It’s Over – Graduation!


Graduation is a special time of transition and accomplishment all wrapped up together.  As we approach graduation season – both high school and college – we receive many questions from graduates and their friends and families. People often ask us about the differences between invitations and announcements: the grads want to know when you send which, and the recipients want to know if they should send a gift for either or both!

First, the grads’ question:  Many schools have to put limits on the number of people grads can invite to the ceremony. Usually this is due to space considerations. For example, the grad might have the opportunity to invite five people to the actual graduation. For any celebration following graduation, there may be all the same considerations you have for any guest list: How much space do you have? Are you serving an elegant meal that might require a smaller set number of guests? What time constraints are there, such as the graduation ceremony or any school party? And there are some considerations specific to graduation: Your best friend may be graduating also and having a celebration at the same time. All your friends might be doing the same thing so your celebration may be mostly family. Teachers have a dilemma as many of their students want them to come to their celebration. They may try to spend a little time at several parties. The important thing is for everyone to realize that graduation is a unique event that requires some special thought as you make out guest lists for invitations to the ceremony and/or the celebration.

Announcements can help address any complications. They are a great way to share the excitement of the event and the day with friends and family who can’t be invited as a result of space constraints at the ceremony or the celebration you may host. Also, rather than send an invitation to someone you know can’t attend, an announcement lets them know when you are graduating but carries no social expectation of a gift or feeling of obligation to attend.

Second – people want to know both if they should send a gift and what are good graduation gifts. If you are invited to a graduation event, you really should send  a gift. As with any gift, your choice of what to give should be based on your relationship to the graduate and your personal budget. Parents may give something of special value or personal meaning. Others might give gifts that say congratulations and welcome to the adult world — monogrammed stationery, fine pen and pencil sets, a leather bound journal, framed art or photography, picture frames, or luggage. It is fine to give gift certificates or money.

And finally, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: the graduate should always write a personal thank you note for every gift and also send notes to anyone who entertains or does special favors for them.

To all you graduates, I end with a shout: CONGRATULATIONS  and best of luck in all you do!

13 comments to It’s Over – Graduation!

  • Leanne

    I want to send out grad announcements to extended family to announce my son’s college graduation but I don’t want it to seem like we are asking for gifts. We simply want to share the news. I know an announcement does not imply that but I know alot of people feel that way. I know I received a grad announcement last year and I felt like I should have really sent something. So, my question is, is it ok to write a little note with the announcement and say no gifts please just wanted to share the news. or something like that? I definitely don’t want people to feel like the only reason I’m sending the announcements is for the gift but I also don’t want them to think “we weren’t going to send one anyway” and have it be odd and them think he was expecting gifts. we have an upcoming picnic coming up that I could then add something like hope to see you at the picnic as well.

  • Lisa

    Is it ok to send grad announcements even if the graduation already took place?

  • Matthew

    What is an apprpriate amount of money to give a college graduate these days?

    • Cindy Post Senning


      The amount really depends on three things: 1. How well you know the graduate, 2. Your personal financial situatio, and 3. Local custom. The amount can range from $10 or $15 to $50+. You need to make your decision based on the three things mentioned.

      Cindy Post Senning

  • Michael Lohff

    My wife and I are invited to a college graduation party hosted by neighbors. We know the parents but have never met the graduate. We need guidance on giving a gift of money.

    • Cindy Post Senning

      If you have never even met the graduate you really do not need to give a gift of money. You should, however, give at least a card wishing the graduate well. If you feel you should give a gift of money keep three things in mind: How well you know the graduate (not very well in your case), your personal financial situation, and local custom.
      Usually a money gift ranges between $10 or $15 and $50+ unless you are a close relative.
      Cindy Post Senning

  • Rex Miller

    My son is collecting a bachelor’s degree after summer term ends but he plans to continue to post-baccalaureate work and walk with next year’s class for double Bachelor of Science degrees. When I suggested he send out an announcement of his achievement and progress I was pooh-poohed by both him and my wife. Would it be premature to send announcements at this time? I know how hard he’s worked. When I received my Bachelor of Science I was convinced by my wife to not send announcements and my whole family (including my aging father) wondered if I had truly graduated. What do you think? Rex

    • Cindy Post Senning

      You can always send an announcement regarding an accomplishment. In your son’s case you could even send an announcement this year and next or, as he suggests just send an announcement next year when he reaches the goal he has set for himself. I think you should respect your son’s wishes and hold off on the announcement until next year when he will achieve his true goal. And please pass on my congratulations to him!

  • Allen Harris

    I received a graduation announcement from friends for their two children who have graduated from different Universities.

    I want to know what a proper response would be for this? This announcement was not received with the idea that a gift was requested but, just to announce the children have graduated.

    Is it necessary to acknowledge this in any way?

    Thank you!

    • Cindy Post Senning

      It is not necessary to acknowledge an announcement in any way in particular. However, you can always send a card or a short note expressing your congratulations to the graduates.

  • Thomas DeOro

    I have a question.
    I sent announcements of my daughters college graduation just to let people know she was graduating. I did not state in all announcements that no gift was requested. Some people who I did not know well sent large cash gifts.
    Should I tell my daughter to send them back? Should I let her keep them and reimburse these people out of my own pocket?

    • Cindy Post Senning

      An announcement never carries an obligation for a gift but people often send one. Your daughter’s primary and essential responsibility is to send a gracious thank you note immediately if she has not already done so!

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