Senior Year Sticker Shock: Buckle Up for These 6 Expenses

What one mom wishes she had known about senior year costs

By Harlisha Homer July 31, 2023

Senior year is a big deal, not just for your kid, but for you too! 

I did my homework and read up on everything I could find about what to expect during this monumental time. From scholarships to prom prep, I thought I had it figured out. But senior year threw me a curveball: There were more expenses than I anticipated. 

Based on my experience, there are six expenses you can expect for your child's senior year of high school. 

Senior year is a time to celebrate and make memories, so focus on that and enjoy the ride. You've got an amazing kid, and together you'll navigate these expenses like a pro.

1. Say "cheese" to the picture-perfect pricetag.

Ah, the coveted senior photo! It's a chance to capture that special moment of senior year. Before you book the photographer who did your niece's pics, make sure you know what you're getting. 

What's included in that session fee? Are digital images or prints included? Can you change outfits? Will you have to pay extra for prints? Is there a minimum order? Asking these questions ahead of time will save you from surprise fees later on.

Joseph Calomeni | Canva

2. Plan a graduation gala... on your budget.

Have a heart-to-heart with your senior about what kind of celebration they want. Are they dreaming of a formal bash or a chill backyard get-together? Then take a peek at your budget and see what's doable.

Social media has a way of making us compare ourselves to others, so resist the temptation to compete with the neighbors. Plan early, stick to your plan, and don't worry about what others are doing!

 Pavel Danilyuk | Canva

3. Test for success.

Each time your kid takes the ACTs or SATs, there's a fee involved. And if you want to give them a little extra boost with tutoring, you'll probably need to shell out some cash for a prep course. 

But remember, it's an investment in their future!

 zimmytws | Canva

4. Adding up those college visits.

If your kiddo is planning to attend college, set aside some funds for those college visits.

If you're exploring nearby schools, it might just be a day off work and some gas money. But if your child has their sights set on faraway institutions, you'll need to factor in vacation time, flights, and hotel costs.

SDI Productions | Canva

5. Application fees that test your finances.

If your senior has the "apply to ten schools and see what happens" mentality, be prepared for application fees. They usually hover around $50 per school.

Some schools waive these fees if your family meets income requirements. Check with your high school's college counselor to get all the details.

 glegorly | Canva

6. Enough expenses to make your wallet weep.

Many high schools these days offer a graduate package, which sounds great, but it's not the end of the spending spree. You'll encounter things like ticket fees for sports banquets, choir fundraisers, senior trips, and the infamous "I need a new outfit for..." situations.

The expenses can seem never-ending, so talk to your child about your budget and start that savings jar now.

Monthira Yodtiwong | Canva