HIGH LIFE : Big Spenders : Long-Awaited Senior Year is Something Special--but It Doesn’t Come Free

Monica Neal is senior class president at Orange High School, where she also serves as editor of the school newspaper, the Reflector

It was inevitable. You were relaxing on the beach in August without a care in the world. Finals were ancient history, and there was a month left before the “S” word.

Then it hit you. As you sorted through the mail in search of a vacation postcard from your best friend, an urge to scream came over you. Yes, it was time for school registration. OK, so it was still summer and you were being forced to think; it got worse.

There was money involved.

“Money?” you asked. “You mean I have to pay to go to school?”

Certainly . . . after all, you are a senior, and along with the privilege of “ruling the school” come the expenses of doing so.


Even the least-involved student winds up with a decent-sized bill just for the minimal senior-related items. These include ordering a yearbook and senior pictures at the beginning of the year, graduation announcements after winter break and attending senior activities and purchasing a graduation outfit in the spring.

All told, these items can total well over $200.

And that’s just the beginning.

Being a senior, you will find certain responsibilities, nay, traditions, you will want to uphold. Seniors pride themselves on being spirited--after all, it would be an unending embarrassment if the freshmen were to win a class competition.

Therefore, being involved in activities is important, whether that means joining clubs, going to games, or just socializing in general. And purchasing an ASB activity card shows that you’re not planning on being a wallflower.

Depending on the school and the number of discounts the card offers, it can cost anywhere from $10 to $45. And even then the dances aren’t free.

Speaking of dances, simple ones like the Pajama or Valentine’s Day dances may cost only $5 a ticket, but add a picture package or two and dinner and you’ll have quite a bill for the evening.

Dances such as homecoming and coronation, while not as expensive as the prom, will still cost between $20 and $30 for a pair of tickets. Include with that the cost of a semiformal or tuxedo and dinner, and that one evening out will be more than $100.


Even those seniors who stay home to study on Saturday nights will incur a large bill before graduation.

College preparation is one of the more costly parts of being a senior, what with standardized tests and applications.

It costs $13 to take the three-hour Scholastic Aptitude Test, a must for most colleges. Achievement tests, which measure understanding in a specific area of study, are $20 for three one-hour exams.

And each college application will cost anywhere from $35 to $50 for processing fees alone. Don’t even think of the costs if you are accepted.

But go back to when you were sorting through that summer mail, when there were already some students who knew what lay ahead: people in sports, band, cheerleading and a host of other school-related activities.

Along with each activity was some sort of camp to attend, each with its own cost.

Garden Grove High School’s student government was one of many to attend the Orange County Leadership Conference held every summer at UC Santa Barbara. Camp fees were $125, but Garden Grove’s student body president, Joe Dean, 17, said that when other expenses--matching outfits, decorations and a camp skit--were added, each student’s bill for the three-day camp ran another $50 to $75.

Even more expensive is cheerleading. According to Tammy Smith, 17, captain of the Orange varsity squad, each girl has already paid at least $600 for camp, uniforms and other essentials, and even more items still need to be purchased.

Football is another expensive activity, especially at Woodbridge, where, according to senior John Solarczyk, 17, a returning varsity running back, expenses such as camp, a bus pass and equipment will total well over $200, with each participant expected to shoulder most of that bill.

Basketball is yet another costly sport, what with equipment and summer leagues. Brian Hudson, 16, starting forward for the Brea-Olinda varsity team, estimated the cost at more than $150.

After all is said and done, after most sports are over, after tests have been taken, applications sent in and acceptances received, after all that comes the one event looked forward to by seniors nearly as much as graduation: prom.

Depending upon what is included in the prom package, whether it is held in a community center or at the Ritz-Carlton and whether dinner is included, tickets can cost anywhere from $30 to $100 per couple.

If dinner isn’t included it isn’t unusual for a couple to spend $50 or more at a nice restaurant. However, some seniors from El Modena High School last year decided to save money by ordering in pizza at their girlfriends’ houses. Others have had their parents cook dinner to cut down on expenses.

Even so, many seniors go all out by renting limousines and even making reservations at hotel rooms for after-hours parties. Groups of friends will sometimes get together for prom-night activities and renting everything from buses to yachts.

But a limo for six can cost $100 per couple for the bare minimum, and beyond that the sky’s the limit. Reserving a hotel room may only cost $50, while a 40-person fun bus will run at least $600 and a 20-passenger yacht can total $1,000 or more.

With all these expenses it’s no wonder that so many students have jobs after school or during the summer. Even if they can afford it, few parents are going to give their children a free ride during their senior year.

Orange senior Hetal Dalal, 17, said the best way to handle the situation is to “lock yourself up in your room and don’t come out.”

But if that doesn’t sound too appealing, another possibility offered by Orange senior Linda Tesoriero, 17, is to “sell your soul part time after school.”

For the most part, though, coping with the financial entanglements of being a senior is just a fact of life. Maybe that’s why economics is required in high school.