0518GraduationAUDEtiquette expert Debra Lassiter gives tips for graduates on how to get the gifts they really want without stepping on any toes.
It seems like just yesterday you were getting their backpacks ready for the first day of school. Now you're watching them march to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance" to pick up their high school diplomas.
Many an adult has played a role in getting this year's graduates to graduation day. But it's the graduates themselves who stayed up late finishing papers and projects.
For their hard work, you might find it fitting to give your favorite graduate a small - or not so small - present to congratulate him or her on meeting life's first major milestone.
But what do 18-year-olds want besides a sleek new set of wheels or a rockin' stereo to put in it?
They want a laptop computer.
That's the No. 1 item on local graduates' lists. Fortunately for parents, a laptop doubles as a toy and an educational tool perfect for cramped but exhilarating dorm life.
Spenser Gruenenfelder, a senior at Chestatee High School, is heading to Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., this fall. He's keeping his fingers crossed he gets a computer for graduation.
"A laptop would be really nice," he said. "It will be my college computer. That is the big, giant thing."
And every other graduate interviewed for this story said the same.
Taylor Evans, a senior at Brenau Academy, is bound for Brenau University this August.
"I really need a new laptop really bad," she said. "I have a feeling I might get it because my mom's been asking about it a lot lately."
Fresh out of funds for a laptop? No worries. Graduates have several items in lower price ranges that also made their lists.
Alex Patchin, a Brenau Academy senior, said she is hoping to backpack through Europe this summer before settling into her dorm room at the University of Georgia. She's already got the camera for the adventure, but hopes to rack up a few more items before jetting off to Paris.
"Some money and a laptop would work perfect," she said.
Cold. Hard. Cash. It's the no-fail standby gift.
"Cash is good," Gruenenfelder said. "I am not offended at all if people give me cash."
If you feel a little funny handing over the green directly, gift certificates to Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy are great alternatives.
Debra Lassiter is owner of an etiquette school in Athens, The Etiquette and Leadership Institute and Perfectly Polished. She said gift certificates enable students to furnish and decorate their dorm rooms.
She suggested monogrammed towels as a practical gift idea. Robes, stationary and photo albums also make for great graduation gifts.
But how does a student gracefully drop hints if they have a hankering for a particular item? Invariably, someone asks.
"It's really tricky how you handle it and most people don't know how to handle it," Lassiter said. "You certainly don't want to say, ‘How much do you want to spend?'"
Here's what the etiquette expert would do.
"If someone says to you, ‘I know that you are graduating, and I thank you for the invitation. I would like to give you something that you want. Can you share with me some things perhaps you want or need?' And then if I were the graduate, I would rattle off some things that vary from one price point to another so that it gives them an idea of what you want or need, but also gives them the flexibility that if they've only got $20 or $25 they can spend, you've still given them something in that price point that you can really enjoy or need," Lassiter said. "... I would be really conscious of what you said as a price point. I would err on the side of less is more."