Senior Decision Day: Creating Lasting Memories for Your Graduates [Episode 69]


Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

The end of another school year is quickly approaching and I know that the deadline for diplomas can be so stressful as a high school counselor. However, there are some really fun parts to graduation season too. 

I always loved hyping up my seniors for their special moments, and one of the ways I did that was by hosting a Senior Decision Day. It’s a great way to celebrate your students’ next steps, whether that’s college, military, apprenticeships, or going straight into the workforce.

I know what you might be thinking. Hosting an event can feel like just one more thing on your already packed to-do list. But trust me, it’s worth it!

I’m going to walk you through how you can host a fun and memorable Senior Decision Day that your graduates will remember for years to come. Don’t worry, you can start small and make this a huge success, even on a limited budget!

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Changing your mindset around planning an event like Senior Decision Day
  • Starting small in your event planning and bringing on others to help you
  • Important things to consider when setting a date for your Senior Decison Day
  • How to build up excitement around Senior Decision Day (hint: check out episode 68!)
  • Creative ideas for how to ensure that it’s a fun and memorable day
  • 4 stations to utilize during Senior Decision Day, and where to get the money for these activities 
  • Getting your community involved with local donations

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

Hi my high school counseling friends. Welcome to another episode of High School Counseling Conversations. The year that my caseload was rolling with students to graduation was one of the most stressful times I’ve had in my career as a high school counselor.

When I say rolling, I mean, I was with the same class each year of high school. So I had the same students and I saw them from the beginning to the end of their high school career. I had 420 students, I think that was the number upon graduation, that I felt solely responsible for that June deadline, whether they would receive or not receive that diploma.

Of course, it was not all of my shoulders, but I often felt the weight of that which left me as a full ball of nerves. It was not needing to be like that, but I really felt like that. But don’t get me wrong. There were so many fun parts of this journey as well. I love an excuse to celebrate anything so hyping up my seniors for this special moment in their lives was actually really, really fun for me.

I can think back to how this felt in my own life. The sense of accomplishment, the anticipation for what was next, the mix of emotions as you’re closing one chapter and getting ready to open the next. You may already have an initiative like this in place for someone from above, you may be pushing this down.

I’m talking about hosting a senior decision day. I know hosting an event like this can feel like one more thing if you let it, but it also can be quite a memorable event if you change your mindset around it.

This event should be a celebration of enrollment, enlistment, or employment. Long gone are the days where we just celebrate going to college. We are proud of our students for taking the next steps of their journey, whatever that may be. Two your college, four year college, military, apprenticeship, straight to work. So many options.

There are different paths that are right for different students, and we just want them to have a plan. How exactly can we use a senior decision day to create one more memorable touch point for our seniors before they leave our school building? Let’s talk about it in this week’s episode.

You got into this profession to make a difference in your students’ lives, but you’re spread thin by all the things that keep getting added to your to do list.

I can’t create more hours in the day, but I can invite you into my Counselor Clique where you’ll finally catch your breath. Come with me as we unpack creative ideas and effective strategies that will help you be the counselor who leaves a lifelong impact on your students. I’m Lauren Tingle, your high school counseling hype girl. Here to help you energize your school counseling program and remind you of how much you love your job.

It’s time to consider what it would be like to host a memorable day, morning, or event for your students. You can always start small with one idea here and then add on to it as the years go on. No one is holding you to a strict tradition that has to be done the same way every year. If you’re taking the lead here, you get to decide that’s the best part right. Don’t forget to bring others in to help with the details of executing this day though. Even with a huge caseload and a tiny budget, you can have a successful senior decision day.

First designate a day that will be your senior decision day. Put it on the calendar. This can even be decided way back at the beginning of the year when you’re advocating for your entire calendar of school counseling events for the school year. Don’t be afraid to set a tentative date for this when you’re having a beginning of the year planning day with your department. I’ll link to a blog post on this in the show notes about how to have a productive planning day before your school year even starts.

You’ll need to consider things like this year’s graduation date, senior exams, seniors finishing school earlier than the other grades, graduation practices. Take all of these senior dates into account and then pick a date that’s earlier than this. Most seniors will have to have college decisions made by May 1, so you’ll be pinpointing a day around here.

It’s super helpful if you can confirm this with your senior advisors. or maybe that’s you so you don’t need to confirm it with them, your admin, the space that you need to host the event in your school, and then feel good about that date so it can be posted places everywhere that you need to get it posted to get everyone excited.

Of course, you’re going to start garnering the excitement around the senior decision day by doing all the things I mentioned in last week’s episode. Ceate a slideshow, print off pictures or just use the information that they’ve given you to create a bulletin board, post the images on your school social media account, and then create an interactive Google Map. These are things that you can even tag team for others in your department or student aides to help you with.These are great things to consider leading up to the event but when we get to an actual day carved out for your seniors, here are some fun ideas to celebrate the day and make it fun and memorable.

First start with a more formal seated gathering. And when I say formal, I don’t mean boring, I just been a gathering where everyone is there. Whether this is in the auditorium, or the cafeteria, or the gym. Show that slideshow that you’ve already created, even if they’ve seen it somewhere else. Have a speaker share about how proud they are of this class or highlight some of the classes achievements. Play some minute to win it games on stage. Share any timely announcements if needed, but don’t use this space for the mundane if it’s really not necessary. If there are unique senior awards that can be presented, you could do those here, too.

Now it’s time to move on to the fun stuff. You could have different stations here. You could make this optional on a day when your seniors are done with their exams, but before graduation, or you could incorporated into a graduation practice day, or you could just do it during a regular school day for your seniors before they’re out for the school year.

Before we get into the ideas for some of these different stations, I know what you’re thinking, Where do you get the money for this? Okay, and here’s what I’m gonna say to that. Do not be afraid to ask for it. I’ve written blog posts and done podcast episodes on getting money for your own professional development opportunities, and the same principles apply here. You never know if there’s money unless you ask. Roll out your plan to your principal early and see where they can contribute. Once they get on board with your vision, they might be able to find some extra cash to help your event go smoothly.

The other option I found a lot of success with is asking your local community. Whether it’s asking them to sponsor one of the stations and have their name on it, or asking them to donate food, or having them sponsor giveaways, raffles prizes, gift cards. All of these options connect you to your local community, and really could be the start of a long standing relationship where you can call on each other to help each other out. Community members and community organizations and businesses love to connect to local schools. Who knows, maybe the local businesses or alum from your high school can be part of your advisory council in the future with this established relationship.

Let’s talk about a few different stations you could have for your senior decision day event. A food station, students love food. Who are we kidding? I love food too. Is there something unique that you can bring to your school like a food truck that everybody loves? Or a frozen ice stand? You know, like when were you pour those flavored syrups on top of ice? Or maybe it’s just something cheap, like little ice cream cups or popsicles? Just the element of surprise like, “What there’s a froyo station at school?” brings surprise and delight to any situation.

A raffle station. I mentioned this before when I talked about connecting with other community members, but you can get scrappy and get some local donations contributed for your seniors. I did this once with our staff Christmas Party and I even surprised myself by how much I got for free by just asking. No shame in my game.

I’m sure your school has done fundraisers, silent auctions, or events in the past where local businesses have donated, so it’s time to tap into those again. Let students give their best advice for that senior bulletin board that we talked about in last week’s episode as their entry. Or have them do a quick exit survey for you as their entry and get creative on how they enter but then use that as their raffle ticket so that they can be eligible to win some prizes.

Next up a photo booth. Everybody loves a photo booth. Set up a backdrop this could be a designated corner of the gym with balloons. Or you can even create an image on Canva and have it blown up and printed out as a banner to use over and over again. I’ve created a banner like this for a photo booth at college application day. And I know that you could do the same thing for a senior decision day.

Provide some goofy props. Don’t forget to include senior type things like a cap, and gown, a diploma, and costumes. If you have a volunteer photographer on hand, great, if not phones work too. Remind students to tag you so that you can reshare their pictures. Again PR for your school counseling program and memories for your students right here in this one station.

I have a resource at my TPT store for some college application day photo booth props that I think could work at a senior decision day too. Just print them out, glue some popsicle sticks to the back, and voila, you’ve got funny props for a photo booth.

A music station is up next. This could be a DJ or as simple as setting up a Spotify playlist in advance with speaker that your school already has. I find that music in the background sets an event up for less awkwardness. If we’re trying to set students up to have fun and have a memorable time we don’t want their memories to be lame.

Here’s a way to level up your music station that I am extremely obsessed with. Have a silent disco. This one would cost you the most money of all the ideas in this episode, but in my opinion is extremely worth it. I used a silent disco when I hosted a mindfulness day at my school. So, I mean, I know I’m a little partial to this because this is right in my ideal wheelhouse of fun. But let me tell you, it was epic.

If you’ve never heard of a silent disco, here’s what it is. Everyone has headphones on and a DJ or you with a playlist plays music in their headphones. It doesn’t disturb anyone else because no one else can hear the music unless they have the headphones on themselves. We did a check in checkout system with the headphones where students traded their school IDs for collateral because we didn’t want the headphones walking off and we honestly did not have any problems with the headphones disappearing. There’s definitely a curiosity factor with this for most students to mosey on over and check it out. It’s really fun people watching too if you’re not up for participating. There are lots of companies that package the materials up for you and make the shipping and the setup and return process really simple. The one that I’ve used before is called Silent Events, and I’ll link them in the show notes.

With these four stations. I hope this episode gave you some ideas for implementing a creative and memorable senior decision day for your senior students. Remember, start small and then build on it. Try something out and see if it sticks. Strategize on how you can start with a small budget and grow it larger each year if necessary. I hope your senior decision day becomes a cornerstone celebration for your students out of your school counseling program. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of High School Counseling Conversations. All the links I talked about today can be found in the shownotes and also at Be sure to hit follow wherever you listen to your podcast so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram. Feel free to send me a DM @counselorclique, that’s CLIQUE. I’ll see you next week.

Connect with Lauren:

Cheers + Happy Listening!

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