Senior Couples Face a Tough Choice as Graduation Nears
The last few months of senior year mark a major milestone for every high school student. From the May 1st college commitment deadline to Senior Ball dates and summer plans, every senior has a lot of big decisions to make. Many also deal with another decision that necessitates a mature and well thought-out approach—the option of staying with their high school sweethearts or breaking up entirely.
High school couples, whether they have been together since before freshman year or just made it official during the second semester of senior year, must decide whether or not they should take a leap of faith and continue the relationship through college. Eventually, all high school couples face the inevitable question of going the distance or saying goodbye when graduation caps are thrown in June.
“For every relationship, this is one of the biggest decisions they’re going to make,” said senior Kate Avery, who hasn’t decided what she and senior boyfriend Drew Gaylord are going to do next year. “You have to take into account where you’re both going and know your relationship —how long you have been together, are you two really close, et cetera.”
High school relationships take on several more layers of complexity once the pair, or just one side of the duo, plans to head off to college in the fall. The big decision of staying together or breaking up is complicated by several factors.
If both seniors in the relationship are attending different schools, they must consider the consequences of a long-distance relationship. Movies like Sleepless in Seattle, The Notebook, and Going the Distance show the ups and downs of being far apart from a boyfriend or girlfriend.
“[Coming to a decision] wasn’t easy, we went back and forth on the idea. There were so many different aspects to consider,” said senior Tia Seltzer, will attempt a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, senior Chris Lee.
“We’re aware of the fact that long-distance relationships tend to be harder than they seem. It won’t be easy, but I honestly have no idea [how things will play out],” said Seltzer.
High school students often don’t have experience with long-distance relationships, so making the choice is an attempt at predicting the future. Nobody knows exactly what his or her college experience will be like, so deciding to try a long distance relationship is a true leap of faith.
“For us, we never really had that ‘big talk’ that many couples did. We only started dating a few months before I left, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into,” said Acalanes alumna and current University of California-Santa Barbara student Katie Records, who has been dating a current Alhambra High School senior since before her graduation in 2011.
“We had been together for a while before we made it official, so it was sort of a risky move, but I’d say it was worth it,” said Records.
In college, students are exposed to many new experiences, responsibilities, friends, places, and lifestyles. However, if a student is tied to a long-distance romance, he or she may feel limited in college. Luckily for Records, her departure has had the opposite effect on her relationship.
“People are shocked that I would want to be ‘tied down’ in college. [However], I see myself in no way tied down, because I can do the same things that every other college kids does with the exception of hooking up,” said Records. “I am 100 percent happy to have him because it is really hard to find genuinely sincere and trustworthy guys. I could not be happier.”
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case for every couple. If the level of trust and dedication is not equal on each side of the relationship, it can be a day-to-day struggle to remain jealousy-free upon seeing happy couples wandering campus.
“Without trust, there really is no way to make long distance relationships work out. I know I had trust issues in the beginning,” said Records.
Additionally, many college students will not have time for the responsibilities that come with a romance. As much as a relationship is supposed to be fun, it can only be successful if both partners put an equal amount of effort into the relationship. With the added factors of long distances and busy college schedules, this time commitment can be nearly impossible to uphold.
“We make it work by seeing each other every few weeks. We are very fortunate to see each other as much as we do considering the fact that many couples only see each other a few times a year,” said Records. “The hardest part by far is not being able to see each other and being able to trust one another.”
In high school, relationships can provide a security blanket for tough times or even offer a popularity boost. If the couple is not truly dedicated, the end of high school can mean that the relationship is simply no longer a necessity.
The sad truth is that many senior relationships do not last past the summer after graduation, as the distance essentially means growing up and growing apart.
As summer draws to a close and departure dates loom, tension mounts and final decisions are made. However, some couples realize that the end of senior year is the time to say goodbye.
“It got really rough when [my boyfriend at the time] didn’t get accepted to his dream school and realized he was going to DVC. We didn’t talk about it and he dumped me,” said senior Audrey Vogel, who split from her boyfriend before his graduation in 2011. “But we agreed that we were in different places in our lives.”
The decision is especially hard when the couple is split between two grades because it can be more or less one-sided. The senior in the relationship can feel stretched too thin with so many commitments, so it can be particularly stressful for him or her to have to make the decision.
Luckily for some couples, a friendship can grow out of the initial heartbreak.
“[My boyfriend] and I took a break from each other for most of the summer but come December we started hanging out a lot more and our friendship developed naturally from there. The break was beneficial because it gave us both a chance to move on,” said Vogel. “But he was an important part of my life then and I am glad we are a part of each other’s lives again.”
Nobody knows what the future may hold—high school sweethearts have been known to get back together. It may seem old-fashioned to marry the only person one has ever dated, but many adults in the Acalanes community can actually attest to this.
As Records and Seltzer prove, many couples do decide to attempt long-distance despite the odds.
Liz Pagano, Acalanes English teacher, married her high school prom date seven years after they attended the dance together.
“It was one of our first dates,” said Pagano. “He was a great date, and so we continued to see each other. It wasn’t like we were together forever from that very moment [on], but we worked it out. We did a lot of growing up and we ended up getting married.”
In any case, the decision to break up for good or to take up a long-distance phone plan relies on several components. Overall, it is a personal decision for each couple to consider. What is right for one couple may be completely wrong for another, but only time can tell what will work and what won’t. As seniors dip their toes in the pool of college life, they either decide to keep their water wings on to try to stay afloat, or shed the floats and learn to swim all by themselves.
“The bottom line is long-distance or college relationships are going to be tough, but there are success stories and people can make them work if they choose to,” said Avery.