The high school senior tradition of college decision day is going to Instagram

Ahnieyah Owens plans to attend Bowie University in Maryland this fall By Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

(CNN) -- High school senior decision day.

Add that to the growing list of special days that have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Typically there's a day dedicated to revealing plans for what to do after high school. Whether you're joining the workforce or headed to a university or trade school, students will fill the halls on a designated day wearing gear from their next adventure.

Even though most schools are closed, students are finding other ways to continue the tradition: They've taken decision day to Instagram.

Students are asking their peers to submit their college, major and a photo so they can congratulate one another, virtually. The efforts are not school-sanctioned.

'We didn't get to say goodbye'

Lindy Feintuch, 18 is North Springs High School's student body historian in Sandy Springs, Georgia, and told CNN this project was a collaborative one with the rest of her student body government.

"Because everyone submits their own information, and it's not an account run by parents, teachers, the administrators or other adults, it feels more like a community effort for seniors only," she said. "Since school ended so abruptly, we couldn't really cherish our last days of high school and this Instagram page allows us to support and celebrate one another."

Feintuch said her school has around 360 students in the graduating class and she hopes that next year, the class behind follows suit. Photos have been populating the page since April 12.

"The stay-at-home order has been pretty difficult," she said. "It hasn't quite hit me yet that this is my last official week of high school because we haven't done any of the past school traditions of seniors. We never got prom, a senior prank, the senior walkout or senior olympics."

Feintuch said that not being able to say goodbye to her teachers and friends that she may not see after high school has been pretty disappointing. But her school is coming up with innovative ways to keep spirits high.

"Over the next few weeks, a few seniors at a time will come in the school and walk across the stage to get their diploma," Feintuch explained. "Everything will be video recorded and photographed to be put into a graduation video on YouTube."

Overcoming barriers of isolation

Rajiv Raman, 17, didn't create his school's senior decision day Instagram page, but told CNN he's proud of the decisions his graduating class has made.

Raman said even though most of his senior year was robbed from seniors at The Seven Hills School in Cincinnati, seeing everyone come together online in support of one another has been reassuring at such an overwhelming time.

"It's just kind of this unifying front which we can stand behind as a class," he said. "I felt really happy about it. It's just another way we've striven to overcome this barrier of isolation."

Raman said he had plans to visit Vanderbilt and Duke, but stay-at-home orders put a stop to that. Instead, Raman relied on virtual tours and lots of online research before making his decision.

"I heard that both are beautiful campuses and each amazing cities but I really wanted to go and visit them," he said.

Senior decisions have been filling the Instagram account since April 14.

Yash Gaitonde, 17, the student body vice president at Seven Hills, told CNN if he and his peers were in school, the senior class would get together to take a photo of everyone in their college gear.

This year, Gaitonde said they're organizing a lunchtime Zoom video call for everyone to still participate. Using the grid feature on Zoom they'll take screen shots and try to stitch together a group photo with everyone in their gear so they can keep the tradition alive.

Celebrating nevertheless

Most seniors will walk the stage at their high school graduation once. But Ahnieyah Owens, 17, a senior in Baltimore at Bard High School Early College told CNN she was looking forward to crossing more than once with her graduating class of about 125 students.

Owens earned her high school diploma and her associates degree and to commemorate the accomplishment, she said it's tradition to walk the stage twice.

She created an Instagram account for her senior peers after being inspired by other Baltimore-area schools. Owens said knowing how her school operates, she wanted this to be a student-led initiative.

"Making sure that we get celebrated at the end of the day is all that matters," Owens said.

Decision day was supposed to be May 1, according to Owens. Instead of celebrating at school, Owens said her family plans to wear their college shirts around the house to show their support.

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