The standard greeting card with a check inside just doesn't cut it anymore for some high school graduates. So they're setting up gift registries instead, the latest twist on traditional bridal or baby shower offerings that is at odds with traditional gift-giving etiquette.
The registries are both an online and off-line phenomenon. Stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and The Container Store offer gift registries or wish lists for new grads to compile their choices. And websites like DormSmart.com, MyRegistry.com and DormCo.com are making it easier for relatives and friends to give gifts to the registered college-bound freshman online.
Soon-to-be college students can create an account at a store or on the website of their choice and handpick the gifts they would like to receive. Options range from dorm room essentials to tailgating supplies, bicycles to pepper spray.
The growth of online registries might prove to offer more tailored gifts for recipients, and fool-proof guidelines for donors.
Jeff Gawronski, CEO of DormCo.com, says online gift registries for graduation allow students to personalize their new living spaces by getting the things they select.
"Consumers want choice," he said. "You don't get that at big-box retailers when you're forced to choose between the four color patterns they choose for that year. It's about uniqueness."
Gawronski says that since DormCo.com's inception, he has seen students register earlier and earlier before they head off to college.
"In the past, I'd say the busiest time is in August and it's always a mad dash before everyone's going off to college," he said. "But now it starts as early as the beginning of April."
Online registry offerings are not merely limited to the goods a particular site features. Some have the option of adding products from other retailers to maximize personal preference.
On MyRegistry.com, registrants can add pins from their Pinterest boards to the registry to broaden their options. Setting up a cash gift fund is also an option on the site.
But not everyone is a fan.
"When I hear people are creating registries for high school graduation, I hear 'Gimme, gimme, gimme,' as opposed to congratulations," said Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of the 18th Edition of "Emily Post's Etiquette."
"They are absolutely not appropriate."
Post says gift registries are intended only for weddings and baby showers.
"A high school graduation party doesn't necessitate a gift. At most, I'd say it necessitates a card," she said.
And if there is no party, Post says creating your own registry and sending it around to relatives and friends is "absolutely, incredibly selfish and greedy."
If you would like to congratulate the new grad in your life with a gift, Post suggests tokens from the college town or university to which the student is moving, gift cards, or asking the child's parents for ideas.
"This is a time to celebrate the student graduating, and congratulations are really the main focus," she said. "Asking for gifts and telling people what you want in the form of a registry is really inappropriate."
MyRegistry.com president Nancy Lee said "etiquette and conventions change over the years."
"There's a whole range of typical grad gifts," she said. "But what it really comes down to these days is people want to help. When a graduate creates a wish list of things they need, they really need them."