Grads gone wild

Have grads gone wild when it comes to their celebrations?

By Whitney Sharp, Contributor

Grad celebrations have continued to evolve since they first started decades ago. A formal dance in the school gym has morphed into a catered dinner in a hotel ballroom, and even that is minimal compared to multi-day celebrations, grad pranks, grad wear, and even week-long grad trips to places like Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

I was walking up Eighth Street a few days ago and I overheard a conversation between three high school girls that caught me off guard: it was only September, and I was still mourning the loss of summer and the hit my bank account had taken with tuition and textbooks, but these girls were already worried about grad.

I graduated from high school in 2009. I went to the dinner and dance in a dress that I had strategically glued to myself, with an up-do that required over 120 bobby pins, and a set of acrylic nails that kept chipping. I spent significantly less time dressed up than I did preparing.

When I was getting ready to graduate, the focus was drastically weighted towards celebrating our accomplishments—completing 13 years of free, mandatory public education—as opposed to focussing on the next chapter of our lives, whatever that chapter may be. I can’t remember the number of fundraising meetings I went to, or the rehearsal assemblies where we walked across the stage in alphabetical order while sporting a cardboard hat.

I do remember that we had only one optional career and education fair in my Grade 12 year where post-secondary institutions, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs came in to talk to us. Most people took this time to score free pens and key chains, or to get out of geography lectures or avoid changing for gym.

We didn’t start looking into available scholarships and bursaries until late in the spring when some deadlines had already passed. Bye-bye, free money. By that time, most of my classmates were preoccupied with dress fittings, seating charts, and limo arrangements—we’re talking serious cash.

A conservative rounded estimate of my own grad costs includes $500 on my outfit, $200 on tickets to grad-related events (including the dinner dance and midnight harbour cruise where my date fell, cut his knee, bruised his forehead, and then, after trying to get me to kiss a female classmate, fell asleep), and another $200 on grad photos—which my mother still has yet to display; a grand rounded total of $900, which is more than 75 per cent of my post-secondary tuition.

Does anyone else see a problem here?

Sure, graduating high school is a momentous occasion, but it’s currently an expensive one. Eliminating grad celebrations altogether seems unlikely and unfair. High school students deserve a chance to celebrate, because graduating is a big deal. But it seems like the focus has shifted to partying before the work is even complete. After all, making it to Grade 12 is one thing—finishing it is another.