When I graduated high school in 2010, there was no such thing as college reveal parties. In fact, the only teens who made any sort of announcement were the top athletes in the area — by picking one baseball cap out of a pile, indicating their college choice surrounded by newspaper reporters — who were set to play sports at the collegiate level. As for the rest of us? We chatted among our close group of friends at the lunch table or excitedly told a trusted teacher or two.
But fast forward nearly a decade, and celebrating the important decision over dinner with your nuclear family has become a thing of the past. Now, parents are going all out by throwing their grown children soirees. What can you expect from such a party? Think of it as a beloved (or detested, depending on your school of thought) gender reveal for a teenager. There's usually plenty of cake, decorations, and a big announcement where the student shares their choice of university with their friends and family.
Recently, Marybeth Bock — a mom of two teenagers and a writer at the website Grown & Flown — spelled out the pros and cons of the latest trend in party planning.
"It's hard not to admit that those college-colored cake pops are actually adorable and that table display with hand-painted letters is very clever," she said. "If someone can afford to go over the top for this event — that is obviously important to them — who are we to roll our eyes and share that we think it's just ridiculous?"
"If someone can afford to go over the top for this event — that is obviously important to them — who are we to roll our eyes and share that we think it's just ridiculous?"
Fair enough! But unsurprisingly, not every parent embraces big to-dos or flashiness when it comes to their child's college decision. Furthermore, some moms and dads can't afford such an extravagant event, especially when tuition looms on the horizon. "But it's also easy to acknowledge that this trend is yet another opportunity for people to be a tad insensitive," explained Marybeth. "First of all, the indulgence of a college reveal party that is posted online is another in-your-face example of the disparity between the haves and the have nots."
For some parents like Dena and Jason Mielke from the Seattle area, this gave their family a time to toast to their son Carson's tremendous achievements. Not only was he the class valedictorian, but he also swam on on the varsity swim team and played soccer and the jazz trumpet.
After making two deposits at separate universities — he was waiting on word from the schools' respective honors programs — all he could do was wait to hear back, which gave his mom the idea for a college reveal shindig.
"It got so close to the date of his graduation party that I told him he should just do a college reveal party much like a gender reveal party," Dena told Today. "I think he was getting really tired of everyone asking him every day where he was going, so we thought we put a fun spin on it."
Once Carson finally heard back, Dena got to work decorating a large cardboard appliance box. "I wrapped a big appliance box a few days beforehand, and his grandma was the only one in on the secret," she explained. "She drove him to the party store that morning to buy blue and gold balloons — which signified he had chosen Montana State."
For Dena, throwing a college reveal party for her son was a rewarding experience. "So much stress goes into the senior year that this was just a fun way of saying, 'Hey, you finally made it! New adventures are ahead!'" she said. "He had worked so very hard for his four years that this was just a wonderful addition and a way to celebrate his accomplishments!"
Read through to get a look at how other families handled their teen's big decision.