From the time we are aware of our graduation date, our view on walking the stage is framed with shimmering high school gowns and the iconic, synchronized tossing of caps.
In reality, cap tossing is not allowed, in fear that a corner of the sharply cut headwear will poke a graduate in the eye.
And the gowns, a symbol of 12 years of academic stress, are unshapely and unrealistic. There is always one student in a slightly off-color gown, unaware he or she doesn’t blend in, and remains the shuffling target for all eyes in the room.
The entire process is an unglamorous, unorganized clamor of getting everything you have forgotten in the last four years together for the ultimate ceremony.
If you are a dual-enrollment student, attending both high school and a community college, you may have noticed that the ending dates of the semesters conflict each other and leave a student confused and in question of their potential completion.
Personally, I had one class that I needed to pass in the last semester of my senior year, and it happened to be at Hillsborough Community college. Because Plant City High School did not recognize I was attending this college class, I received alarming yellow letters every week in the mail highlighting that my chances of graduation were slim. The print screamed with disappointment. I wasn’t going to receive my diploma.
Of course, I am on track to graduate. My guidance counselor knows this, and so does the electronic system that holds my fate. However, my mother did not. Every week when a letter came, she had a controlled meltdown and assured me that I needed to contact the office and everyone else behind a desk to make sure — yes — for the eleventh time, it was a mistake.
There are other holes in the graduation process you might fall into, as well.
If you are a student that has less than the maximum seven periods, you are destined to be left scrambling your schedule around for cap and gown pickups and end-of-the-year meetings for the last 18 weeks of your high school career.
For example, the pickup for cap and gowns is a short 30 minute block each lunch period. For the student that leaves school before lunch or comes after, this is scheduling nightmare and a time for “we are on school time, honey” explanations.
When I received my cap and gown package, I failed to notice the insulting 5-foot-1 label. I am not 5-foot-1. I am less than 5 feet, and I filled out the upper height on some form in a burst of vanity. But the process of requesting a correctly fitted gown is too much trouble. So rather than fill out many more sheets and wait with hope, I accepted that I will look slightly hobbit-esque when crossing the stage in front of my friends and family.
We can’t just have the new joys of being a senior (senior portraits, prom, the free hoodie). All those mistakes you made freshman year are brought back up with one automated phone call. Remember that biology book that disappeared from your locker two years ago? You are going to need to come up with $200 by next Tuesday if you want to go to the senior banquet. Did you mean to take that vet class as a science? It doesn’t count. You need to finish chemistry online in three weeks.
As far-off fantasies of the end of the year become solid dates and final grade point averages, the buildup to the ceremony increases in stress with each mark on the calendar. I think we all get that graduating is the official send-off to the real world, but maybe there could be a gradual bridge between the naïve fourteen year-olds that clutch binders and new adults with vehicles and mustaches.
Abby Baker is a senior at Plant City High School and a contributing writer.