19 Sure-Fire Gifts for Doctoral Grad Students | Issue 218

Not sure what gifts the doctoral or grad student in your life would really appreciate this holiday season—or any other time? Here are 19 ideas for every budget for presents that won't get returned.

PRICE KEY: $ = under $30; $$ = 30-60; $$$ = over 60; $0 = your time and resources

1. Massage gift certificate ($$): What hard-working scholar wouldn't appreciate a good massage after hunching over the computer for hours? Tip: Find local qualified experts via the American Massage Therapy Association website.

2. Starbucks (or local coffee shop) gift card ($): Because more dissertations get written at coffee shops than at university libraries. Available everywhere and online.

3. Wireless headphones ($$): Essential for working at the library or coffee shop. The Photiv HF1 lightweight over-the-ear model with noise isolation gets top reviews and runs for 12 hours. Alternative: SoundWhiz wireless high rated earbud model easily fits in a pocket, runs eight hours, perfect for running or working.

4. Food delivery service ($$ - $$$ or $0): Sad but true: grad students subsist on coffee and fast foods. Offer a week or month of Blue ApronHello FreshPlatedPeachDishPurple Carrot (vegan), Sun Basket (organic and paleo), etc. Fresh ingredients with recipes make meal prep easy peasy, with customizable menus and plans. Most offer discounts to start. Alternative: Offer to drop off meals you prepare.

5. Lap desk ($$): Give him or her Amazon's best-selling lap desk to prevent laptop overheating and wrist fatigue from hundreds of hours of word processing.

6. Dissertation retreat ($0): Got a beach house, condo or camp? Offer a weekend or week where they can disappear from family and friends to really get work done.

7. Spotify subscription ($$): Offer a year of streaming music at half-price with Spotify for students. They'll love Spotify channels for every mood, from quiet study to exercising, plus they can create their own personal lists.

8. Housekeeping service ($$): Who has time to clean when there are interviews to transcribe or data to code? Find local maid service through personal recommendations or online sites such as angieslist.comhomeadvisor.com, and care.com.

9. Childcare ($0): Offer to take the kids for a day or weekend. Long uninterrupted blocks of time really make a difference when someone needs to concentrate.

10. Laundry service ($): A gift certificate for "wash and fold" at a local laundromat will put your favorite grad student in clean jeans and t-shirts for a week.

11. Dissertation editor or stats consultant ($$$): Catapult your favorite ABD over the editing and data hurdles. Offer to pay up to your defined limit for the consultant they choose.

12. Dissertation or career coach ($$$): The student who lacks confidence or direction can finish faster, develop lasting confidence, and get the job search organized with a private coach. Offer to pay up to your limit for the coach* with whom they find rapport.

13. Hair salon/barbershop certificate ($ - $$): Most students can use a good hair cut—especially before defense time or job interviews.

14. Supermarket gift certificate ($ - $$$): Every little bit helps when you also have to pay tuition and rent before earning a sustainable income.

15. Two tiny powerful books ($): The Little Book of Mindfulness or The Little Book of Gratitudewill promote focus and a positive outlook.

16. Pomodoro timer ($): Give the classic red tomato timer and Pomodoro Technique instructions for simple time management that works for lots of folks.

17. Exercise classes or gym membership ($$ - $$$): The brain works better when the body is active. Alternative: Ask your ABD friend or family member to join you for a brisk walk or yoga session.

18. Scrivener software ($$): An essential aid for writers who need to generate and revise their work. Couple it with a guide. Be sure to get the right version—PC or Mac—or give an Amazon gift card for $60 to cover the software and guide with printout of a screen shot to get them to the right page.

19. Moral support ($0): Show enthusiasm for their academic aspirations and efforts. Absolutely avoid the ABD's most dreaded question: "So when will you be finished?" [FYI: It nearly always takes years, not months, to write a dissertation that gets accepted.]


With any of these, your doctoral candidate will get added momentum—and next year you can address their gift with the title Doctor to celebrate their achievement. And you will be showered with appreciation and affection!


* We offer free half hour consultations for dissertation, career, and life coaching. Drop me a line at gayle@mcpcoach.com with your needs, or students can fill out the simple on-line application.


~ Compiled by Gayle Scroggs, ABDSG Editor and coach, with generous help from colleagues Nora Misiolek, Michelle Lopez, and Melanie Sobocinski.




An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at gayle@essencecoaching.com for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resource www.essencecoaching.com 

BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (www.MentorCoach.com), a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.



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