11 Tips to Gear Up for Graduation

Senior year of high school is an exciting period, with more time and freedom to spend doing what you want—but it’s not all fun and games. Graduation is right around the corner— preparing for it, and for what comes afterward, is a critical part of building the life you want for yourself. To that end, we’ve assembled some tips and suggestions to help you out.

1. Keep Your Grades Up

Most seniors have a lower course load, and while your GPA isn’t the only (or biggest) concern when planning for your future, it’s still important enough to mention.

If you’re planning on going to college or another school, dropping below a school’s admission requirements could result in an acceptance being rescinded. If you have other plans, a sudden drop in school performance may derail them—people may think you can’t finish what you start.

Maintaining effort when things are winding down is just as important as persisting under pressure, so make sure you cross the finish line in top form.

2. Check Your Graduation Requirements

Every year, some students are caught off-guard by a few of the less obvious graduation requirements.

Maintaining grades and attendance are fairly obvious, but many schools will not allow a student to graduate if they have books checked out from the school library, or owe any late fees.

A cap and gown may be required, provided, neither or both. You’ll want to know all of that well in advance, as you may need to place an order, buy or rent these garments months ahead of time or figure out some other arrangement such as borrowing a set from an older sibling or friend close to your size.

Avoid a last-minute scramble by taking care of these requirements ASAP.

3. Learn the Details for the Ceremony

Your school ought to provide a detailed itinerary for graduation day, all of which will help you and your family plan for the big day.

Where do you need to be, and at what times? Where do the family and friends you’re inviting need to be, and when? Do you need to order or reserve tickets for them, and how far in advance will that need to be done? Where should people park? Will photos be part of the process, or will other arrangements need to be made if you want photos to be part of your celebration?

Many of these things can be delegated, but it's best to be aware of the details.

4. Invite Friends and Family

One way or another, there will be limits on how many people you can invite to your graduation ceremony, and while there may be many opinions on who should attend, you also have a say in who gets to see you walk during the ceremony.

Once you know who you’re inviting, sending save-the-date cards and/or invitations with RSVP envelopes included will help people plan accordingly.

5. Plan Your Graduation Party (If You’re Throwing One)

Who doesn’t like to celebrate important milestones in their life?

If you and your family want to host a graduation party, someone will need to work out all the details. Start with a guest list, and use that to work out the rest (e.g. date and time, location, budget, food, equipment rentals and any other particulars) ahead of time.

Invitations and RSVPs need to be tracked separately from those for the ceremony, as you’re likely to have more people at your party than in the audience.

6. Manage Your Schedule and Set Goals

One reason you’ll want to delegate things surrounding the ceremony and party planning is because you have longer term plans to consider.

You’ve likely been thinking and even working on these to-dos before now, but the closer you get to the end of high school, the more granular you’ll need to be in planning and preparing for whatever comes next. Send those applications, write those letters, check those boxes.

Most students’ lives have been fairly regimented up until now, at least during the school day, with strict schedules and a lot of adult supervision. College, and adult life in general, expects you to supervise yourself, for the most part, so get into the habit of planning your days, weeks and months.

Start with things like expected class schedules and deadlines, and experiment with different planning systems, such as paper or digital planners, bullet journaling, etc. to see what works best for you and build from there.

7. Graduate and Celebrate

Hopefully, with enough preparation, you can relax a bit and enjoy the rest of your last year in high school, and finally top it all off with a fun graduation!

Whether or not you throw a party, and no matter who you invite to the ceremony, take some well-deserved time to celebrate your life so far with the people who mean the most to you.

Life after high school is going to be different no matter what your future plans may be, so make the most of the time you have now.

8. Write Thank You Notes

As you receive graduation gifts, keep track of who sent them to you.

Show your gratitude by writing a thank you note to each sender. Include some detail about the gift, such as what you like about it or how you plan to use it. Close out the note with thoughts about the next time you’ll meet, or how nice it was to see them at your party, and thank them again.

In "the age of texts,” a written note shows that you care enough to go a little further, and it's a wonderfully tangible way to express intangible thoughts and feelings.

9. Get Help

You don’t need to do all of this alone. Family members will likely want to be involved, so you can delegate things you don’t want to plan yourself—just make sure you know what they’re planning.

Ideally, you’ll have a say in any decisions that are important to you without needing to work out all of the details yourself.

10. Clean Up Your Socials

Life up through high school, no matter how it’s felt, may later seem like it was inside a bubble. You may have known some of your friends since grade school.

After graduating, you’ll find yourself in a much larger world—meeting new friends, colleagues, mentors and others. It might be worth taking some time to declutter your social media presence so they can see your best self.

11. Prepare for the Future

Whether you’re going to college or have other plans, post-graduation is the time to get the final preparations for the next stage of your life underway.

If you’re moving, when and where? Who can you ask to help you? Will you need to commute to work or school? Do you need to update your wardrobe? Revisit and revise your goals and plans from Tip #6 as needed. Make a budget and triple check it, and if there are any other forms that need to be filled out or mailed in, get them done ASAP.

Now go forth, young one, and show the world what you’re made of!