“Thank You” Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Professor

Your school year is over – maybe even your school career has come to a close – and it’s time to say goodbye to that one teacher or professor who changed the way you viewed academia.

He or she has had a profound impact on your education and life, how do you say thank you?

Do you get them a gift? And if you do, what do you get them?

Both questions can be tricky and littered with etiquette traps. You want to show your gratitude, but you don’t want to go over overboard.

Here’s how to navigate the question:

First, is it appropriate to get my professor a gift?

As with anyone in your life, it really depends on the nature of your relationship, as well as the individual’s personality. It’s easy for the intention behind a thoughtful gesture to be misconstrued as something entirely different, and such a misunderstanding can put both you and your professor in an uncomfortable position.

It’s best to limit your gift-giving only to professors with whom your relationship extends beyond the lecture hall – those who served as a mentor, or with whom you worked on more expansive projects.

Additionally, it may be appropriate to give a gift to any professor who wrote you a letter of recommendation for graduate school or helped you find a job.

To further ensure your professor understands that your gift isn’t an attempt at a bribe or cheap flattery, it may be best to wait until your grades are in and your academic program has been completed. Even if that’s the case, don’t be surprised or offended if your professor declines or returns your gift. Some do not want to cross that line in any circumstance.

What are some good gift ideas for my professor?

This hopefully goes without saying: do not give your professor cash.

So what should you get him or her?

Most professors would be thrilled to receive a heartfelt thank you card expressing how much they impacted your life and education. Thoughtful homemade gifts relating to the subject they teach or that serve a practical everyday function (desk organization!) in their lives usually go down well, too.

Here are some traditional ideas if you’re going to spend money:

  • A gift card to his or her favorite coffee shop
  • Books
  • Chocolate/treats/beverage you know they enjoy
  • Something useful pertaining to their hobby, such as personalized golf balls
  • Variety gift baskets

Remember, the key to successful gift-giving is the thought – does the gift feel personal and show that you truly care about the recipient? Your gift should focus on any shared bonds you and your professor developed.

Try not to spend too much money. While every relationship is different, $10 to $20 is typically considered appropriate in these situations. If your professor served as a mentor or advisor during a dissertation or similar project, you can expand the budget as you see fit.

As corny and cliche as it may sound, the best gift you can give your professor is to stay in touch after graduation. Let them know how you’re using the knowledge you gained in their classroom.