Why I Stopped Publishing Senior Quotes

High School senior blowing a bubble with senior quote, "YOu can cahnge."

Unpopular opinion: senior quotes are problematic because they are unoriginal and full of risk. Before you click away from this perceived pessimistic view, put on your journalist hat and look at the facts. This position is not an anti-expression rant but a push to develop original, authentic content for our yearbooks. Here’s how I replaced senior quotes 15 years ago. 

Three Reasons To Start a New Senior Tradition

1. Participation and Originality

A struggle we see from advisers is a small percentage of students submit their senior quote. Those who do use a quote from a movie, song lyric, or timestamp, not their own thoughts. That’s not journalism. These pop culture references may have a place in a module or personality profile elsewhere in the book if it relates to your theme.

2. Vetting Process

Do you know the periodic table? Are you fluent in slang, TikTok trends, drug euphemisms, and veiled sexual references? Does your district have a hard line on what is free vs. hate speech?

3. Senior Quotes Can Equate to Bad PR

A quick news search for “yearbook senior quotes” yields myriad results of senior quotes gone wrong. Allegations of bullying in the yearbook and “unlawful accessing” the online editor abound. Schools have even cut the pages from their books due to the quotes in print. 

Ideas to Replace Senior Quotes

Thanks for sticking with me. Below are ways to celebrate the seniors on your campus and capture their voices (rather than Michael Scott’s).

By including activities with your senior portraits, you are showcasing seniors’ contributions.

Brag Sheets

If your seniors want to leave their proverbial mark, include their school contribution with their senior portrait. A Google Form listing all the activities, clubs, and teams offered on your campus makes it quick for students to click through. Partner with a department and ask for it to be the bell ringer or exit ticket for a day. 

You could also include class stats, such as athletic participation rate, percentage of students in leadership, and volunteer hours.

Carefully, Carla Zamora (12) and Dominic Hosley (12) examine the joints of their biomedical engineering project. They built and programmed the 263-piece working model to simulate the 27 bones in a human hand. “I’m into arthroplasty because so many people in my family have had joint replacement surgeries,” Hosley said.

Include More Quotes With Expanded Captions Throughout the Book

If your yearbook program is journalistic, it should have storytelling and reporting at its heart. Expanded captions include direct quotes. By using them, you are creating a yearbook full of original voices and senior, junior, eighth grader, etc. quotes. Here’s how it works:

  • Identification information: who is doing what when and for what purpose? (Use present tense.)
  • Secondary information: what is something you wouldn’t know from looking at the photo? (Use past tense.) This could be the result of the play or experiment pictured or the relationship between the students.
  • Quote and attribution: include a direct quote from the subject that adds emotion, opinion, or information that isn’t obvious. Identify the quote with last name (grade) said. 

Create a Survey Based on Thematic Coverage

Theme is king in yearbook. You selected it because it was the guiding story and look for your book. When you are developing your theme, create interview questions using this language.

For example, Rock Academy’s theme “Give + Take” yielded interview questions such as “What’s your take?” or “Give me five…” (songs, class activities, places you go on campus, etc.). Pro tip: use an idiom dictionary to search for such spin-offs for your theme.

Integrating quotes throughout your book makes all students heard. (Treering theme used: Spectrum.)

For their book “Speak Life,” Sequoia High had a running module throughout the book called “Speak Your Piece” with quotes from students about a specific moment. 

By offering 1/8 page ads for free and charging $75 for 1/4 pages, $120 for 1/2 pages, this yearbook team made $420 from this one spread of senior tributes.

Sell Ad Space

Yup. I said that. When you pay to play, there is a little more consideration and propriety. Some schools offer 1/8 page to all their seniors and give parents the option to pay for upgraded space. (You’ll have to get creative with the alphabetizing.) Others create a section with the index to feature ads. 

With Treering Yearbooks, families also have two free customizable pages that print only in their book.

Stay the Course

Full disclosure: my first year, there was a little heat from students and a petition. By year two, students (of all grades) saw their voices in every corner of the yearbook, and no one questioned it. The standard response became “We have senior quotes on every spread in the yearbook.”

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