A Reflection on Senior Superlatives

We all know that kid. That kid who dances to class; that kid who never stops talking; that kid whose face must constantly hurt from smiling so much. These students become school-famous for one distinct hobby or characteristic. And at the end of high school, in their senior yearbooks, they will likely be mentioned specifically because of that trait—they will receive senior superlatives.

Senior superlatives are a school tradition in which a handful of graduating students are chosen for different epithets. “Best Dressed,” “Cutest Couple,” and “Most Likely to Win an Oscar” are a few of the many superlatives for which a person can be chosen. A yearbook section like this can be a lot of fun—it’s flattering to be recognized for a particular characteristic or activity that you are passionate about.  

In theory, any senior could win a superlative. In practice, however, the event still tends to be known as a popularity contest. A more well-known senior who is a rather talented painter may be chosen as “Best Artist” over someone who is more introverted but was practically born with a brush in their hand. As a contest that is dependent upon voting, senior superlatives can often be unfairly subjective and exclude those who are not as popular.

The general purpose of this part of the yearbook is to put labels on certain members of the graduating class. While certain labels can have a positive effect on the receiving senior, they can also take the individuality out of a person. With a given superlative, the person chosen may think that they now have the responsibility to fulfill the award they won. The stakes would be high during reunions.

On the other hand, there are always the superlatives that a person does not want to be selected for. If chosen for an unlikeable or disagreeable characteristic, that person will still be stuck with the superlative given and continue to be known as the person who was “Biggest Flirt.”

But when things get serious in a contest for the best, the true meaning of this tradition is lost. Senior superlatives are meant to be a final send-off for the graduating class. Nominating people in the class for different characteristics allows graduates to remember the people they were with as well as the time they spent at the high school. The superlative given could show how much a person has grown, or how a trait has remained with a person throughout high school. In the end, senior superlatives are something to look forward to in the yearbook, and something to cherish when the graduating class walks out the doors of Princeton High School for the last time.

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