Last week, we rounded up the best accessory gifts for all the recent college grads in your life. In the comments, one of you asked us to make some suggestions for high school grads, and because we like to consider ourselves a full-service blogging operation here, we felt compelled to oblige. Almost any huge life change – graduation, moving to a new city, having a baby – impacts the way a woman interacts with the things that she carries every day, and I like to think that the best way to ready someone for a change like that is to get her the sartorial equipment she needs in order to settle in to her new life.
Thus, we present you with our picks for the best high school grad gifts. Leaving home for the first time is nerve-racking enough, but there are some things you can do to make sure your grad is prepared to take on college and hit the ground running. Not to mention, if you get her a nice overnight bag, maybe she’ll come home more often. (That’s a pretty good theory, I think. Write that one down.) Best of all, all of our picks are under $600.
Hear me out on the Marc Jacobs Quilted Key Pouch, because I can’t recommend it heartily enough. Entrance to almost all modern college dorms is done either by showing your school ID to a desk clerk or swiping it through a card reader, not to mention that school IDs are usually what gain you entrance to dining halls and school sporting events. At my school (UGA, Go Dawgs), you couldn’t even buy textbooks off campus without presenting that holiest of holy cards.
That means it’s important to have your ID handy at all times, lest you essentially lock yourself out of your own life without even losing your keys; attaching one of these pouches to your key ring keeps it with you. I’ve used one of these Marc Jacobs cardholders since my freshman year in college, and eight years later (yeesh), I still have the exact same one on my key ring. I had a cardholder from a different brand prior to getting this one, but it only lasted a few months because the zipper came loose and would slide open in my purse; this one locks in place, which is a much safer setup to hold ID cards. Buy through Barneys for $175.
The LeSportsac Travel Tote is another piece that I’ve personally used to great satisfaction. Sadly, I didn’t have one in college, but it would have been a much better option than the totes that I used to carry my books and laptop at the time. This tote is huge, lightweight, and has wide webbed straps to distribute weight evenly and sit comfortably on the shoulder. It’s also big enough to be an overnight bag; I’ve personally put my 15″ laptop, my Proenza Schouler PS1 (size large) and a full change of clothes in the bag with room to spare. For kids going to school far from home, it’s a great carry-on for air travel. Plus, the multitude of patterns LeSportsac offers cover the wear and tear that comes from trekking around campus, not to mention through airports or to the beach from spring break. $98 via Zappos.
Maybe it was just the school I went to (a party school in the South, where people dressed up in sundresses and heels for football games and bar nights), but I used clutches a lot more in my college days than I do now that I’m an adult. The versatility and reasonable price of something like the Rebecca Minkoff MAC Mini is perfect for a college student; the strap is fully removable, which means that it can be either a clutch or a crossbody, and it’s surprisingly roomy for its size. It may feel a little weird to be preemptively outfitting your kid (or grandkid or kid sister) to go to a bar, but trust me, she’s probably going to need it. $195 via ShopBop.
This list has sort of morphed into a “Stuff Amanda Owns and Loves” list, but hey, it’s like I’ve personally tested half of this stuff and can guarantee that it would make good gifts. I actually have the iPad version of the Marc by Marc Jacobs Pretty Nylon Computer Case, and it is super cushy and protective, in addition to being lined in faux fur so that it won’t scratch your device. The laptop version is constructed the same way, which is perfect for hauling a laptop around campus. Make sure you check on computer size, though – one size does NOT fit all when it comes to laptop cases. $78 via ShopBop.
The Beats by Dre Studio Headphones, on the other hand, aren’t something I’ve tried. They do seem to be the hip new thing with the kids, though, and I spent a lot of time in college with my iPod on, so they’d make a perfect grad gift. $299 via Zappos.
It seems as though at some schools, ownership of a Longchamp Le Pliage is practically a requirement before a girl is allowed to register for classes. If you’re going to go that route, skip the nylon and get the far superior Longchamp Le Pliage Cuir Satchel, which is made out of soft, beautiful leather. $590 via Neiman Marcus.
Once upon a time, backpacks were lame. With awesome, fashion-forward collaborations like the Adidas by Stella McCartney Metallic Backpack, that is no longer the case. $130 via Net-a-Porter.
When buying travel stuff for a newly minted adult, I always think that pattern is key. Not only does it resist stain and wear, but it stands out on a luggage carousel, in the luggage compartment of a plane or bus, or in the pile in a friend’s trunk at the end of a road trip. The Fossil Vintage Key-Per Duffel is a perfect option in durable coated canvas. $198 via Nordstrom.
Ultimately, though, if your grad is one of us, all she wants is a nice bag. The Marc by Marc Jacobs Natasha Shoulder Bag is a perfect medium size, comes in loads of colors (although I’m partial to this blush pink) and will suit a college student well for outside-of-class adventures. Best of all, it’s not so expensive that you’d feel bad giving it to someone who’s likely to beat it up eventually. $370 via Net-a-Porter.