor, memory (RAM), and storage (hard drive). Pricing can vary wildly based on the computer’s specs, so you may have to ruin the surprise to get a solid idea of how your grad will be using the device. A bargain PC could end up going unused because it’s not powerful enough, but you probably don’t need to shell out the dollars for a top-of-the-line model either if your grad isn’t going to be performing processor-heavy tasks like video editing. I would recommend a one- or two-year service plan and an anti-virus subscription to get them started as well. Some of the most highly rated brands for 2021 are Dell, HP, Asus, Lenovo, and of course, Apple.
Headphones/Earbuds: I do not know any student who wouldn’t appreciate a new pair of headphones or earbuds at any time, and they are always at the top of most graduation gift list recommendations. Also, there is a good chance that some sort of hybrid/virtual model will still be in effect whether your grad is heading to college or their first job, so a solid pair of headphones will definitely come in handy. Look for a good wireless pair that is Bluetooth capable. They should also be highly rated for sound and communications quality, so your grad won’t miss any of the discussion. Some level of noise cancellation and a long battery life are good features to look for as well. Pricing varies from $50 on the low end to almost $600 on the high end so your budget will most likely be the deciding factor, but I would look to spend $150-$200 on average for a solid pair.
Wi-Fi Extender/Mesh Network: This is one of those practical gifts – like socks – that might not necessarily be glamorous, but you will be so glad you have it when you need it. A wi-fi extender is a device that works with the router you already have to boost your wi-fi signal to areas of your home that are “dead” spots, and a mesh network performs a similar task, but you have one device that replaces your router and then one or more ‘point’ devices to boost the wi-fi signal. They are relatively easy to set up and can eliminate a lot of frustration from slow internet speeds in a dorm room or first apartment. TP-Link and Netgear are highly rated wi-fi extender brands, and Google’s Nest Wi-Fi Mesh Network has a lot of cool features and is also well reviewed.
“Cancel Culture” Insurance: Anyone who uses social media these days should be aware of the concept of “cancel culture” – the idea that just one of your posts could get you fired, arrested, or worse. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t include my book “Don’t Let Your Digital Footprint Kick You in the Butt!” on this gift list as well. The book will help your graduate understand how to create a personal brand online that gets noticed for the right reasons and highlights the consequences of not maintaining a positive digital profile. And while this book won’t guarantee that your new grad won’t ever make a social media mistake, after reading it they won’t be able to say they didn’t know better. If it helps even one student keep their new job or stay in school (and not end up moving back home with you), then it would be worth the $14.99 price. It is available on Amazon.
The students in your life have worked so hard this year and deserve all the best wishes we can give them. Send them off to the next part of their life’s journey with a gift that can help ensure their success. Congratulations, graduates!
Stephanie Humphrey is a former engineer turned Tech-Life Expert and author. She is a contributor to ‘Good Morning America’ and Fox 29’s ‘Good Day Philadelphia’. You can find Stephanie all around the web @TechLifeSteph and get her book “Don’t Let Your Digital Footprint Kick You in the Butt!” on Amazon.