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Graduation Scrapbook Tips & Advice for that College Send-Off, From One Mom to Another

Menchville High School’s Class of 2013

There is nothing like JUNE and seeing those many high school and college graduation moments fly across Facebook to pull me back to the day I sent my first baby off to college. When my two girls were younger, I couldn’t imagine the day I would say goodbye to them when they went off to college! I mourned that day when I would be an empty nester.

And then, IT HAPPENED.

The dreaded TEEN years! The sibling bickering, the hormonal outbursts, the disorganized personal spaces – and it came to me that these teenage rites of passage were likely gifts from God to allow moms to not send off their kids with broken hearts but with JOY! At least, that is how it was for me!

That is why the morning my daughter, Zoe, was about to move into her college dorm at Radford University in Virginia, and she came downstairs for breakfast, pale and listless, with the teary words, ” I don’t want to go!”, I WENT INTO A CALM STATE OF PANIC. I was reading my morning devotional when this happened and how cool was it that I was able to share that devotional with her and God’s words were more than perfect! It was from a little book of daily devotionals called “Jesus Calling” and I don’t remember the entire message, only that it was about the sparrows – how if God cares about the sparrow who in Biblical days had little value, how much more he cares about us. After we read that devotional together, we prayed, and long story short, Zoe went off to college that day and seldom called us for a year!

If you are that mom who you are just devastated by sending off that first or last baby, please know that it is what you always hoped for them. We always hope for the best for our kids: success. Sending off our babies for that next step proves we have done well, so REJOICE they have made it this far and send a prayer of Thanksgiving. Start something new, just for you! They are enjoying life differently and now, so should YOU.

Here are some tips that I wish someone had told me instead of learning the hard way:

Tuition Matters.

If you don’t have money to help your grad to go to the college of their dreams, guide them to colleges that will have affordable tuition. Paying back debt is no joke. We planned for our kids and saved college money for them but not enough for them to go anywhere they wanted. They are about to be adults. It’s ok to share with them what money you were able to save, if any, and pertinent to show how much they will owe after graduation if they choose college A over college B.

A proud momma day. My first baby girl, Zoe, at her
high school graduation

Discount Books

Someone turned me on to an online bookstore called Chegg after 3 years of college. Books are crazy expensive, even used ones. When my daughter told me she planned to get some books from Chegg and the prices were so low I just KNEW that it must be a scam. Some were as low as a buck for books that, at the bookstore, were a couple hundred dollars! That was a decade ago and there are likely others out there now but wow, it was not a scam and it saved us hundreds of dollars. I just searched and the website is still there so check it out.

On-campus vs. Off-campus

When I went to college, my parents made me live on campus for 3 of the 4 years with the excuse that “it is cheaper”. So without running numbers, I insisted that my girls do the same. HOWEVER, what I learned was that it was MUCH cheaper OFF campus. I learned this late, hence, daughter 2 has way less debt than daughter 1. I am sure all college campuses are different but for us, it was dramatically cheaper to live off campus. Don’t worry. If you need to add a college meal plan so they won’t starve, you can do that but sharing an apartment or a house is cheaper and more comfortable, and for my girls, much quieter than living in the dorm.

Making Friends

For the first year, most schools DO require students to live on campus, and I see wisdom in this for socialization. For the extroverted, making friends is easy but not so much for those who are shy. As a shy person myself, I got wise advice my freshman year in college at Virginia Tech and passed this wisdom on to my girls. Those first few weeks, wedge your door OPEN to your room while you are in your room. That way, people will pop in to say hello and it is easy to ask, “When are you headed over for lunch?” I quickly made friends with nearly everyone on my hallway!

To Join Greek Life or Not

Reagan with many new friends after joining a sorority at ODU

Joining a sorority or a fraternity is not cheap. Zoe had NO INTEREST but Reagan did. Since it was in the budget, despite some preconceived notions that I had about Greek Life, I decided to let her go through Rush. For Reagan, it was a great decision. She quickly had a community of friends at Old Dominion University. The sorority held a higher standard on grades, on getting out and being involved in things, and even on committing to community service. She ended her time at ODU with honors plus a great resume.


There are a TON of scholarships out there to be had. Some are needs-based, some are academic, others are interest or major-based and some are just general scholarships. You can get them any year that you are in school. Many scholarships go unclaimed simply because no one applies. If money is tight, encourage your grad to apply for a few every semester.

Send Your Faith!

For those of you who have raised your child in a Godly home – get ready. They are getting ready to be sent off to an arena with a lot of others with contrary beliefs that will challenge their faith, values, and political views. This is not all bad but it sure is easy to lose your way. EQUIP them the best you can with a suit of armor!

Here are some things that worked for me…

This is Jennifer Haugh Ulsh. Jennifer was the baby girl in the family from college who “adopted” me. After 4 years, Jennifer was no longer a baby and I remember taking her to see her first concert, even. (Huey Lewis!) Today, she is all grown up with a family of her own and I know this because her momma still sends me a Christmas card with family updates every year.
  • When my girls texted or called teary with anxiety, I was equipped with prayer and scripture to calm them.
  • When I was at school, I was lucky enough to attend a church that had a college student adoptive program where a family adopted me and I could sit with them at church, dine with them after church, and was treated with exam care packages and more. Having a church family that I knew expected me in church on Sunday sure did help me to get home at a decent time on Saturday night and kept me focused on my faith all year long. I suspect that this is still a thing at local churches.
  • Send them off with a small scrapbook, one that will be a reminder of how special they are, what you value about them most, what their God-given gifts are, and how much you love them. Remember, self-esteem is so crucial in making wise decisions. Kids who believe in themselves will make far better decisions than those who feel a need to get attention in other ways.

Try to be aware of big events coming up that may cause them stress. For holidays, like Valentine’s, St. Patty’s, and Easter, which you would have done something fun if they were at home, send a little card or package to cheer them up. I loved sending homemade family specialties for them to enjoy and share! Tuck a favorite inspirational quote or scripture in the box.

Here are some of my favorite scriptures I would send to my girls. I remember thinking that they were probably thinking “blah blah blah” each time I sent them these, however on Zoe’s graduation when I came into her apartment, what was written on a HUGE chalkboard with LARGE CHALKY LETTERS? A scripture that I had sent! I am grateful for the wisdom to send my baby what she needed to get through a very stressful year of nursing school.

  • Jeremiah 29:11
  • Phil 1:6
  • Phil 4:13 (by the way, this is the one that was written on Zoe’s chalkboard when we arrived to pick her up for her graduation ceremony)
  • Prov 3:5
    Baby girl number 2, Reagan, at her high school graduation.

    I hope these tips will be helpful for you as you send off that special grad. For those who would like to complete a graduation album for your grad, below are some tips that will help with that, too.

    This doesn’t have to be time-consuming.

    Two Simple and Speedy Scrapbook Options

    Senior Year Only

    Include a double-page spread or two of just the more meaningful events. You may have to steal photos from your child’s phone as often these events happen and you aren’t there! Things like:

    • Homecoming (the homecoming parade, the game, the dance)
    • Senior Trip
    • Senior Skip Day
    • Senior superlatives
    • Pep Rally
    • Senior Banquet
    • Senior Prom
    • Graduation itself
    • Photos of some of the parties attended
    • A double-page spread of best friends
    • A double-page spread of trends for their years in high school

    For the 80’s, (in my scrapbook), it was IZOD, preppy pink and green, leg warmers, shoulder pads, big hair, NoworLater candies, Flash dance shirts (sweatshirts where we cut out the collar and tilted to show a bare shoulder??) Get the idea?

    A Comprehensive Album that Includes Their Whole Life

    Start with a baby portrait and end with a graduation portrait. Pull photos that will include a double-page spread of the following:

    Zoe, for her prom photo
    • Best friends
    • Pets
    • Immediate family and other important family members
    • Sports & activities involved in
    • Boy/girlfriends
    • Photos from homecomings, Ring Dance, and Prom

    Remember, ONLY one double-page spread for each category. You can add more categories if you want but to keep it simple, since you are spanning 18 years, think: QUALITY over QUANTITY.

    This scrapbooking collection called YOU GRADUATED will be a big help in any style of album you choose.

    This very inexpensive line featuring papers, stickers, foiled embellishments, and a cap and diploma punch is done in NEUTRAL TONES (blacks, whites, grays and golds) so that you can use the neutrals alongside your school colors to give it the perfect look.

    I am including some sample pages below that you are welcome to steal for your personal use. Some of the ideas I paired with the THIS LIFE BLACK AND WHITE paper pack because it was just too perfect not to! I also used the silver and gold shimmer pens for accents.

    The You Graduated line by Creative Memories is versatile for ANY graduation from elementary school, middle school, high school, trade school, or college. It is perfect no matter what your school colors are. Since all of the colors are neutral and typical graduation colors like blacks, silvers and golds, it is easy to add whatever colors to it to match the grad’s school colors.

    In this double-page spread, you will see I used the scallop blade to trim up the red paper with a border a third way down on the page. I love this very simple accent. The scallop blade is an extra blade you can get with your 12-inch trimmer by Creative Memories. It is one of our tools that I genuinely feel is the best on the market.

    The big balloon embellishment was already like that (except I used my gold and silver shimmer pens around the edges of some of the balloons to add dimension) and I added two more banner embellishments across the top of it and will save that bottom white area for a journal box. You will also see the mortar board/cap that I have accented with my silver shimmer pen to make it look 3-D and, of course, glittery!

    This layout makes a gorgeous title or end page. One of my teammates, Bev DeBono, from Madison, NJ shared this idea and I knew it would be perfect for a graduation book. You need to simply hollow out one piece of paper where you cut off a half inch around the perimeter of the paper. ( so the black and white pattern AROUND this page is that half-inch border we cut off the paper) The leftover square, you then cut down to 7×7, and that is the black and white diamond-shaped piece in the middle of the page. All the gold color you are seeing is there because I BUILT THIS LAYOUT ON A GOLD SHIMMER PIECE OF CARDSTOCK. Now, for the corners. Crazy simple. Cut TWO 5-inch squares, stack them and cut on a diagonal. Cut two 4-inch squares, in a different color, and stack and cut on the diagonal. Take all of your triangles so that the bigger ones are stacked with a smaller one on top to get the purple/white corners seen here. Last, add your fun oversized embellishments in one corner, two like I have done, or all four! Another teammate, Melissa Fago from Suffolk, Va has done this same layout by adding embellishments in all four corners with Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer icons in each corner for the title page of her family album.

    This idea is fairly simple. I used the woven scallop border maker cartridge for the border but had to use a little bit of a different strategy to punch it. Here is a video on how to do it. Adding the blue and gold accents makes this the perfect color combination for a local school here in Hampton Roads, VA. I also used the cap and diploma punch for the white embellishments along with my gold shimmer pens. If it appears that my embellishments are popping off the page, it is because I LOVE the adhesive Foamsquare pads and use them on almost every page. They are an inexpensive way to make things POP.

    This page is super basic with just some strips and mats but I hope you have noticed on this page as well as on others how the oversized embellishments with all of the foiling just makes you say, AHHHH. I also love how they left off the date on the CLASS OF embellishment so you can sketch in the graduation year or add sticker numbers. I have found that when I use big chunky embellishments that I need to decorate less which saves me time and money. I also pulled in that black/silver geometric paper from the THIS LIFE Black and white paper pack.

    I hope this got your creative juices flowing and gave you some inspiration for completing a graduation scrapbook album of your own. You may want to snag this gorgeous foiled album cover for this project or consider doing a custom album cover.

    I appreciate you so much for reading my blog and hope you will pass it on to anyone you think could benefit from it.

    Blessings to you!

    Beckie Belote

    Shop or Join my CM team at

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