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Jordan McNeill is a doctoral student in special education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow her on Twitter at @jordanmcneill89.

Happy holidays, Gradhackers! It’s that time of the year, when friends and family ask our favorite questions, like:

“Why are you working over winter break?”

“Wait, when are you going to graduate?”

And, of course, “What do you want for Christmas?”

I may not have much help to offer for navigating the first two conversations, but I’m taking a stab at the third. Whether you’re going for fun, functional or a little bit of both, here are eight great gift ideas to show a graduate student you care this holiday season and beyond.

  1. PhD Comics 20th Anniversary book. The image above is just a taste of the laughs (and maybe groans?) elicited by Jorge Cham’s Piled Higher and Deeper Comics. There are six volumes packed with comics all about life in graduate school, and chances are, the graduate student in your life will see themselves on every page. They might be notoriously bad at reading for pleasure, but a hilarious, relatable coffee table book of comics might be just what they need to smile through the coming semesters.
  2. Office supplies. This suggestion may sound generic, but hear me out. With the amount of reading, writing and researching we do in graduate school, office supplies are a must. And we tend to develop strong opinions on which ones are the best. Those of us who prefer reading on paper over a screen count sticky notes, highlighters and great pens as must-haves. Some of my personal favorites are Post-it full adhesive notes (they lie flat!), Sharpie gel highlighters (no smudging, bleeding or drying out!), and TUL pens (trust me, they are amazing). Pay attention to what’s on your favorite grad student’s desk and stuff their stocking accordingly.
  3. Amazon gift cards. Academic texts are expensive. Whether they are taking courses, researching or writing a thesis or dissertation, chances are the graduate student you know will need to buy a book soon, and Amazon’s wide selection means they can find that obscure academic text fairly easily.
  4. Travel gift cards. Graduate students tend to travel a lot. The majority relocated to attend school, and flights or drives to visit friends and family can add up quickly. Most of us travel to regional or national conferences, often with limited or no funding from our universities. We often find ways to combine vacations and conference travel, so vouchers for flights, hotels and even gas can help us personally and academically.
  5. Any gift cards. Come to think of it, pretty much any gift card is a good idea. Finances are a challenge for all graduate students. Even covering a couple mornings’ worth of lattes at their local café or a new outfit from their favorite store can make a big impact.
  6. Gifts that celebrate their interests. The graduate student you know is in school because they are passionate about something (read: we’re all nerds). Celebrate that something in a creative way! You might show off their subject matter on a coffee mug, novelty socks, pint glass or tote bag. Cognitive Surplus is full of gifts for every kind of scientist. Try Out of Print for the literary student, or find something uniquely personalized on Etsy.
  7. Gifts made from their words. In the vein of celebrating, maybe your favorite graduate student just reached a milestone and published an article, submitted a thesis or defended a dissertation. Unfortunately, most of that published work won’t be seen outside of a limited, discipline-specific readership. Unless, of course, you have it printed on a shirt, scarf, blanket or pillow! Seriously, Litograph will print a tiny, readable version of any text you send them onto fabric and create a one-of-a-kind product. Imagine a graduate student’s delight at draping their meta-analysis scarf around their neck or curling up under their fleece-lined dissertation blanket!
  8. Your support. It may sound cheesy, but sometimes the best gift you can give a partner, friend or family member in graduate school is your support. Maybe it takes the form of quality time together doing something you both enjoy, or words of encouragement when nothing seems to be going right, or helping out around the house when the work starts piling up. If you want something tangible to put under the tree, whip up some homemade IOU coupons or fill in the blanks in this tiny book about what makes them so awesome. No matter how you choose to show it, they will appreciate you just being there when they need you.

What did I miss, fellow Gradhackers? What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

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