• GradHacker

    A Blog from GradHacker and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online


Perfect Gifts for Grads ... That Don’t Cost a Penny

Intangible ways to support graduate students.

December 14, 2017

Regina Sierra Carter received her Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently serves as a Teaching and Learning Librarian at the University of Virginia.​

GradHacker annually releases a phenomenal Holiday Gift Guide highlighting hot life hacks and gleaming gadgets for grads. (If you have not seen it, I strongly suggest you take a peek.)

Now I would like to take a moment to highlight intangible gifts that graduate students (secretly) crave. The following gifts are free. However, they can be quite time and labor intensive—full disclosure.

Intangible Gifts Grads Love

Leisure. Grads desire free time. Although there is supposedly no such thing as “free” time, carving out time to rejuvenate is a necessity for grads and their sanity. Just to be clear, free time entails time away from research, required reading, papers, email, exams, grading—the whole graduate school hustle. Gently encourage your graduate to NOT think, do, or dream (this is a hard one) about any form of school (or work if possible) throughout the holidays.

Laughter. It has been noted that laughter is like medicine for the soul. Proverbs 17:22 (New Living Translation) states, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength.” If your graduate appears to be gloomy (or is in danger of becoming a Grinch), infuse some intentional humor into their life. If you are not particularly witty, watch a funny flick at home or go to YouTube for inspiration.

Light. No, I am not referencing the glow that radiates from a light bulb. I am speaking of one’s inner light. Laughter is a nice way to relieve tension but sometimes something more is needed. Grads need to be reminded about the light that exists within the world as well as within them. School is not all sugar plums and fairies. There are some Gremlins in graduate school (computer woes, anyone?) and mental health is a real, weighty concern. In sum, life does not stop when one enters into or matriculates through graduate school. Although there are plenty of positives, there is also pain. So please make it a priority to help your grad see the silver lining and light at the end of the tunnel.

Listeners. One of the best ways to help grads see (and be) a light is to actively listen. You will be amazed by what you learn from listening to what grads say and do not say. Deep listening can help you uncover a grad’s hopes, aspirations, fears, frustrations and well-being. Even if you do not quite understand their research, why they opted to spend x number of years in school for another degree, etc., this is perfectly okay. Most grad students will appreciate your taking the time and effort to understand where they currently are in life, the work they are engaging in, and your sincere appreciation for who they are becoming.

Love. The most precious gift you can ever give is love. When you spend quality time with grads, purposefully engage in purely leisurely activities your grad enjoys, encourage them to laugh often, send gentle reminders that there is still good in the world (and greatness in them), listen deeply, pick up on nonverbal cues in an effort to understand what it is they are truly saying, and joyfully welcome them into spaces (e.g. your home and hopefully, your heart), this is love. Make it a priority to display your love, appreciation and affection to your grad early and often this holiday season and throughout the new year.

Tangible gifts are terrific. However, there are some things money simply cannot buy. Make sure you do not skimp on gifting the intangibles for these are the true treasures of Christmas.

What is one gift you absolutely adore that money cannot buy...and why? Please share in the comments section.

[Image by Flickr user mrsparks and used under Creative Commons licensing.]


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