Making it to high school graduation is a big deal. For most people, it’s taken 13 years of education since starting in kindergarten.
This is a time to celebrate, but also to start planning for the next step into adulthood. Taking care of the practical stuff now can allow more time to enjoy your senior year and relax before moving on to the next big thing.
To help get you started, check out these tips to close out high school on a high note and prepare for summer and beyond.
Preparing for High School Graduation
1. Keeping Up Your Grades
You’re almost across the finish line. Yet, slacking off and letting grades slip could be a red flag for the college you plan on attending in the fall.
The extent to which colleges look at senior year grades varies. If an A in calculus drops to a B, that’s probably not a cause for alarm. Rather, having grades fall below a college’s admissions standards could run the risk of a rescinded offer. Staying on top of your coursework and taking some challenging classes your senior year could pay off in the fall.
2. Ordering Your Cap and Gown
To attend high school graduation, you’ll likely have to look the part. If you have an older sibling or friend who graduated before you and is around your size, you can kindly ask to borrow their cap and gown, assuming it’ll match your classmates’ at graduation.
Renting a cap and gown could save money if that option is offered at your high school. Rentals may require a deposit and will likely need to be returned right after the ceremony to discourage graduates from walking off with them amid all the excitement.
If you go the rental route, you may still need to purchase a tassel unique to your graduating class.
Traditionally, there is a moment during the ceremony when graduates are asked to flip their tassel from one side of their cap to the other, which signifies graduation.
3. Return Library Books
At many high schools, failing to return library books, or pay any accrued late fees could make you ineligible to walk at graduation. If there are any other fees or outstanding holds that will prevent you from walking at graduation, take care of them as soon as possible. Your guidance counselor or another administrator at the school may be able to help if you’re not sure.
4. Picking a Graduation-Day Outfit
Yes, you will be wearing your cap and gown for the ceremony. But what about photos afterward? Pick an outfit that is both stylish and one you feel comfortable in. There’ll likely be a lot of photos to celebrate this accomplishment, and wearing an outfit you feel your best in can help make you feel good in front of the camera.
5. Reserving Tickets for Graduation
Some schools may limit the number of tickets a student can reserve for graduation due to venue capacity. In some cases, students may be able request additional tickets, but they are not always guaranteed. If your school has a ticket limit or request process, stay on top of deadlines.
6. Inviting Family and Friends to Graduation
Once you know how many tickets you have to your graduation, you’ll need to invite family or friends to the ceremony. Parents, siblings, grandparents, or close friends may all want to come watch, but if there are ticket restrictions, you may be limited in who you can invite.
Consider sending the information for the ceremony including date, time, location, and any parking instructions in writing via email or text so your family members can easily reference relevant details to see you walk across that stage.
7. Taking Photos with Friends and Family
Graduating high school is a major accomplishment. This is a day you’ll want to remember and you’ll want to get photos with family and friends on the big day. Scope out some meaningful locations for a few photos. If you run hurdles, perhaps you want some photos out on the school track.
8. Registering for Dorm Room Necessities
If you’re expecting gifts from family and friends in honor of your graduation, consider registering for dorm room necessities like towels, twin-XL sheets, duvet, or a mini-fridge. Letting your family know what you want and need for the next four years could make it easier for them to purchase something you’ll actually use.
9. Celebrating With Friends and Family
High school graduates have passed numerous milestones from kindergarten to senior year. Besides the homework and exams, many high schoolers have put countless hours into varsity sports, drama club, marching band, or other extracurricular activities.
High school graduation is a well-deserved moment to have fun and celebrate the culmination of these accomplishments. Whether you’re moving away for college or commuting from home, your schedule may change significantly.
Spending time with family and friends, attending senior activities, and throwing a graduation party are some ways to honor the occasion and process the transition.
10. Plan Your Graduation Party (If You’re Hosting One)
Graduation parties are popular for high schoolers (and their families). If you — or your parents — are hosting a party you’ll want to determine details like the date, time, and location, budget for the event, and guest list.
You’ll want to invite guests and track RSVPs so you can get an accurate headcount for food and drink at the event. From there, you can look into decorations and any party rentals (like chairs, flatware, plates, table cloths, and more).
11. Writing Thank You Notes
As you receive graduation gifts, keep a log of who sent each gift. Show your gratitude for thoughtful gifts by writing a thank you note to each sender. Express your thanks for the gift, and mention a couple specific details about the item they sent and how you plan to use it. Close out your thank you with a thoughtful note about when you hope to see them next (or how great it was to see them at your graduation party) and thank them once again.
Generally, it’s best to send your thank you notes soon after receiving the gifts, so staying organized as you approach graduation can be helpful.
12. Landing a Summer Job
Between hanging out with friends and going on family trips, you might have time to take on a part-time or full-time summer job. These experiences can help boost your resume and gain references for internships and jobs down the road.
Additionally, putting in some hours now can further pad your college savings for tuition and living expenses. If all goes well, you may be invited back to work next summer.
13. Managing Your Schedule and Setting Goals
College schedules can be a big adjustment for students. Instead of following a strict bell schedule like most high schools have, college students are responsible for managing their own schedules with little oversight.
Each college course’s credit hours usually indicate how many hours that class meets per week. Full-time students typically take between 12 and 18 credit hours each semester, which translates to roughly the same number of hours in class. This means college students have more flexibility than high school students in planning their schedule for completing homework and other assignments. That flexibility also means more responsibility for their own time management.
Students might consider preparing for this adjustment by trying out a few planning systems — e.g., paper, digital, or a combination of both — to see what works best for them so they’ll be ready to hit the ground running in the fall.
Some things to plan for, other than class schedules, might be a summer job schedule, family vacations, summer parties with friends, or savings goals.
14. Cleaning up Your Social Media Presence
High school can feel like a bubble. Some students have known each other since elementary school.
Upon graduating and leaving this familiar environment, graduates will encounter an influx of new friends, coworkers, employers, and professors. To put your best foot forward in these scenarios, it could be worth revisiting your social media posts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Many people have said or posted things online they aren’t proud of or no longer reflect their current opinions on a subject. Checking to see what posts you’re tagged in, too, can help refine your online presence and give peace of mind as you head into the “real world.”
In serious cases, colleges have rescinded students’ admission for inappropriate and offensive conduct on social media.
Recommended: 25 Smart Things to do With Your Graduation Money
Preparing for College
While finishing senior year and taking care of high school graduation, getting ready for college is just around the corner. There are plenty of ways to prepare for college before the fall semester rolls around. Let’s take a look at some of the key things you may want to consider.
1. Creating a Plan to Pay for College
Pay for college often requires students to pull together a few different types of funding. In addition to savings or using your grad money to pay for college expenses, students can also rely on financial aid including scholarships, grants, federal student loans, and work-study.
Typically, college-bound high school seniors will fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) in February. This form is the first step in applying for federal student aid, which can include scholarships, grants, and loans, depending on a student’s eligibility.
Students who are looking to fill gaps in funding may consider private student loans — which are offered by private lenders and lack benefits offered to federal student loans, like deferment or forgiveness options. Check out SoFi’s guide to private student loans for more information.
2. Researching Classes and Majors
Generally speaking, most programs do not require incoming freshmen to declare a major right away. Still, taking some time before registration to learn about different majors and general course requirements can help students figure out what they want to study, create a balanced schedule, and graduate on time.
3. Getting Ready to Move Away From Home
Students planning to attend college away from home may be feeling a mix of excitement and stress about moving.
Putting that energy into planning for college living arrangements might alleviate some of those feelings.
If coordinating with roommates ahead of time is a possibility, students might consider splitting up the list of room necessities — one roomie can bring the microwave and another can bring the mini-fridge. If the college provides those things, there are many other items that can make the transition from home to college dorm easier.
Recommended: College Essentials: What to Bring to College
Graduating from high school is a huge accomplishment. As you approach graduation day, make sure you have met graduation requirements and have no holds on your student account that will prevent you from walking. Get ready for the big day by ordering your cap and gown, picking your grad day outfit, reserving tickets for the ceremony, and planning a celebration with friends and family.
3 Student Loan Tips
1. Can’t cover your school bills? If you’ve exhausted all federal aid options, private student loans can fill gaps in need, up to the school’s cost of attendance, which includes tuition, books, housing, meals, transportation, and personal expenses.
2. Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.
3. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.
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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.