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The eligibility, type and methods of awarding prizes should be resolved before the Grad Night event. The Prize committee should resolve who is eligible, what types of prizes, and how the prizes will be awarded.

There are typically six categories of Grad Night prizes:

  • Incentive Prizes: Awarded during the year to entice the graduates to attend Grad Night.
  • Game and Contest Prizes: Awarded to entice the graduates to try the Games/Contests.
  • Door Prizes: Awarded as an incentive to come to the Grad Night.
  • Grand Prize: A high value prize awarded as an incentive to stay the entire night.
  • Random Prizes: Prizes given randomly to make Grad Night more exciting and fun.
  • Grad Night Favors: Inexpensive prizes given to all graduates.

Incentive Prizes, Prior to Grad Night

Prizes are awarded weekly or biweekly prior to Grad Night to encourage early ticket purchase and enhance publicity. Only Grad Night ticket holders are eligible for the drawings. Suggestions for incentive prizes include:

  • Cash ($20)
  • Personalized campus parking space
  • Pizza Party
  • Movie passes
  • Dinner Coupons
  • Grad Night T-shirt
  • Tickets to Theme Parks
  • Coupons for video rental
  • Inexpensive Item (CD player, portable telephone, answering machine, etc.).

Game and Contest Prizes

Carnival and Games of Chance prizes should not be high-value items. Ensure the prize awards are setup to prevent the appearance of gambling. Keep in mind that some graduates will not (or are not allowed to) participate in the games of chance.


Some Grad Nights give raffle tickets as prizes for the games of chance. The raffle tickets are then entered into a special drawing at the end of the night to win prizes.

Some Grad Nights give "funny" money or Grad Bucks as prizes. The "funny" money is redeemed at a prize store or silent auction. "Funny" money prizes should be of equal value to discourage the graduates from playing the games of chance for the sole purpose of trying to get an item of high value.

Suggestions for game prizes include:

  • Stuffed animals
  • Stadium cups
  • Sweatshirts
  • Inflatable pool items
  • Beach sandals
  • Thermos jugs
  • Grad Night T-shirts
  • Grad Night coffee mugs
  • Boxer shorts
  • Funny hats

Contest Prizes

These prizes encourage participation in the various contests such as dance contests, hula-hoop, limbo, lip sync, Guest-How-Many, and photo identification.

Anytime the contest winner is a team of two or more persons, be sure to give individual prizes. Just because two people competed together doesn't mean that they will share the prize.

Consider giving inexpensive consolation prizes for non-winners of carnival games. Some businesses give product samples or ad products suitable for consolation prizes (soft drink coupons, model kits, cosmetics, product samples, etc.).

Door Prizes and Grand Prizes

Door prizes are typically large value items, which all graduates are equally eligible to win. Grad Nights typically award door prizes at the end of the party and require the winner to be present to win.

The Grand Prize is typically a high value item (s), which all graduates are equally eligible to win. Grad Nights typically select the Grand prizes winners at the end of the party and require the winner to be present to win.

Suggestions for Door Prizes Include:

  • AM/FM Cassette player
  • Phone answering machine
  • Concert or sports tickets
  • Cash
  • Luggage
  • Telephone
  • Golf clubs
  • Walkman radio
  • Popcorn popper
  • Bike
  • Watch
  • Gift certificates
  • Small refrigerator
  • Health club membership
  • Microwave oven
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Picture frame
  • Desk lamp
  • Body board
  • Typewriter
  • Dinner for two

Suggestions or Grand Prizes Include:

  • Cash
  • Fancy boom box/mini-stereo
  • Trip to a major theme park
  • Ski weekend
  • Concert tickets
  • Shopping spree
  • Color TV
  • Mountain bike
  • Stereo system
  • New or used car
  • Airline tickets
  • Computer

Random Prizes

Random prizes make the Grad Night more fun and exciting. Try any of the following:

  • Give a prize to every 10th, 50th, and/or 300th graduate to arrive.
  • Give a prize to the first 50 or 100 graduates to arrive.
  • Give prizes to those who find certain "items" at Grad Night (marked cup, chair, etc.).
  • Some schools design a grid on a page of the graduate's passport. Each square is for a certain area of Grad Night (like the casino). The graduates with the most squares filled in with a verification stamp from each area win a prize.

Grad Night Favors

Inexpensive favors are fun. The idea is for every graduate to leave with something.

Suggestions for favors include:

Yo-Yos Glow Necklaces Grad Night T-shirts key chains Grad Night mugs Grad Night hats "Goodie" bags (containing product samples, candy, gum, toothbrush and toothpaste, pencils, balloons, etc.).

Most Grad Night Schools

  • Give incentive prizes to entice graduates to purchase tickets before the Grad Night.
  • Award door prizes all night but distribute them only at the end of the Grad Night. The graduates must be present in order to claim the prizes.
  • Hold the drawing for the Grand prizes as the very last event of the Grad Night.
  • Give at least one Grad Night favor to each attendee.

The following two extremes are not recommended

  • Give no prizes at all. It's always fun to have a chance to win something!
  • Have a door prize for all attendees. This is not needed or expected by graduates.

Obtaining Prizes

Word to the Wise: It is possible to order customized items inexpensively. Consider joining with other schools to order items more cost effectively. Items might say "Class of", or "Grad Night All Night", etc. Some of the more reasonable items are pens, pencils, sun visors, Frisbees, mugs, and stadium cups.

Prizes are typically either purchased or donated:

  • Purchased from catalogs, warehouse stores, military exchanges, wholesalers, retailers, etc.
  • Donated by the community, family and friends, local clubs, religious organizations, local merchants, the media, professionals, government agencies, corporations, etc.

Establish Prize Rules

Ensure your prize committee resolves the following questions before Grad Night. These can be very difficult decisions for each committee to make depending on the differing philosophies of the committee members.

  • Will prizes be given?
  • When will prizes be given?
  • Must graduates be present to win the prizes?
  • Will "guests" (like spouses, foreign exchange graduates, etc.) be allowed to win prizes?
  • How many door or grand prizes can one individual win?
  • Will cash be given as a prize?
  • How will unclaimed prizes be handled?

Thoughts and Considerations

  • Publicize the rules for prize eligibility to the graduates, parents and volunteers.
  • Don't start the final Grand Prize drawing until all activities have been closed down and all graduates are in the area.
  • If cash will be given post-date checks or mail checks to winners.
  • Remember that Scholarships are typically more of a prize for parents of the graduates who will be paying the college bills. A scholarship is also of little value to graduates who do not intend to go onto college.
  • Provide a safe and secure storage area for the prizes. The prizes should be visible but securely stored.
  • Consider announcing winners on the PA system and/or a billboard with names displayed.
  • Consider putting a "From" tag on donated prizes so graduates will know who donated them. Some schools print thank you notes and have the winners sign them. The committee then mails them to the donors immediately following the celebration.
  • The question of favoritism usually arises anytime tickets are drawn. One way to eliminate this is to put the names of the prizes in one container and the names of the graduates in another. Draw one ticket from each container.

Final "End of Grad Night" Incentive

Consider allowing each graduate who stays until the end of the Grad Night an opportunity to pull one piece of real money from a moneybox as they exit the facility. Denominations could range from $1 to $50.