Gift Guide for Grad Students 2020

Not sure what to buy for the grad student in your life?

Gift guide for grad students on The Social Academic

Graduate students need the holiday season to relax. It’s important to practice self-care, and spend time with friends and family. But what do you buy them?

You want your grad student to have the gift they need. You know them well, but do you know what they need for their grad school life?

My gift guide is here to help.

The 2021 gift guide is now live!

A happy holiday poll says a lot of people start their shopping late


Last year in early December, I wasn’t sure if I should write this post. Gift guides come out before Black Friday, right?

According to a Monmouth University poll, 4-10 people save most holiday shopping for the last 10 days before Christmas.

28% of you find choosing the “right” gift to be the most anxiety provoking.

So here it is, a definitive guide of splurge-worthy gifts for the graduate student or postdoc in your life.

I curated this gift list just for you

Gift guide for grad students

These are not sponsored. My blog is sponsor and affiliate free.

I curated this list because these are things the graduate student in your life needs, that can have exponential impact on their future.

These are also things hard for many graduate students to afford on their own.

Let’s celebrate this season of giving, academic-style.

A wish list for graduate students


A new outfit for academic life

Wait what? Seriously, your grad student needs a new outfit.

There are so many professional events, starting with multi-day conferences, and ending with job talks and interviews.

What that outfit looks like will depend largely on the student’s area of study. So in this case, I really do suggest a gift certificate.

Make it personal with a fun card and note. Let them know you support them by ensuring they look and feel their best at their next presentation of faculty dinner.

Beyond the Professoriate

$250, Fundamentals of the Job Search Beyond the Professoriate course

Beyond the Professoriate is a company committed to “empowering PhDs to build impactful careers and engaged lives, wherever smart people are needed.

Run by Dr. L. Maren Wood and a team of PhDs who “know first-hand how difficult it is for graduate students and PhDs to access the resources and mentorship they need…” especially when it comes to careers.

In this course, you learn how to

  • identify and talk about your transferable skills
  • leverage your education for successful careers
  • approach your job search strategically

We’re talking over 10 hours of video instruction to help you with your job search.

I wish my fiance had this course when he was starting out on the job market. Though he did have access to Beyond the Prof’s awesome resources through their community (now free and moved to LinkedIn).

The best news is they have a Fundamentals of the Job Search course geared towards

  • Humanities and Social Science PhDs
  • and, STEM PhDs

The Professor Is In Advice

Is your grad student just starting out? Dr. Karen Kelsky is the go-to academic career coach. She changed my life (and I’m not even a PhD), so I’m sure she can help you too.

Karen took the best advice from a decade of blogging and created this awesome guide for important grad student issues like

  • the publishing process
  • writing grant applications
  • asking for references
  • building a strong CV
  • Job Talk and Interview prep
  • how to avoid the “adjunct trap”
  • when non-academic work is right for you

Her book, The Professor Is In is super helpful, and makes a great stocking stuffer.

The academic job market has never been more difficult. The Professor Is In has 1:1 services like help with job application materials. There is even the opportunity for offer/negotiation assistance to ensure your grad gets a great salary package.

Grad student self-care and the gift of relaxation

For graduate students, self-care is a topic of much discussion because recent articles have shown the pervasiveness of mental health issues in the academy.

This year for the holidays, give your grad student the gift of self-care:

  • home gym equipment (i.e. yoga mat, free weights)
  • bath salts or bath bombs for a relaxing soak
  • lavender-scented candle
  • subscription to an online exercise class
  • mental health counseling

Social media training to increase your teaching and research impact

$497 Cross-Platform Social Media for Academics course

Having an online presence is so important, but most graduate students don’t get any training. They aren’t prepared to effectively talk about their work to a broad audience, share when something great happens, or network efficiently.

This course was designed with grad students and faculty in mind. You will learn social media skills like

  • best practices for your bio and profile
  • how to use hashtags
  • writing for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Basic photo editing, graphic design, and social media scheduling

Help the graduate student in your life learn how to brag the right way.

Professional Memberships

Buy your graduate student their ticket into the professional academic networks they need.

Memberships for graduate students are expensive. They’re needed on a curriculum vitae. Ask what the top associations in their field are, and buy a gift membership for them.

They’ll get access to new publications, networks, and even opportunity for scholarships, travel grants, and more.

For your stocking: Stellar Slides with Echo Rivera, PhD

FREE Stellar Slides in 5 presentations course

If your grad student teaches or has a conference presentation coming, this stocking stuffer is a must.

Echo Rivera is an expert at using data to tell stories that matter through presentations and reports.

I’ve taken this training myself and highly recommend it.

Coaching with Jennifer L. Polk, PhD

$175 Career Consultation

Dr. Jennifer L. Polk helps graduate students, PhDs, and professors move their careers forward through From PhD to Life.

Book a 1:1 advice or strategy session with Jennifer.

Family at the holidays is wonderful and sometimes stressful


The holiday season is a great time to spend with friends and family. But it can also be a stressful one.

I created this gift guide of things your graduate student needs. Not everyone knows companies like mine, Beyond the Prof, and The Professor Is In are here to help.

Check out “How to Communicate with Your Academic Life this Holiday Season,” to understand what your grad student may be going through.

And, check out the 2020 gift guide for academics and researchers for more inspiration.

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at