My cousin is going off to college in the fall and living on campus. Since I lived in a dorm years ago, I decided I needed to do a basket filled with things you would need living the dorm life.
I bought a wire waste basket at the dollar store and filled it with the following items along with a tag attached to each of them explaining why he would need them:
Ramen noodles-A staple in any student's room
EZ mac-for when you're tired of eating Ramen noodles
Over the door hook-because you will need every inch of space to hang and store things
A package of pens-because they somehow are always disappearing
Dish soap-for washing dishes in the bathroom sink
Dish scrubber-so you won't have to wash dish rags
Laundry Bag-for carrying all that dirty laundry down 2 flights of stairs to the laundry room
Instant coffee-for the boost of caffeine you will need when you're going on 2 hours of sleep.
Gum-for that inevitable morning you wake up with 5 minutes to get to class and have no time to brush your teeth
Chip clips-because you will need them but will never think to buy them
Bandaids-for the paper cuts you will inevitably get during all night cramming
Air freshner-because at some point there your dorm room will have a stench no one can find the source of.
I was at first hesitant as to whether I wanted to go the gift basket route because lets face it most people give money for graduation gifts and most graduates expect money. I personally, HATE giving money and gift cards unless they are part of a gift basket. Don't get me wrong, I love receiving them but I really get enjoyment out of coming up with gifts. When I talked to my mom she said most everyone else will give money and he will get plenty so I should do what no one else will do. I am so satisfied with this gift basket. I found all of the above items at the Dollar Tree or on clearence at other stores. I spent under $12 and could have done better had I commited earlier to the type of basket I was doing. I had a few other ideas I had bounced around in my head before deciding on the idea above. I thought I would include them in case someone was needing some choices.
Bathroom Caddie: Living in a dorm you are forced to carry all your bathroom essentials in a caddy with you to the shower every day. My thoughts were to find a caddie and fill it with toothpaste, toothbrush, shave gel, razor, shower gel, shampoo, wash cloths, and flip flops (no one wants to wonder when the last time the showers were cleaned so you wear flip flops to avoid the chances of getting a weird fungus). This gift basket could be put together for well under $10 if you use coupons and shop the sales at your local grocery stores.
Laundry Basket: laundry detergent, laundry bag, wrinkle releaser (because who has time to iron or space for an iron and ironing board in a dorm), hangers, Fabric refresher spray (for the days you forgot to do laundry and have to wear dirty ones), static cling sheets. clorox pen. shout wipes.
Food goody basket filled with classic college foods: ez mac, ramen noodles, bottled sodas, chips, chocolates, candy, instant coffee, single serve cereal, granola bars, pop tarts, instant oatmeal, microwavable meals, plastic utensils, plates cups and bowls (or paper if you don't want them to worry about washing dishes).
If you know far enough in advance that you will be needing a graduation gift you could look for any of the above items on clearence shelves or if you are a couponer like me, you could use your coupons and shop the sales getting the items nearly free.