Students speak up about the cost of senior year


Lydia Roseman

The above photo shows various items that represent some of the costs of senior year.

Public education is free, right? Not exactly. The local taxpayer provides the funding for the education itself, but there is a litany of items and events, especially for seniors, that cost money–and lots of it. These dollar-guzzling opportunities range from senior traditions like Mr. Longhorn to the college application process. 

The below graphic depicts an estimate of the cost that many seniors will pay throughout the school year. Not every senior participates in senior traditions like Powderpuff and Six Flags day, nor does every senior belong to an honor society, apply to a college with an application fee or even apply to college at all. According to college and career counselor Lauren Rowe, 72% of the graduating class of 2019 attended a four-year university. 

That being said, the graphic only accounts for the cost of the following:

  • one average-priced college application 
  • one fee to send standardized test scores to a college 
  • one SAT fee
  • one ACT fee

Many students will apply to multiple colleges and take multiple standardized tests outside of the district-funded test. Because of these costs and others like it, some students with lower-income families are upset by these costs.

Lydia Roseman
Graphic made on Canva

“I feel like the costs are not considered for kids who can’t afford things or whose parents don’t want them to buy things so they can save money,” an anonymous low-income senior said. “I didn’t buy a senior jersey because I didn’t want to spend that much money on a shirt that I’m probably never going to wear again. I would have to pay for it because my parents wouldn’t buy it for me because they’re trying to save money for my college.”

While college applications and costs can be stressful for all students seeking higher education, some families are more stressed than others about the financial aspect of college. There are programs that offer application and testing fee waivers to students on the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, but these waivers are limited.

“I’m trying to go into medical school, but it’s really expensive, and the schools that I’m applying to have application fees. If you qualify for free lunches, you automatically qualify for some fee waivers,” the anonymous senior said. “I think you get fee waivers for six schools and fee waivers for two or three ACTs or SATs outside of school. But, if you want to apply to more than six schools or take more than two or three tests, then you have to pay for those yourself.”

In regards to senior traditions, some students who cannot pay for Powderpuff, Mr. Longhorn, senior jerseys or other activities feel excluded from the fun of senior year.

“I feel a little bit left out because I won’t have a jersey, but I know I’m saving money,” the anonymous senior said. “It’s not that big of a deal for me, but I’m sure for students who want to be more involved in school than me, it would feel a lot worse. If every single one of your friends has it, but you don’t have it, you’d feel excluded.”

Not only do some of these seniors feel excluded from their class, but they often feel uncomfortable around their wealthier peers.

“It makes me uncomfortable because a lot of people don’t even give a second thought to that kind of stuff, while I’m thinking ‘Wow, I spent so much money on this,’” the anonymous senior said. “That thought is constantly in my head and being surrounded by people who don’t even give it a second thought makes me uncomfortable.”

More than their peers, these seniors have to learn to prioritize so that they can spend their money on what is most important to them and their families.

“It would be nice if people were more considerate of students who can’t pay for things because we have to save the money for other things,” the anonymous senior said. “$50 for a shirt versus $50 for a college application fee…I would rather spend that money on applying to college. Cost is constantly on my mind.”