Graduating from High School Costs Thousands, and That's Not Including College

The cost of prom, yearbook, cap and gown, senior portraits, plus college applications adds up to more than many parents paid for an entire year of college.

I keep getting notices in my email inbox that I still have time to order senior portraits. My son graduated a year ago.

It seems the business of making money off of high school seniors is booming. I know I could have purchased a small island for what I spent to make my son’s senior year memorable.

The memories your kid will have of their senior year? Priceless? Well, not exactly. 

I asked my son, “Do you remember what you wore to the prom?” He looked bewildered for a moment, or I should say, he looked at me with his usual expression and replied, “A black suit?” Wrong! I bought him a black suit ($300), got it altered, and then he told me everyone was wearing sports coats ($250 for whole outfit). At least I didn’t have to pay for a mani and pedi and an updo, unless you count mine. It was stressful; I needed a spa day. Don’t judge.

There are so many costs surrounding senior year, I’m sure it would be nauseating to add it all up. But just for fun, let’s do it anyway. Since it’s different everywhere, I’m just going to ball park it so don’t call me out if I didn’t get the numbers exactly right for your school.

Prom: Average spending according to a 2012 Visa survey: $1,078 (includes tickets, transportation, attire, grooming, flowers, etc.).

Senior Class Trip: $100 (admission to Six Flags is $62, plus food and transportation).

Senior Yearbook: $75 (My son’s was $85 but, from what I could see online, it was on the expensive side).

Senior Portraits: $299 (Most common price for mid-level packages).

Cap and Gown: $35 (depending on which company the school uses).

Graduation Party, otherwise know as the Safe Grad Party: $75 (depending on fundraising efforts).

Total so far: Climbing up toward $2,000.

In addition to the cost of the graduation and prom festivities, don’t forget about all the college application costs, deposits sent to schools and the price of tutoring, taking, and re-taking SAT/ACT’s. The price of my first year in college, including books, was less.

Those of you who live in the Northeast part of the United States will not be shocked to learn this is the region paying the most for senior activities. But, now you know what you are in for so, hopefully, nobody will have to rev up the defibrillator paddles when you get your American Express bill.

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

cheriferguson May 26, 2012 at 11:41 AM
I researched the question of who High Speed Universities admits, their retention rates, and graduates, and I have to say that a school that is just looking for enrollment, would not hold these types of numbers. You can research this information yourself.
Justin May 27, 2012 at 04:04 AM
You must be rich and like to spoil your kid(s). There is no way my parents spent that much and I have brothers and sisters and I am sure that my friend's parents didn't either.
Lucy Rich May 27, 2012 at 11:22 AM
$300.00 for Senior portraits? What company did your sons school use? That seems a bit outrageous. Did he attend a private school?


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