The Best Graduation Gift You Can Give (and it’s not cash)

Ryan Eidson  —  May 9, 2014

Photo source flickr user: tamuc | cc

Graduation season is here. Let’s shed a new light on the best graduation gift you can give this year.

No, it’s not cash, and it’s not keys to a brand-new car.

Consider this from the perspective of your graduate.

The most frequently asked question of high school and college seniors is,

“What are you going to do with your life?”

Why do we ask this question of our seniors?

From personal experience as a senior in high school and in college, and from talking with peers, just the thought of other people asking them this question as graduation approaches is torture. They’re frustrated by this question because deep down, most really don’t know what they’re going to do.

It’s a hope and pray situation.

Sure, seniors have an idea of what they want to do, but what they’re really going to do are two different things.

The worst graduation gift you can give is to ask them this question.

Stay with me, and I’ll tell you why… 

The Post-Graduation Letdown

There’s so much hype during your senior year these days.

We’re sold a bill of goods that “you can do it all” and “we will change the world” and “you’re going to do well.”

Then six months later, reality hits.

If you don’t go to grad school, student loans start coming due, your bills stack up, and the place you live doesn’t feel very permanent.

It’s the post-graduation letdown of real-world experience.

Let me illustrate with my own life.

Earlier this year one of my friends asked me,

“Is what you are doing now what you planned on doing when you graduated college?”

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

When I was a freshman in college, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to publish a book. I had no idea when or about what topic. I just knew at the time I needed more life experience before I put a book project together. (That was nearly ten years ago.)

My vocational outlook has changed quite a bit since graduation. I found out much more about myself, my strengths, and what activities I should focus my time on as an economic engine for myself and family. In order to be an excellent manager (steward) of my talents, I must focus on what I’m best at.

This has been very difficult because there are many things I can do. I’ve written in other places that “just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I have to be the one to do it.” As an entrepreneur, I often think of HOW I need to get something done. But CEOs ask, “WHO can get this done?”

Dan Miller, an author I highly respect and have met in person (he wrote the book 48 Days to the Work You Love), says:

“10 years after graduation, 80% of college graduates are working in something totally unrelated to their college major. There must be more than just education that causes us to choose a career path.”

That’s true for me.

I tell these stories all to say: no, I’m not anywhere close to doing what I thought I’d be doing when I finished college.


Photo source flickr user: Will Folsom | cc

The Best Graduation Gift is To Ask This Question:

What do you dream about?

That’s it.

Ask your graduate what he/she dreams about every day.

Not about where they’re going to live, or what they will do to make a living.

Ask about his or her dreams.

You might just start a conversation and help him/her make connections that will bring that dream to reality.

Will you take me up on this challenge? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.

Ryan Eidson


I have the unique ability to make complex ideas easy to understand. I am the author of A Couple with Common Cents and live in rural Missouri.