The Best Graduation Present I Received…

Earlier today I shared my suggestions for graduation gifts, but I wanted to also share this idea. Again. I know I’ve already blogged about it quite a few times, however, it’s such a meaningful and thoughtful gift, I just can’t help but share it over and over again. (I think every graduate should receive this!)
That little bundle of letters up there? On the night of my high school graduation, I went to my bedroom after dinner to find a giant envelope filled with letters. My mom had been working for months to collect notes from people who have known me throughout my life. People who had really impacted my life in a meaningful way. Favorite babysitters, teachers and principals, friends…
Opening those letters that night was so special. (I cried a lot.) It made me reflect that I was not a singular person on my own, but instead a person who had been built and shaped by amazing people in my life. I am who I am because of those people and I carry a little fingerprint of theirs wherever I go.
Graduation night, the letters meant a lot… but it wasn’t until I was at school (and seriously struggling) that the letters took on a whole new, deeper meaning. Rereading the letters– or simply seeing the bound stack on my desk– reminded me that I was never truly alone, that I had people “in my corner” rooting for my success.
To pull off the thoughtful surprise, my mom did some serious planning. She wrote a list of the special people and sent each of them an envelope. Inside the envelope was a note explaining what she was up to (ha) and stationery with a pre-addressed + stamped envelope. (The real trick was collecting the letters in the mail before I got to them!)
I received letters from:
The owner of my favorite store
Babysitters from Atlanta (age 0-4) & Boston (age 4-8)
Family friends
High school coaches
Parents of close friends
Middle school SADD mentor
Best friend’s mom
My best friend in the entire world
6th grade math teacher
The person who interviewed me for Georgetown
My doctor
Elementary school principal
Super close friends
AP Physics teacher
Painting teacher
9th grade English teacher
Ex-boyfriend (… but actually.)
The letters were long, short, poems, old photographs, drawings I had given the person when I was a kid, newspaper clippings they kept. It ended up being kind of like a mini time capsule of sorts.
One of the letters:
“Carly, I’ve never quite met a girl like you. Yes, that is a good thing. Despite only knowing you since my senior year it feels like so much longer. I’ve seen you turn into a truly wonderful young lady and a real bitch of a coxswain. And, yes, that also is a good thing. Remember in college to keep your fists up, stick to your guns, and don’t let anybody change you. You’re already perfect to me. Take care in the year ahead, I know you’ll do great. If you ever need anything my phone is always on. I will always pick up….”
My babysitter kept all of our drawings and she sent me one. 1996?!
What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve ever received?

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Lauren Rose

This is amazing! Going through letters and pictures is one of my favorite things to do when I miss home! Great idea and great post!


This is such an awesome gift. My mom did something similar for my grandparents for their 50th anniversary. It was fun for my brother and me to hear all the fun stories about our grandparents when they were kids and first married.

Kira T.

I love to receive hand written notes and printed pictures from years past. This was such a cute post!

Kira {}


I like to write personal letters to my close friends and family on special occasions. The recipients always really appreciate them. The best time was when someone wrote me a letter in reply.

Dana Kay

wow. I absolutely love this idea! along those same lines, when I moved out and went to college my parents sent me post cards every month from places that I had been too. Over the years they had been collecting post cards whenever we went somewhere and my dad came up with this creative idea to send me these old post cards with a little note on it. I still get them to this day now that I have graduated and moved to a different city. Its such an easy and thoughtful idea. Thanks for sharing.
Dana Kay