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Top Pandemic-Apt Gifts for the Dissertation Writer in Your Life | Issue 272

Summary: These holiday gifts will delight your favorite doctoral student and brighten their path during this challenging time and beyond. (P.S. We also recommend self-gifting!)


By the ABD Coaches Circle

Celebrating the holidays during the pandemic offers new challenges. 

It's time to get creative as we re-invent celebrations with family and friends. Given the unusual levels of stress and separations, how can you infuse this holiday season with a good dash of comfort and joy? 

If your list includes a doctoral student working on his or her dissertation, consider a gift that may help them find new zest and focus so they can continue on their vital project.

If you are currently writing your dissertation, forward this list to those who care about you. We also encourage you to be generous to yourself in ways that further your best self. Your well-being and your goals matter! 

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

Our recommended gift list below, compiled from top dissertation coaches, reflects their understanding of ABD challenges and needs. You'll find gifts in all price ranges that boost energy, save time, reduce stress, and light the path for the aspiring doctoral graduate student. 

The perfect gift doesn't need to be expensive. Gifts of time, e.g., cooking or shopping, will be well received. If purchasing, consider supporting local businesses as they've been particularly hard hit this year. Want to splurge on that special person? Consider gift certificates, e.g., for a personal trainer or coach, or a private dissertation retreat. 


As always, it's the thought that counts—and each of these 21 gifts clearly affirm the value of the person and his/her goal of finishing a doctorate. 

1. Locally roasted coffee or energy tea with handy thermal mug 

2. A Jiggy puzzle (featuring women artists) for a fun break 

3. Subscription to Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music 

4. Upgraded headset or speaker for their study area 

5. Flowers or plant to brighten the indoors on long winter days 

6. Prepared meal subscription, e.g., Freshly or HomeChef, or deliver homemade meals 

7. A beginner embroidery kit (under $15 here

8. Top-rated "Gravity" weighted blanket or sleep mask from Etsy for better Zzzzs. 

9. Gift certificate for printer paper and/or ink cartridges 

10. Space heater or air filter to keep them warm and alert at their desk 

11. A warm underlayer shirt for getting outdoors (e.g., Patagonia Zip-Neck or Cuddl Duds crew neck

12. Home haircut kit and/or beard trimmer to keep up appearances 

13. A dissertation retreat at a quiet place with Wi-Fi (but sans distractions or obligations) 

14. Great water bottle to keep the brain hydrated 

15. Subscription to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney, or Hulu for breaks 

16. Firepit for distance socializing outdoors (or burning old drafts?) 

17. New printer or laptop. (Recommend letting student select this.) 

18. Motivational quotes to place in work area, e.g., framed print, engraved stone, mug 

19. Dissertation "power cape," e.g., a heated fleecy throw 

20. A pair of colorful, cozy winter socks to warm the feet and heart 

21. Gift certificate for positive psychology dissertation coaching—to help them finish faster and enjoy the journey more. (Click here for more info.) 

Consistent moral support will always be welcomed. Whether your gift is a beribboned box or genuine affirmation for their progress and dreams, your encouragement will be appreciated. 


With appreciation to my ABD Coaches Circle colleagues Ilene Berns-Zare, Diane Dreher, and Vannetta Iddrisu for their great gift suggestions for this article. ~ Gayle Scroggs, Editor 





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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 for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources

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 (, 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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