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Do you really need all that senior “stuff”?

25 Oct

   What’s the key to all things grad?

Around this time of year salesmen visit high schools selling various senior “wares,” including the following items: caps/gowns/tassels, commencement announcements, class rings, senior keys, “official” thank-you notes, senior class t-shirts and sweatshirts, and more.

The final pricetag can be hundreds of dollars. Here’s a breakdown of what you need….

The Essentials:

  • Cap, gown, and tassel: You need these so the senior can participate in commencement. However, your school might provide these for you, depending on where you live. School districts in the state of California are required to provide the cap, gown, and tassel–but you probably have to return at least the gown so the school can re-use it. The district may allow you to decorate the top of your cap and keep it, as well as the tassel. Check with your school’s guidance counselor or senior class advisor to make sure. If your state requires schools to provide these, you cannot assume you can KEEP them.
  • Thank-you notes: Every single graduation gift needs to be acknowledged with a thank-you note. My rule as a parent was that my children could NOT use the item or cash the check until the thank-you note was written. However, you need not purchase official thank-you notes–they’re much cheaper in discount stores.

The Optional Items: Folks, everything else is optional. Students can graduate without any of the other “stuff” the salesman might offer, and you should shop around, as these items can be purchased in many different places. Here are ideas for saving money:

  • Commencement announcements: Typically, these are NOT invitations, as your school may have a limit on the number of people any one senior can host at the ceremony. Check with your school first if you plan to send invitations, as opposed to announcements. However, seniors are often anxious to buy a host of these, in the hopes of garnering all kinds of money and other gifts. You should understand that an announcement (or invitation) is NOT a request for a gift. It is simply sent to share to share the joy and excitement of the event. The traditional embossed invitations with the school name on them are still available through Josten’s or other school supply companies, but you can also purchase your own photo or other cards to send to family and friends. PLEASE follow these social etiquette guidelines: (1) Don’t hand them to people–send them through the mail. (2) Don’t give them to teachers and other school staff members. They will probably already attend the ceremony, and you should not make them feel obligated to give you a gift. (3) Mail them out at least one month in advance. (4) If you’re using formal invitations, address the outer envelope with the full name (Mr. and Mrs. John Jones) and the inner envelope with how you address those people (Grandma and Grandpa).
  • Class rings and senior keys: These jewelry items can be purchased through several different venues now. I even saw a Groupon ad today for “Personalized Women’s Rings” selling for $59 with school-type designs that you can personalize. These can cost hundreds of dollars for something the student may only choose to wear through the end of this school year.
  • Senior class t-shirt/sweatshirt: These are available for purchase through school suppliers, but often a senior class will create its own t-shirt and/or sweatshirt for purchase. Check with the school first.
  • Souvenirs: Folks, everything else is just “stuff”–items that will probably get boxed up. Choose wisely as you consider those autograph dogs, other jewelry items, extra tassels, senior bag, water bottle, key chain, and photo frames.


I’m super-excited that my book, 50 Life Lessons for Grads, will be released in April 2018. Pre-orders for the book will be available soon. Look here or at your favorite book store or website for more information! 



How to figure out a college major

6 Sep

You can learn a lot about majors at a college bookstore!

As you’re making plans to apply to colleges, one question comes up repeatedly.

What will be your intended major?

That’s a biggie, seniors, because you want to apply to colleges that have a strong program in that major. (The answer to that question will be in next week’s blog.)

But how can you know if a major will be a good fit?

That’s also challenging at this point, but there are a couple good ways to find your academic niche.

First, on a university’s website, find the list of required courses for a major that interests you. Then go to the link for the required courses of that major (not the general ed courses).

Read through the actual course descriptions–the short paragraph that tells you what the course will be about). Do these seem interesting to you? If so, that could be a good fit for you.

Yes, you’re allowed to look through college textbooks.

Another strategy is to visit a college’s bookstore and head toward the section that has the books required for the various college classes (yes, you can do that!). Find your major and the various courses in the department being offered that semester (or quarter). Thumb through them. Read a page or two.

I’ve been known to ask students these questions. “Do these books seem interesting to you?” “Can you see yourself reading this material?” “If not, do you think this would be the best major for you?”

If you do NOT like the material in the textbooks, then peruse the bookstore for academic books that DO interest you. Maybe that will be your fit instead.

Happy major hunting . . . and keep in mind that some universities will allow you to apply “Undeclared,” which means you have not yet decided on a major.

Hey, reader . . . 50 Life Lessons for Grads–written by 50 college grads–will be released in April. Look for it for the perfect gift for all the grads you know.


Last wisdom bits for college frosh and parents

8 Aug

Two quick messages–one for entering college freshmen and one for their parents:

College freshmen:

“A little request … When your mom wants to unpack all of your clothes and make your bed – Let her. When your dad wants to introduce himself to all the people on your floor – Let him. When they want to take pictures of every move you make this weekend – Let them. If they embarrass you or act crazy – Let them. As you start the new chapter of your life, they are also starting the new chapter of theirs. And believe it or not, this is probably more difficult for them than it is for you. So let them treat you like their “baby” one last time.” –From San Diego State University

Parents of college freshmen:

Just a few words of wisdom from a mom (ME!) who saw FOUR children go to college and finish their degrees:

  • Let them go. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, you’ll miss them. Yes, you’ll want them to come home every weekend–or every night! BUT . . . let them go.
  • Let them go. Don’t call or text continually. Just one phone call a week. Just a couple texts.
  • Let them go. Don’t say, “Oh, I’ll miss you sooooo much!” Say, “I’m so proud of you. I know you are going to do great!”

As college orientation workshop presenters emphasize to parents, these kids need to stand on their own. They need to learn life skills. If they keep depending on you for every single thing, they won’t become independent, mature adults.

Sure, you can be a safety net of sorts. For example, if your kid calls and says, “I’m sick,” send him or her to the college’s medical clinic. It will be okay. And you will be SO PROUD that he or she learned how to manage their own healthcare.

You will all be okay. Truly! Blessings for the big day ahead!