Practical gifts for $pring grads

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May 16, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Joe Widmer
Joe Widmer

Whether it took them four years or six - or more - the college graduates of 2005 have finally arrived, ready to make their mark on the wider world.

As all the 2005 grads prepare for their big spring graduation walk and subsequent parties, close friends and family are under pressure to pony up a gift. Most college grads have spent the last four-plus years living in poverty, so even if you've thrown tens of thousand of tuition dollars their way, it's time to throw something nice at them, too.

Since it's not uncommon to be invited to several post-college parties, gifts that will actually get used will make just as big a splash as, say, a trip to Thailand an uncle got them. OK maybe not.

Still, since the job market (hopefully) looms, consider gifts to help your grad get a little more organized, look a little more professional and help give parents some piece of mind.

Useful gifts

One thoughtful gift that could stay with a college graduate as they rise to career success is a writing style guide. At work, writing is the great equalizer - everyone does it. However, writing well is the easiest way for grads to set themselves apart from the pack.

Writing clearly and precisely is a skill all employers love to see.

Consider helpful books such as, "Eats Shoots & Leaves," by Lynne Truss ($17.50) and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well," by Laurie Rozakis Ph. D. ($17.50), available at Block E's Borders Books, 600 Hennepin Ave. S. These are great, cheap gifts for grads about to embark in a profession where their words are just as important as their actions.

Borders also carries books that will help anyone who is curious about writing style and "netiquette" in the e-mail era. "The Gregg Reference Manual, 10th edition," by William A. Sabin, ($43.95) is a great resource for grads looking to whip up a great rsum and cover letter.

Techie gifts for the savvy grad

When it comes to job interviews and making a great first impression, almost nothing is as important as pure punctuality. While many of today's college grads have already begun embracing the hottest technology of the day, such as skinny cell phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and laptops, the protection and preservation of these products can also make for a unique gift.

Radio Shack, 651 Nicollet Mall in the Gaviidae Common's skyway level, carries not only a wide selection of the hottest gizmos, but also the accessories that make them better and last longer.

For the young man or woman who already has a PDA, you can get a vinyl case, replacement styluses and protective layers that cover the screen from dirt, scratches and glare. Prices range from $15 to around $40. Other thoughtful gifts include hands-free cell phone headsets or car-chargers, starting around $20 and up.

Personal appearance

When it comes down to it, it's hard to put a price tag on the advantage of looking good, smart or just looking successful at that oh-so-important job interview. For the men just graduating, an eye-catching necktie might be the perfect secret weapon when it comes time to sit down and meet the future boss. At the Men's Wearhouse, 800 Nicollet Mall, smart-looking gifts under $30 are plentiful and include cuff-links, ties, wallets and daily planner jackets. Jewelry also starts and ends at $15, while ties and leather goods are closer to $20.

However, if you truly want your graduate to make a stellar first impression, a nice suit would probably pay off in spades; prices are stiffer, of course, beginning at just under $200.

Finally, if you know your grad is about to relocate, practical, stylish luggage would make for an excellent gift.

Marshall's, located in City Center Mall, 40 S. 7th St., has luggage starting at $14.99 up to $119.99. Shoppers can find every imaginable size, from petite carry-ons to items bigger than the grad's dorm refrigerator.

Don't forget though, for the grad that has no plans yet - or who would much rather get the credit card companies off of their back - nothing says "way to go" like cash.