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Your High School Reunion Survival Guide

Twelve strategies to make sure you have the BEST TIME EVER!

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illustration of different items from high school, high school reunion
Tara Jacoby
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I didn’t love high school. I was a tall, awkward nerd at a high school where the boys valued petite, bouncy cheerleaders. I crushed on cute boys from afar, buried myself in homework and goofed around with my fellow nerdy girls, never feeling that I was ever part of the in crowd.  

So, why go to my 40th high school reunion next month? Because I’m curious. Because I want to see how people turn out. And because I like to say yes to an adventure instead of no.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still feel like an awkward nerd. I polled some friends for their advice — a high school reunion survival guide of sorts. Here are the do's and don’ts if you have a reunion in the near future.

Do: Present your best self.

illustration of different items to help best present yourself
Tara Jacoby

High school reunions spur millions of diets, but even if you wouldn’t mind dropping a few pounds, focus on what you can control. Color your roots, get your nails done, get a blowout. Choose an outfit that’s flattering but comfortable. You want to look fantastic, feel fantastic and be able to bust some dance moves too (or not).

Do: Touch base with friends beforehand.

You likely have some social media friends from high school whom you’ve kept in touch with. If you’re nervous about not knowing anyone who’ll be at the reunion, reach out to learn who’s planning to attend. “Go on Facebook and see if any of these people have kids or if their parents are alive,” says Katie, 46. “And look at your yearbook beforehand for a crash-course refresher,” adds Stephie, 52.

Do: Keep your expectations realistic.

Single and attending in the hope of reconnecting with an old flame or finding a new love? Slow down. Instead, plan on connecting with people, sharing stories and having some laughs. If sparks fly for you, great. If not, you’ve still gotten out of your regular groove for a night or two.

Do: Think about what you’ll say before you go.

“Have three sentences about who you are and what you’re doing so you’re not caught off guard or stressing about what to say,” says Maureen, 47. Think beyond your work and family, she suggests. Are you into yoga? Did you just start woodworking? Are you on TikTok? Talking about your passions is a great way to connect.

Do: Ask questions.

“Ask people all about their lives now,” says Hannelore, 55. “People love bringing others up to date on their current lives.” But be willing to reminisce too — that’s part of the fun of the reunion!

Don’t: Assume people are like they were in high school.

“People grow,” notes Hannelore, “although a lot are still exactly the same!” “High school does not define you,” adds Jeanie, 59, who has never missed a reunion. “The labels from high school fade as you get older.”

Do: Wear your name tag.

illustration of name tag with name kelly
Tara Jacoby

“We all look different now,” says Hannelore. And if name tags aren’t provided, introduce yourself first, using your earlier name if it’s changed, says Maureen: “You may think someone will remember you, when they don’t.”

Do: Talk to everyone.

“We’re not in the lunchroom anymore,” says Hannelore. “The best conversations I had were with people I didn’t know very well in high school,” agrees Stephie. “The cool kids end up as losers, and the ones you underestimated oftentimes end up being the entrepreneurs and business owners. So, I didn’t limit myself to just close friends. I did, however, arrive with a friend, in case the experience was awkward.” 

Don’t: Get wasted.

Yeah, this sounds obvious, but don’t rely on liquid courage to feel more comfortable. “You don’t want to be the story for the next reunion,” warns Hannelore. If you plan to imbibe, sip slowly and drink plenty of water as well.

Don’t: Boast about your life.

“I was skinny and tan, which was great, but I dressed casually and comfortably,” says Stephie. “I was also open and honest about where I was in life and didn’t exaggerate my accomplishments. I’d say go and have a good time, though don’t get drunk and hit on your ex or turn into a mean girl and fall into cliques.”

Do: Bring your business cards.

“Reunions are a great way to network for work!” says Katie. “I know so many people who have gotten jobs or clients from reunions.” Even if you don’t bring biz cards, get people’s phone numbers or social media handles so you can stay connected afterward.

Do: Go!

illustration of woman walking to high school reunion
Tara Jacoby

“I would recommend that everyone go to a reunion,” says Jeanie. “I understand not wanting to attend if you’ve gained weight or had an ugly divorce or your life is not going the way you would’ve liked it to. Because there will be people there who will brag and think they’re better than you.“

But that’s not why you go to a reunion — to brag or to listen to other people brag. “The point in going is to see those friends you made in grade school. And then graduated with in high school,” says Jeanie. “Because those people know you like no one else does."

Have YOU attended a high school reunion? Let us know in the comments below.

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