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Things Are Looking Up: Graduation Gifts for 2012's Surefire Superstars

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2012-05-16-gradmain1.jpgStudents graduating from college in 2012 have an edge over other recent grads. US News reports that employers will hire 9.5 percent more than from the class of 2011 and that 2012 grads will be paid more on average than the class of 2010. So what are these kids complaining about? It's not like they're graduating at the worst time in recent history (that would be me and my former classmates). These grads have money to make and the day to seize, while the rest of us protect our cars from being seized. Here are some gift ideas to keep these lucky grads on the path to success and salaried superstardom:

Dress Their Digs

Upgrading your grad's college décor to complement their newly framed degree is a great way to get them to ditch whatever random objects they call wall art. Etsy sellers have taken the lead on college artifacts and I'd recommend BetweenEverything's University or College Prints, MannMadeDesigns4's Custom College Signs, SprinkledJoy's Graduation Print of US States, or for a less obvious and more graphic option, no9images' USA Map Art featuring the city where the school is located. All of these artists offer custom work that is affordable and guaranteed to be a bigger hit than the felt college pennant.

2012-05-16-digs.jpgIf you want to send your giddy grad into overdrive, consider a new TV. LED LCD televisions have taken over and you don't need to worry about green-loving grads because these models use less energy than their predecessors. The Samsung UN46EH6000 is a budget LED LCD TV that doesn't come with a lot of frills, but delivers amazing picture whether it's ESPN, HGTV or Disney Channel (hey, no judgment here). For other options, see Bestcovery.com's top picks for Best Budget LED LCD TV.

Though IKEA is often touted as home décor for college students, it's a great solution for post-college, post-loan-deferment people too. I'd suggest an IKEA gift card or gift cards to stores such as Target, Crate & Barrel, or HomeGoods. Pair your gift card with a tool kit like Apollo Precision Tools 53-Piece kit or, if appropriate, their pink tool kit (which makes this hammer-wielding woman a little nauseous).

Combine and Conquer

Most of today's tech toys combine features that used to spread across the platforms of several devices. It can be hard to keep up with what gadget does what, because they all do so much. Fortunately, you don't have to figure out all the specs, you just need to figure out which one your grad wants.


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In just a few short years, we've seen the arrival and explosion of the tablet. Tablets can be used as ereaders, gaming consoles, word processors, music and photo libraries and essentially as smaller, flatter computers. The contenders for top tablet include the new iPad 3 and the Kindle Fire. If your grad isn't into the ultraportable tablet, and they made it through college click-clacking on the same laptop, reward them for their industriousness with the always popular MacBook Pro.

Though cell phones are now ubiquitous, there is still a certain allure surrounding the newest, fastest and shiniest glass-screened smartphones. Once upon a cell phone time, there was an innovative, sleek little flip phone called the Razr. Though your grad may not remember it, they can appreciate the new Droid Razr by Motorola. If they're more of an HTC guy or gal, the HTC One X is another great option. If Androids are out, and your Apple OS lover doesn't yet have one, the iPhone 4S is Apple's latest and greatest.

Lovely Leisure

As I like to say, cooking is a life skill, not a wife skill. No matter their cooking skill level, kitchen gadgets are great gifts that get grads experimenting and having fun in the kitchen. For the entry-level cook, start with something exciting like Magnetic Nesting Utensils, which come in bright colors and are silicone to keep from scratching non-stick pans. If you have a coffee lover, a Bodum Brazil French Press will make great coffee, or just look nice sitting on the counter. If your grad frequented the local pizza place or the frozen pizza aisle, spice up their dinner with a calzone mold and pizza stone from Williams Sonoma. Whatever you decide, just remind them to check the batteries in their smoke detector.

2012-05-16-gym.jpgIf they've long ago left behind the Freshman 15 and chosen not to take your advice about cooking, look into gym memberships to keep post-college pounds away. After years of access to a free gym, it may not be high on your grad's list to check out memberships. Places like Planet Fitness and local gyms offer great deals at affordable prices for ongoing membership. You could also check out larger chains that have more features like Bally Total Fitness, Gold's Gym, YMCA and LA Fitness. Just be sure to present this gift in a positive way, otherwise you may get less than a "thank you."

If cooking and personal fitness couldn't be further from your grad's idea of leisure, dial it back a few notches. For the graduating gamer, or those looking to escape the reality of the classifieds, the Sony PS Vita will help with a little brain break before getting back into the swing of things. Of course if their travels take them elsewhere, a great camera like the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS will help them capture all of their memories, and maybe be a source for even more sophisticated wall art.

The most important thing you can give a new graduate is confidence and support. Though there are those who leave college trailblazing, most look around nervously after they've turned their tassel and tossed their cap. A little encouragement and kind words will go a long way no matter what kind of grad you have. But don't forgo the present, they'll be looking for the bags and the bows, and most likely, they've earned a little something extra.