Hijinks and Headaches

by Amanda Milewski

What to Know About Senior Week

What two words stoke anxiety and apprehension in the minds of parents of high school seniors … standardized tests, graduation ceremony, job market, acceptance rate, or tuition payment? What about Senior Week?

Senior Week is when new high school graduates revel with abandon while their parents hope and pray that they have taught them well. The annual rite of passage lets young adults loose on the beaches and boulevards of Ocean City and other beach-oriented destinations.

Historically held the week following high school graduations, many students plan their post-graduation beach getaway in the fall and winter. By spring, many students have secured a place to stay, often with parents signing rental agreements for lodging. This year, county graduations will take place from June 3 to 6.

New high school graduates have participated in Senior Week — also known as Beach Week — for decades. Eldersburg and Ocean City resident Diane Rose recalls that she went to Senior Week in 1982, staying in a beachfront condo rented by one of her friend’s fathers.

Three days in, the dads received notice about a partying complaint filed against the girls. When the real estate agent discovered that the father who had signed the rental agreement wasn’t present at the condo, Rose and her friends were evicted. “The funny thing was that we had not done anything but sleep in the condo,” Rose confirms. “Although we went to parties elsewhere, we didn’t host any ourselves.”

Hijinks and Headaches What to Know About Senior Week 2024Incidents like this one still happen. “Unfortunately, I think some places say they’ll rent to seniors, and then they target them with some bogus claim to kick them out,” speculates Rose.

When Rose’s twins — a son and daughter — were seniors, Rose’s family owned a bayside home in Ocean City, so lodging wasn’t an issue.

Still, Rose explained that she and her husband, Steve, were very clear about the rules and expectations of staying in their home. They allowed each child to choose five friends and had a cookout at their house about a month before Senior Week to review the rules, sign an agreement and collect a $50 security and food deposit from each one.

“We felt like treating them like adults and expressing our trust in them helped them to make better choices,” Rose says. “None of the kids got into trouble while they were there.”

Like the Roses, Eldersburg resident Kristin Wilson’s daughter and her friends stayed at her beach house in Ocean City. “The girls (six total) signed a rental agreement,” Wilson confirms. All paid a rental fee.

“Technically, my building has a ‘no Senior Week’ policy, but it is hard to enforce when the kid is the child of an owner,” Wilson asserts. “I had the girls introduce themselves to the year-round residents who live in the building, and I asked (them) not to host a party or give the elevator code to anyone else.”

‘Chillax, Mom and Dad!’ — easier said than done

We’ve all seen videos where parents leave young adults loose to their own devices. It’s enough to cause any parent to worry, even those whose kids have an abundance of level-headedness and typically make good choices.

With accommodations taken care of, Rose recalls, “We really weren’t anxious about them going. We laid out strict rules and trusted they would be followed.”

The Rose twins went to Senior Week in 2007, and Wilson’s daughter went during the COVID-19 pandemic, which added another layer of worry.

“One of my biggest concerns was there not being enough places open for them to eat. I was worried about someone getting COVID and, of course, always worried about drinking and drugs,” explains Wilson. “Many times, Senior Week is the first experience our teenagers have with these things.”

Like many other parents, Rose learned about the partying after the fact but says, “Nobody complained, and no cops came to the house.” Another rule she made her children and those staying in their house follow was that “all keys went into a basket, and they were to use weekly bus passes for the duration of the week.”

Making memories, learning lessons

For all parents’ anxiety and worry, Senior Week can be a positive learning experience before young adults go to college or start a job. Detailed planning, coordination, cooperation, and problem-solving can serve new graduates well in the future.

“I believe it was a good learning experience and rite of passage to semi-adulthood,” Rose asserts. “When I went on my own Senior Week, I learned that I didn’t need to rely on others to have fun or a good time. I also quickly became resourceful at finding a place to stay when we were kicked out.”

Wilson agrees, “I think it is a great rite of passage; for many kids, it’s their first week away from their family alone as adults. I think they all learn something about themselves, how to live
with others and resolve conflicts, which prepares them well for college roommate situations and living ‘independently.’”

Of course, for most seniors, the learning process is an ancillary benefit since the first order of business is having fun. For 2022 Liberty High School graduate Julia Bassett, attending Senior Week was a way to have one more fun experience with her best friend before leaving for college.

Bassett and her friend, one of her first when she moved to Carroll County, stayed together in a hotel during their Senior Week.

Staying in a hotel with only one other person can head off some of the lodging and cohabitating issues, but many hotels won’t rent rooms to those younger than 21. Ocean City has hotels and inns that will rent to those younger than 21, although some require a parent to co-sign and a higher-than-usual security deposit.

Beach week (and even senior week) isn’t for everybody

Some new graduates have no interest in Senior Week at the beach or any Senior Week scenario, for that matter. Wilson notes that her current high school senior most likely won’t go because it isn’t his scene. Instead, the Wilsons plan to visit England to mark the milestone.

Garrett Blizzard, a 2023 Winters Mill High School graduate, opted for a Senior Week camping in Pennsylvania rather than a beach week in Ocean City. He and his twin brother and three friends, which included another set of twins, planned their camping week well in advance and didn’t consider altering their plans.

Blizzard recalls that the Senior Week trip celebrated how “we made it!” through 12 years of schooling. “We did regular camping stuff, cliff jumped and hung around the camper,” he explains. “Senior year was super overwhelming and stressful, and with track and field, it was a lot of pressure to do well and not let anyone down.” During Senior Week, Blizzard “felt like a million-pound weight” was lifted off him.

That feeling is likely shared among “Senior Weekers” no matter where they go — or even if they don’t. The apprehension and anxiety — which their parents know all too well — will come later.

Senior Week Safety

Explore these quick tips from a parent — yours truly — who has been there, done that times three.

  • Read the fine print before signing any rental agreements and paying the deposit. Some property managers and rental agencies seek any reason to evict high school seniors. You should know what behavior they expect from renters.
  • Encourage your new grad to take the bus instead of driving after arriving. During the Senior Week season, buses run 24/7 every 15 minutes. Stops are on Coastal Highway on every other block. A bus-tracking app can help with locating a bus location at any time. Also, pay attention to the number of cars allowed at the lodgings. Grads may have to carpool to get to the beach.
  • Tell your child who wants to walk to always cross at a crosswalk. Coastal Highway is a heavily traveled eight-lane highway.
  • Remind your child about the dangers of drinking and driving, walking and swimming. Ocean City has top-notch lifeguards who sometimes risk their own lives to save intoxicated people from drowning.
  • Caution your child about drinking from containers that can be easily spiked. Warn them not to accept drinks from others and ensure they open drink containers themselves.
  • Make sure your Senior Weeker(s) know about Maryland’s open container law. It prohibits open containers of alcoholic beverages in public, including sidewalks, parking lots, boardwalks, public streets, highways, alleys, beaches or any public property. Violators can face charges or jail time if caught, regardless of whether the drink is concealed.
  • Tell them to stay hydrated. Sun and heat exposure can make the effects of drinking alcohol worse, and staying hydrated can mitigate the fluid loss experienced from all three. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Ocean City, Maryland, offers several websites with tips for planning and attending Senior Week. For things to do and lodging rentals for those younger than 21, visit OceanCity.com/senior-week.