Getting Ready for Graduation: The Important Things to Remember
You’ve finally done it. You’ve passed test after test, turned in all your assignments, read books you’ll never read again, and gave up too many nights studying all so you could get that important piece of paper. But before they hand you the rolled up paper you’ve worked so hard to get, you’ve got to get through Graduation Day first.
Graduation Day is probably one of the most memorable and stressful days of anyone’s life. There is a ton of planning that happens months before the big day arrives and there is still work to be done on many other things to make sure you’re even allowed to cross the stage, like submitting those college applications, scholarship applications, studying for final exams, and still getting regular assignments done.
There’s going to be a lot of things on your plate for the next few months, but with a good checklist, you’ll be well prepared long before the big day comes and you can cross the stage with complete confidence.
First Things First: Make Those Grades
You can pretty much disregard Graduation Day if you don’t put in the hard work it takes to get there. I know, I know. That pillow feels really good in the morning and it’s tough some days to get out of bed, but giving up a few hours of sleep is a small price to pay to secure that all important high school diploma.
Whether it’s doing homework, taking tests, pop quizzes, or just getting that really easy participation grade, your senior year is the year when every high grade matters. If you’re one of the many high school students with aspirations to go to a great college, you know very well having great grades become important the second you became a freshman. While it’s never too late to get those grades up, the start of your senior year is the time you need to hunker down and get your grades up and work towards a high grade point average.
It’s important to pay attention to which types of assignments weigh more on your GPA than other assignments. Usually, exams, long-term projects, and tests are far more important than homework, but that doesn’t make homework any less important. So, don’t put off that really complicated project until the last minute. Procrastination is never a good idea, unless you’re the type of person who works better under pressure. Just make sure you’ve planned things out if you intend to work that way.
Make sure to always be aware of your GPA throughout the year. Talk to your teachers often and see where you are academically. If you think your grade could be better, ask your teacher if there are any ways to bring it up with extra credit assignments or perhaps being able to retake a test or quiz. Your GPA is very important if you’re hoping to graduate magna cum laude or summa cum laude. In most graduations, those graduating in these top spots will often be awarded first during graduation as it is a high honor and big accomplishment. It also looks fantastic on a college transcript.
Consider Your Graduation Package
Schools usually partner with a company that specializes in graduations to help provide students with everything they’ll need for their big day. They’ll offer a range of packages at different price ranges. The less expensive packages have the basic necessities such as invitation cards and maybe even a memory book. More expensive packages may come with extras such as customized stationary, customized mugs, and other nicknacks you don’t really need but are nice to if you want to really remember your big day.
However, keep in mind even the basic graduation packages for some of these companies can be quite expensive. It’s a good idea to see what a basic package offers and see if you could get the same items for far cheaper at other places. For example, if you’re artistic, you may want to create your own invitations that look far better than the ones you’d be buying in a package.
If you’re interested in keeping your cap and gown, some companies may sell them to you at a higher rate than if you were simply renting them for the night. However, if you’d like to buy your own cap and gown to keep, start looking around at the beginning of your senior year. If you wait too long, supply will be limited in many places and prices will go up considerably. You can always rent one from another company if you don’t want to rent one from the company partnering with your school.
Above all else, just remember that your senior year can get very expensive very quickly. There are sports events you’ll likely want to go to, dances, parties, special events, your Senior Class trip, and many other things you’ll need to budget for.
Send Out Your Invitations
About halfway through the year, you should start sending out the invitations to friends, family, and anyone else who you’d like to be at your graduation. If your senior class has a sponsor, make sure to ask them how many people you’ll be able to invite to the ceremony as some high schools only allow students to invite so many friends and relatives per student.
It’s best to give the people you intend to invite at least three or four months notice so they can make plans to attend. This allows people to get time off from work if they need to and make travel arrangements if they need to come in from out of town.
Your invitations can be used for either the ceremony or as invitations to a family gathering if your family is throwing a party in your honor. This will all depend on how many people you’re allowed to invite to the actual ceremony. If you’re limited to just your parents and two other guests, you shouldn’t promise people they’ll be able to see you cross the stage when they might not be allowed. So, make sure your invitations are specific as to what you’re inviting people to attend and don’t make any promises you can’t keep.
Of course, once you’ve spent all this money on a graduation package and a cap and gown, it would be a bit frustrating and disappointing if you didn’t graduate because of bad grades. So, make sure you’re staying on top of it.
The Easy Part: Make Some Memories
Senior year isn’t just about filling out applications, tests, projects, and boring stuff. Your senior year of high school, outside of college, is a pretty fun time in your life.
By the time you get to your senior year, you’ve gathered most of the credits you need and you have time to take classes you actually want to take (sometimes) that can be pretty fun. You might have never had time to take theater or music classes because you were heavy on academics, but now you can. Some classes might rely more on actually participating rather than turning in assignments, which might be a welcome relief for you if you have a busy schedule.
Creating memories should be a big part of your senior year. Take the time to go to all the football games, especially homecoming. Go to as many dances as you can and go to a few parties; always remembering to act responsibly. Take a few trips with your friends and take a ton of photos and videos. More than likely, you’ll have a memory book that’ll help you show off a bunch of your favorite memories from the year.
Memories are important as there’s a good chance many of the people you’ve been hanging out with for the last few years are likely going their own way. Down the road, you’ll want to have photos and mementos of the good times and a memory book is the best way to relive the old times.
Making Things Official
Two or three months before the school year ends, your school’s registrar may request what name you’d like to have on your diploma. If not, you may need to make the time to visit them and make sure they print the right name. Chances are you’ll only get one chance at getting it right so make sure to take the time to get it done when the opportunity presents itself.
If you’ve received any scholarships, make sure you speak with your counselors to make sure they’ll be announced at graduation. Also, your school may ask if you’ve been accepted to any colleges or universities, the school you’ll be attending, and your intended major. If you’re part of any academic organizations like academic decathlon or honor society, let them know as well. Make sure you announce all of your accomplishments as you’ve worked long and hard for them.
This is also a good time to start talking to all of your teachers and make sure your grades are still on the right track for you to pass. If you’re hoping to graduate with honors, you’ll probably want to do some extra credit work if you want to get your grades up where you want them.
About a month before the big day, you’ll definitely know if you’re going to be crossing the stage. Send out reminders to all the people attending the graduation ceremony and make sure they know the time and place. If anyone needs tickets to attend, make sure you pick those up and get to them the right people.
Make sure you’ve got your cap and gown ready. The company your school partnered with should take care of all of this for you and you will likely just need to pick it up. If you haven’t gotten a cap and gown yet, you definitely need to start looking for one now as it might be a little too late. Get your gown dry cleaned and ready for your big day.
If your family is planning a party for after graduation, start making plans for everything you’ll need and make sure they’ve secured a place to hold the party if it’s any place other than home.
Schools often require students to attend graduation rehearsal a couple of times so everyone knows where they are supposed to be on graduation day. Don’t skip rehearsal! It’s important you know exactly where you’re going to sit and where you’ll need to be before you cross the stage. Don’t be surprised if your school announces if you don’t show up to rehearsal, you won’t be allowed to cross the stage. Remember, the logistics for graduation day are very complicated. Your school has everything planned out and people who show up not knowing what to do just slow down the process. Just make sure you don’t miss rehearsal and don’t risk not being able to cross the finish line.
You’ve finally made it. Your grades are perfect (or not), you’ve declared what name you want on your diploma, you’ve given a list of your awards and schools, and the cake at your reception is ready to be cut.
Chances are, you’re going to be mentally and emotionally exhausted by the time the day is over. Remember everything you were taught at rehearsal and everything should be fine. If you have any sashes or medals to wear with your gown, don’t forget to put them on before you cross the stage. More than likely there will be teachers and administrators to help you if you’re having a bit of trouble.
Depending on the size of your senior class, the ceremony could take a while. If you have a senior class with more than a few hundred students, you’re going to be waiting for a while if your last name starts with a “Z.”
Thankfully, once the last person has crossed the stage and you move your tassel from one side to the other, your four year journey through high school will finally be over. Onward to college!