Gift of Grads

Gift of Grads

They want high-tech gizmos — here are some practical alternatives.

Wish lists for recent high-school graduates tend to be similar: state-of-the-art laptops, digital cameras and tiny electronic devices that can hold more songs than the Motown back-catalogue. The Consumer Electronics Association reported that 45 percent of respondents in a recent study said they'd like to receive an electronic gift — a television, computer, or other device — for graduation.

Finding a graduation gift that doesn't fall into those categories, but one that will still earn a grad's respect, can be a difficult task. Here are some suggestions for presents that might also serve a practical purpose this fall:

<sh>Learn the Guitar

<bt>Morgan Henry is familiar with time-sensitive music training. Henry, a guitar instructor located near the Landmark Mall in Alexandria, once taught a groom in two months to play a song for his bride in front of family and friends.

“Two months is great,” he said. “There are various levels of aptitude and various levels of experience.”

Henry said a student who has played another instrument — the piano, for example — might pick up the guitar more quickly than a complete novice.

Typically, a new student will bring in a CD with some of their favorite songs on it. Henry will choose one and listen to it with the student, breaking down the different facets of the guitar performance. If the song is complicated, Henry will show the student some chords, which will allow him or her to strum along with the song.

“I would expect them to be able to go away knowing a few songs, stroking a few chords. Once they know a few chords, that’s a passport to begin playing with some friends," said Henry — perfect for late night jam sessions inside the freshman dorm.

Although he doesn't sell guitars, he encourages students to purchase their own in order to practice at home between lessons, which are $40 per hour.

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<sh>Hardware Solutions

<bt>No, not computer hardware — the old fashioned kind.

The Home Depot offers the Barbara K! Dorm Survival Kit backpack for $19.99. Inside are the tools vital for everything from hanging up pictures on apartment walls to quick fixes of furniture.

Inside the pack a student will find a 7 oz. hammer, large scissors, 6-in-1 screwdriver, a 10-foot tape measure, flashlight, reusable adhesive, cord ties, packaging tape dispenser, duct tape, and perhaps the most important piece of the kit — a "privacy" sign for the door.

The dorm survival kit is a catalog/Internet-only item and can be ordered from

Village Hardware (7934 Fort Hunt Rd., 703-765-1555) also offers a repair kit, only this one is geared for very small jobs like a pair of eyeglasses. The screwdriver and small screws kit retails for just $1.99.

<sh>Financial Aid

<bt>Face it: college life can get expensive, whether it's the money needed for classes or the funds allocated for personal entertainment.

One way to help a graduate out on both fronts is an gift certificate. Students can use it on hard-to-find text books for classes that sell out quickly in campus book centers or for the study aids necessary for that tough-to-pass class; or, they can use the certificates for music and movies to help ease the stress and strain of a secondary education.

Gift certificates can be purchased on and range from $5 to $5,000; and according to the Consumer Electronics Association study, as many students want a gift certificate for graduation as they do a new car (51 percent).