Tag Archives: senior year

High School Senior Pranks

Main Piece

My informant explains that her old high school has an age-old rival high school in the same city. She remembers that the graduating seniors of every year would perform a prank on the rival school, and the rival school would do the same. These pranks were usually harmless, but sometimes costly to recover from. She remembers that in her senior year of high school, a few seniors from her school dyed the rival school’s pool purple, which was her school’s colors. The rival school, looking for revenge, threw two queen-sized mattresses in her school’s pool, which absorbed a large amount of water, making it impossible to lift them out of the pool without a crane. She laughed as she recounted these memories to me.


My informant is a college student studying Business. She was school spirited in high school and claims to have always participated in senior activities with her classmates. She explains that nobody she asked could remember how the rivalry between the two high schools started. However, according to my informant, it is not hard to draw conclusions. Both schools were located in the same small suburb of Los Angeles, ranked academically high, and held strong sports teams. She concludes that these factors may have caused, in her own words, this “friendly, but not-so-friendly” rivalry between the two high schools. She explains that in addition to the senior pranks, there would be one school day out of the entire academic year dedicated to pep rallies and parties to encourage the football team to beat the rival school later that day. She explains that these schools were rivals in every way, but her favorite part of the rivalry was the senior pranks.


These senior pranks are performed by high school seniors. Faculty members knew about the pranks and were aware of the plans for the pranks, but never interfered with them unless they saw a safety issue or a health hazard that could possibly result from the pranks. Usually, these pranks were performed later in the year, when most seniors suffered from “senioritis” and would rather organize pranks than do any more schoolwork. 

My Thoughts

I attended the same high school as my informant, and can attest to the large-scale rivalry between these two high schools. The pranks that the seniors performed were generally creative and inventive, but the pranks were not as important as the act of organizing these pranks. Students came together after school to meticulously plan their pranks to perfection. This goes to show that the prank itself was not important. The value of this tradition came from the act of coming together. 

High school seniors are in a liminal period. They are transitioning from their identity as a student to their identity as an adult, whether they enter the workforce or go off to college. Senior pranks are a form of rite of passage. According to French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep, practical jokes and pranks such as senior pranks are performed during these liminal times to ease the tensions and anxieties that come with the transition. Thus, we can conclude that senior pranks were a way to smoothen the transition from student to adult for high school seniors. 

Water Assassins

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: You remember that game we played in highschool, water assassins?

Informant: Oh yeah! How could I forget? That shit was so much fun, dude. 

Interviewer: you think you could explain a bit about what the aim of the game was?

Informant: for sure, we basically just got the entire senior class to get into teams of 5 or something like that and then we all got a target who we had to eliminate by spraying them with a water gun. Whoever got the most eliminations moved onto the next round and then whoever got the most by the end won the whole thing and then a pot of prize money.


My Informant is a 21 year old male who has lived in California for over 20 years. He originally lived in Utah, but moved too early to remember it there. He has very liberal views and works a full time job. 


I spoke to my informant over a zoom call during the 2020 Coronavirus epidemic. 


I think the idea of water assassins is great. It gets everyone in the entire senior class involved and makes them actually think of strategies and plan ahead for how to win. It is also interesting to see how far-reaching this trend is, as i have heard of people playing this as far as the east coast and even in the UK. 

“Hotchkiss Seniors”

There are separate things for juniors about to be seniors, and then for seniors about to graduate.

Juniors becoming seniors, we did senior dinner. It’s not super memorable or anything… First, all the girls get really dressed up and we take pictures on senior grass. We all just get assigned tables set up on the senior grass, each table with one faculty member and we all eat dinner… and there’s a couple of student performances, like dances/singing, that kind of thing… It’s happy; it’s basically the formal event where everyone gets stoked to be seniors…

When it’s the night before graduation, the graduating seniors do confessions and senior streaking.

We sit in a bigger room together and have “confessions,” where everyone can just say what they wanna say. We’re in this big room in a circle, and everyone takes a turn presenting whatever it is they wanted to say. It can be a confession, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be anything someone needs to get off their chest before graduating. And everyone sits around and listens, surprisingly respectfully. Then right after the confession is when we do senior streaking…

Senior streaking—so everyone runs around butt naked. It’s very bizarre. Everyone (participants aka seniors, and spectators aka everyone else) just kind of knows it’s gonna happen, but they just pretend like it’s not… And then we get on senior grass—we have a patch of grass that’s just for seniors—and then we take off all our clothes together, at the same time, then we all run in a loop around campus together, like by every dorm… and everybody else in the dorms is watching. And then once we’re done with that loop, we all go back to our respective dorms. And it’s awkward because everyone has seen us naked now… but it’s the night before graduation, so the question of “who cares?” is already implied.


How did you come across this folklore: “This is a boarding school tradition, but I don’t know if it’s just Hotchkiss that does it.”

Other information: “I don’t know how people find out about these, but they’re some of those things where your participation is mandatory and somehow you manage to a) find out about it in time, and b) go through with it, maybe because you just have to.”

This is another senior ritual, of which there are probably a virtually infinite amount, that emphasizes the liminal period between seniors and non-seniors, between high school and the “real world.” During this time period, it becomes more acceptable to do things that are otherwise tabooized in society (for example, streaking…), leniency toward seniors increases, and they are able to bond through crossing these societal boundaries.

Senior Skip Day

So Senior Skip Day is a Punahou tradition. So the seniors are required to skip school but we have to meet certain prerequisite requirements before we’re allowed to go, like all your books that are due at the library have to be turned in—you can’t have any library fines, all your work for your classes has to be turned in, etc…

And for some reason if you can’t go or don’t want to go, you have to get a form signed. So Senior Skip Day basically everybody has the same Senior Skip Day T-shirt and is wearing it… and you load up on the buses on the last instructional day of school and as a class you ride out to La’ie to the White Estate and basically have a picnic day…

I mean I don’t know what the fuck to call it… The about-to-graduate mini-vacation for the actual seniors portion isn’t the interesting part… So on that day all of the juniors (because it’s the last instructional day and the seniors are gone), all the juniors make shirts, “senior shirts,” which each group makes and they wear them to show that they’re seniors as well as what group they’re in.

And everybody from freshmen to juniors, that’s when they choose their spot to sit at for the next academic year. So people will sometimes come to school at 6 in the morning or earlier…

What used to happen—it stopped on our freshman year—was freshman prank day and that was when the juniors used to prank the freshmen… Our freshman year we had a crazy bitch, named Ilima (she was captain of the women’s wrestling team, covered in tattoos and piercings, known for her… “intensity” and hate for a certain group of girls in our grade)… and she took things WAY too far, managing to instill fear in all 400 students of our entire freshman class, even though for the most part everyone came out unscathed…

And if you’re wondering about the sophomores, the sophomores basically have nothing to worry about that day; they have zero responsibility. But to ensure that none of the freshmen get hurt (I mean, “pranked”) anymore, the deans set up a popup tent in the middle of the quad… and they take turns watching the Academy and escorting students to class themselves to make sure that nobody pranks the freshmen. Like if you’re known to be “targeted” by that year’s juniors, you can tell a dean and ask for protection… Which means that everyone only gets sneakier, so I guess the new tradition is to try to prank the freshmen without getting caught by the deans. That’s all I remember…


How did you come across this folklore: “it’s one of those unsaid traditions, I actually have no idea how I found out about it… you just “hear about it” as a freshman and you participate until you’re a senior when some things get officialized but really everything you do is up to you. You do what everyone else does/has done.”

Other information: “What happened our year, this kind of thing becomes infamous when certain people take it too far…”

I would be surprised if there were a lot of high schools that didn’t have some kind of event like Senior Skip Day, something to ritualize the liminal period between high school and not (graduation/college/the real world, etc.), or the junior-senior bridge (underclassman vs. upperclassman), or something that otherwise distinguishes seniors from the rest of the student population. It’s a time when people are allowed to make trouble, do things they usually don’t, and don’t know which group they belong to… yet everyone else, even those not going through the same transition, play along in a way and mark it as well.