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Prom: The Price of Exclusivity

Why an open door would lower costs.

Dustin Meltzer

Dustin Meltzer

Gabby Pais, Editor

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This year I attended prom as a junior, and I am really happy that I got to share that experience with a lot of my close friends; however, I understand why not everyone ends up attending.

Prom serves as a reminder to students that the school year is almost to a close. It is for this reason that many students find it imperative to attend, in order to have one last celebration before the senior class departs campus.

For many students attending, the prom is a final celebration before graduating, and for the underclassmen, it is the last time they can share a big experience with their older friends before they fill their shoes the following year.

Prom is also an iconic idea. In almost every television show or movie about teenagers in the U.S, there is a mention of prom or some dramatized interpretation of the dance.

Some of the desserts and snacks on hand at prom this year

To put it simply, prom is as American as apple pie or McDonalds. It is so heavily tied to our culture that it ranks higher than that of other dances of the same nature, like a homecoming or a winter formal.

The status prom holds is especially prevalent on boarding school campuses, including KUA, for the reason that there are international students seeking this iconic staple of American culture. To those students, as well as many American students, prom is an essential component to the fulfilment of the true American high school experience.

To others, however, this is not the case. Some students may find that a high school diploma and a handful of memories is all they need to graduate. Other students may think that prom seems fun, but they cannot afford to attend.

The expenses of prom are different from school to school, and from person to person; however, they all generally land around the same ballpark.

Anna Boden and Gavin McGough showing off their fancy threads

Female students attending prom can expect to spend around $300, including the ticket, dress, shoes, hair, and nails. Male students attending prom can expect to spend around $150 to $200 for prom, including the ticket, tux rental, and flowers. This may be one of the most expensive one-day experiences in a student’s year, and the value-for-money is debatable.

While there is a general minimum dress code for the event (boys must be in suits or tuxes, girls must not have too high hemlines or too low necklines), there is an outside pressure to want to look ‘good’, even your best, and not having the funds to meet those expectations may turn some people away. We all want to inspire awe and jealousy in our peers, hoping to hear whispers of “isn’t she gorgeous” as we step out onto the quad for pre-prom pictures; what we need to consider, though, is how much we’re willing to pay for this brief moment in the spotlight.  

Even if a student did decide to wear a dress and a pair of shoes they had already owned, the ticket for prom itself is sometimes too expensive for a student. Case in point, the ticket for KUA’s Prom was $80 this year, and many students felt that tipped the scales into extravagant expenditure.

For students who make their own money or who just can’t afford to spend money on non-necessities, prom may seem like too much money for too little time.

After students finish getting off the buses and into their dorms, that is it. The dresses are tucked away into closets to gather dust, and the tuxes are returned promptly to the rental places, to be worn by another teenage boy at another high school prom.

What students who are debating if prom is worth the money need to realize is, my advice is that as cheesy as it sounds, you can’t put a price on a memory. Or at least, there are steps that can be taken to ensure the memory is somewhat affordable. 

Jack Zhang helps himself to some of the treats on offer at the candy bar

The money a student spends is all put to good use; in order to make sure students have the best experience possible, high-end venues are booked and top-quality food is served. At prom this year, for example, there was a bar full of candy and goodie bags, a chocolate fountain, and a luxurious dinner.

It is true that prom can be pricey, but it is in that way a catch-22. It is pricy because the faculty wants to ensure a great time for those attending, and because they are selling to a smaller margin.

By selling tickets to just juniors and seniors, prom maintains its exclusivity; however, because it is only those people buying tickets, the faculty has to raise the price. KUA has to pay for the food, buses, the venue, and everything in between. In order to meet that cost, KUA uses the money made from the tickets sold.

In my opinion, the issue of cost could be mitigated by eliminating the exclusivity and allowing all grades to attend prom. It would lower the cost of tickets significantly, thus allowing more upperclassman to attend who otherwise couldn’t.

There are myriad events on campus that will always be exclusive for just the upperclassmen, like walking on the quad, senior tea, and the senior bowing trip – just to name a few.

A mix of all classes shares the dance floor

I feel as though prom does not need to fall into this bracket. A large number of underclassmen attended prom this year by being asked by older students, so in all honestly not much would be changed.

By including the younger students, more older students would be able to experience prom because the cost will decline significantly.

KUA is also the perfect school for a prom-of-all-grades. We are taught during our time here that we are not separated by grades. There are sophomores who take classes with juniors, and teams with students from all four grades.

If we are a community built around inclusivity, then why does prom have to be exclusive?

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Prom: The Price of Exclusivity