Once in a Lifetime: Prom

Maybe you are saving for big things. A trip, an apartment, a car, something you have been eyeing since you started working. Then prom season comes around, and the green dollar signs permeate the air above your peers’ heads. 

$100 prom ticket, $200 prom dress, $150 tux rental, $30 corsage, $30 boutonniere, $50 manicure… the list goes on. All the quintessential things you need to achieve the movie-perfect experience are, unsurprisingly, expensive. Not in this economy! 

At its core, prom aims to imitate a bougie atmosphere through middle-class means. But for some students, these expenses are not within their means. Despite what your junior or senior friends tell you, you should feel no obligation to attend prom—it is most definitely not a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience! 

Prom is expensive, and if you have long or short-term plans to put your money towards, it should not be necessary to sacrifice those goals for the sake of a dance party. 

According to a figure reported by Visa’s head of U.S. Financial Education in an ABC News excerpt from 2013, the price of prom had “risen to a nationwide average of $1,139,” with some variation between different areas of the U.S.

To no one’s surprise, inflation has driven up the prices of many products and services. For 2023, prom spendings will not be going down any time soon. And for what? All the preparations just to attend a five-hour event. For students, the costs may simply outweigh the benefits. 

Furthermore, unlike what many people think, prom is not guaranteed to be the most significant memory of your adolescent or high school years. Students setting themselves up for a fabulous prom outcome will only increase stress and decrease satisfaction, all in the name of a perfect turnout. And perhaps many students are only hoping to chase a  music video or film-inspired pipe dream. 

Many seniors forget there is a chance to have fun at Grad Bash, as well. Keeping an eye out for Grad Bash, a trip where students go to an amusement park together, could be wiser for many students. The total sum is less than prom and the school provides transportation by bus, too.

At an amusement park, there would be no pressure to dance and have fun. No pressure, and endless fun. With events like Grad Bash, there is less burden to be placed on making the most out of only prom. If you cannot make prom, there is still Grad Bash for a fun, memorable time with friends! 

Realistically, most students will not remember a third of the students from their graduating class. You yourself can make the opportunities to meet up with close friends and peers; you do not need prom to enjoy time with them. Getting lunch in your favorite restaurants, strolling through malls and having sleepovers do not require the extravagance of an expensive event to compensate for the fun. The when and where is not that important—who you are with is what matters most. If you want to make dinner reservations or hold fancy events down the line, feel free! But do not feel forced to make your high school allowances or wages stretch for one event.

While a fancy event with your dressed-up classmates will certainly be a significant occasion to remember, so will the smallest, silliest moments among your friends. No sum of money could ever replace these little moments that graduating seniors will cherish after high school. 

So, do not ever feel pressured to attend prom; there will always be opportunities to spend time with your closest friends and peers. 

Even though I do not believe prom is a once-in-a-lifetime event, I will be attending and participating in all the prom festivities. Against my better judgment, I have decided to exit my comfort zone and try to make up for missed events in high school. However, I already know no matter how much I enjoy prom, it will never be my favorite memory from high school. What I will remember are the moments I spent with friends suffering through otherwise dull classes, the new friends I have made and will keep, the teachers I had interesting conversations with and the few periods I took that have ultimately made me not want to give up on my education. Those are the majority of what I cherish.

Remember: if prom is not your forte, there is no need to force yourself to go just to follow the status quo. More is waiting for you beyond high school!

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