High school graduation is a major milestone, and depending on how you commemorate it, it can also come with a major price tag. The cost of caps and gowns, senior photographs, yearbooks, class rings and graduation announcements can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars. But many expenses are discretionary and vary depending on the school. Some seniors go on class trips, host graduation parties and exchange gifts. If you're the not-so-ceremonial type, expenses can be limited to cap and gown rental. With a little determination, students can usually find good deals on some items. And some schools offer assistance to the most needy.
Graduation ceremony and celebration
If you want to let family and friends know about your big accomplishment, you should start by getting announcements. The cards cost between 50 cents each for the more basic to $1.50 for personalized photo announcements, according to major online vendors such as jostens.com and tinyprints.com. Don't forget to factor in mailing costs.
Online vendors rent caps and gowns for between $20 and $80, depending on quality and the number of rentals. Many schools buy regalia and rent them to students, so check with your school. If you want to keep the tassle, most rental stores will sell it for about $5.
Many schools will hold all night class parties or lock-ins after the ceremony to reduce the risk of drinking and driving. Admission ranges from $30 to $100 and usually includes prizes and items donated by local businesses, according to jostens.com. Some graduates also opt to throw a private catered party for friends and family at their home or a rented space.
If you want mementos from your final year in high school, there are plenty of options, from photos to jewelry.
Senior photos by a professional photographer range from about $50 for a single-pose sitting fee to more than $500 for a longer session with multiple poses. Some schools have contracts and special rates with the independent photographers who take photos for the yearbook, so check with your school first.
The typical hardcover yearbook will cost between $45 and $55.
And class rings range from $200 to $400 and higher at major vendor websites balfour.com and jostens.com
Activities and festivities
Some schools sponsor a class trip for seniors---overnight camping, a weekend in a big city, or a jaunt overseas. Most solicit donations from local businesses or hold raffles in order to cut down on costs or to offer transportation and accommodations free of charge.
Other schools will hold fund-raising special dinners, to cover the costs or charging for admission.
Often the most expensive senior-year celebration is prom. "Your Prom" magazine said a nationwide poll of its readers found the average cost was $545 for boys and and $530 for girls.
Elaine Severs is an award-winning journalist who has been writing professionally since 2001. She has written about politics, health, education, travel and general interest topics for several newspapers and travel guides, including the "New York Times" and Insight Travel Guides. She has a Master of Science in journalism from Columbia University.