Behold, the Real Difference Between Homecoming and Prom (2024)

From picking a first day outfit to purchasing a cute new backpack, back-to-school season is filled with exciting moments that help you say farewell to summer and hello to a new year. But one of the best parts of the first semester is prepping for homecoming, aka the first big bash of the school year. The dance typically takes place in September or October, but really, you can start getting ready for the special night months in advance (like now, if you want). Whether you’re on the homecoming committee or just want to make it a perfect night, you need time to figure out all the HoCo details, including what to wear (ofc) and how to ask your crush to the dance.

But have you ever stopped to think about what this whole homecoming tradition is all about? When was the first homecoming, and what’s the story behind the big game and the quirky traditions like homecoming dance themes? Most importantly, what does homecoming even mean? Below, we break down everything you need to know about the long-standing tradition of homecoming.

So... what is homecoming?

Every high school has their own homecoming traditions, and depending on where you live and what school you go to, homecoming can mean a lot of different things. It may, quite literally, mean a “coming home” of sorts, an opportunity for your school’s alumni to visit their old stomping grounds and see old friends, teachers, and underclassman.

Sometimes, homecoming consists of a week of events, including a pep rally, parade, and a big football game that’s typically a match-up against your school’s rival. (TBH, if you’re not a huge sports fan, it may be the only football game you’ll go to all season.) Among the festivities, a homecoming court is often crowned, with the nominations of homecoming kings, queens, and other royal titles.

But the main event — the piéce de résistance of any school’s homecoming — is the dance. In the most traditional format (shown in most on-screen portrayals of the event), homecoming resembles a dance much like prom... but, more like a baby prom. You’ve seen it play out in all the best high school dramas, including Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale, and Vampire Diaries.

How is homecoming different than prom?

In recent years, as homecoming has become a bigger event, it’s started to resemble prom more and more. Homecoming proposals have become more elaborate, mimicking the creative signs, cute treasure hunts, and yummy treats that now seem to come with every promposal. But there are some major differences between homecoming and prom.

First, the obvious distinction: The two dances come at different times of the year. While prom often marks the beginning of spring and the end of the school year, homecoming, which often takes place in September or October, doubles as a kind of welcome-back-to-school event.

Homecoming is also much more inclusive than prom. At most schools, prom is open only to seniors and sometimes juniors, but homecoming is for all — including the underclassmen, meaning you can start enjoying the festivities as a freshman.

Finally, homecoming tends to be more casual than prom. While some schools go all out and throw prom at an event space off-campus, homecoming is usually held in the school’s gym. Some schools have a more casual dress code for their homecoming dances, where jeans and a cute top will suffice, while others require a dress or suit for the occasion. Even then, the dresses are usually short and the suits are more chill, compared to the gowns and tuxes some will rock for their big prom night.

What’s the history behind homecoming?

According to Billboard, homecoming is an American tradition, which explains why Britain native Charli XCX was so thrilled to perform at a lucky California high school’s homecoming dance back in 2014.

Homecoming began at colleges as a celebration for the first football game of the season, where alumni would come back to visit their former campuses. According to Vice, while no one is positive which college officially started the tradition, the University of Missouri, Baylor University, and the University of Illinois all claim to have began hosting homecoming events in 1911, 1909, and 1910, respectively. No matter who started it, the tradition spread quickly to other colleges and high schools around the country and has become the fun-filled occasion it is today.

Behold, the Real Difference Between Homecoming and Prom (2)

Carolyn Twersky

Associate Editor

Carolyn Twersky is an associate editor for Seventeen covering celebrities, entertainment, politics, trends, and health. On her off time, she's probably watching Ru Paul's Drag Race, traversing NYC for the best donuts, or, most likely, enjoying time in her favorite place in the world: her bed.

Behold, the Real Difference Between Homecoming and Prom (3)

Leah Campano

Associate Editor

Leah Campano is an Associate Editor at Seventeen, where she covers pop culture, entertainment news, health, and politics. On the weekends, you can probably find her watching marathons of vintage Real Housewives episodes or searching for New York City’s best almond croissants.

Behold, the Real Difference Between Homecoming and Prom (2024)


Behold, the Real Difference Between Homecoming and Prom? ›

Homecoming is typically held in the fall, while prom is held in the spring. Homecoming is also a more casual event than prom, and it is typically held on school grounds, whereas prom is held at an off-campus location. Another key difference between homecoming and prom is the attire.

What's the whole point of homecoming? ›

Homecoming is the tradition of welcoming back alumni or other former members of an organization to celebrate the organization's existence. It is a tradition in many high schools, colleges, and churches in the United States, Canada, and Liberia.

What's so special about homecoming? ›

In some traditions, it's a “welcome home“ celebration for school alumni shared with the rest of the school, sometimes over a week or weekend. For many high schools, it's a time-honored tradition that combines sports, school spirit, and social activities into an exciting week of festivities.

What happens in homecoming? ›

Although traditions may vary by school, it is typically defined by a football game followed by a semi-formal dance. There may even be a parade or a school spirit week in conjunction with the occasion. Some schools may also use it as a time to welcome back alumni for a special dinner or reunion.

What is the point of prom? ›

Prom, short for promenade, is a semi-formal dance usually held toward the end of high school. It's a celebration and final send-off for graduating students before they embark on their next journey. Typically, prom takes place in late spring and is often considered a rite of passage for teenagers.

Why is homecoming such a big deal in America? ›

While heightening school spirit may be the main reason to celebrate Homecoming, with the week culminating in a pep rally to excite the football team before the big game, its benefits extend far beyond that.

What's the difference between prom and homecoming? ›

Homecoming is typically held in the fall, while prom is held in the spring. Homecoming is also a more casual event than prom, and it is typically held on school grounds, whereas prom is held at an off-campus location. Another key difference between homecoming and prom is the attire.

What does the guy get the girl for homecoming? ›

Corsages. According to tradition, the boy is to buy a corsage for his homecoming date. The couple can go to the floral shop together to select a corsage to match her dress color and style.

What is the objective of homecoming? ›

The purpose of homecoming was to welcome back alumni to their alma mater for a football game and other festivities. The first homecoming event was held in 1910 at the University of Missouri, and it quickly became a popular tradition at colleges and universities across the country.

What is the etiquette for homecoming? ›

Getting Dressed Up

My experience is that for Homecoming the boys wear a suit coat, dress shirt, tie, dress pants (with a belt!) and dress shoes. The girls favor short co*cktail type dresses and shoes with heels higher than it seems possible to walk in.

What is appropriate for homecoming? ›

A guy should wear a suit with a matching necktie, socks, a white button-down shirt, or even a tuxedo. Girls need to wear floor-length dresses, co*cktail dresses, or a little black dress. They should all have appropriate knee length and closed necklines.

What grade do you have to be in to go to homecoming? ›

Homecoming Grades

Unlike Prom, Homecoming is an event for every student in High School to participate in, usually grades 9, 10, 11, and 12th. Homecoming doesn't just include the dance, but usually some form of a Spirit Week and a sporting event.

Why do girls take prom so seriously? ›

It may sound cheesy, but prom marks the day of getting into adulthood, indicating that the teen has passed high school and is now graduating to another stage. Prom is a unique way to celebrate this transition.

Why is prom so important to girls? ›

The whole purpose of prom, or any school-sponsored formal, is to give young people the chance to develop their social skills.

What is prom short for? ›

Although prom in its precise definition is short for promenade dance—a formal dance party for high school students held toward the end of the school year—there are several other activities that typically take place on prom night, including group photo sessions, dinners and afterparties.

What is the point of view of homecoming? ›

Point of viewThe narrator speaks in third person, divulging Dicey's perceptions, thoughts, and emotions. Other characters are portrayed from the outside, according to Dicey's perception of them.

What is homecoming in 13 reasons why? ›

Homecoming Football Game was a football game between Liberty High School and Hillcrest High School. The football game was interrupted by Hands Off Our Bodies to protest sexual assault in jock culture. A Hillcrest player grabbed Jessica Davis's breasts, which caused a fight between the football players.

What is the essence of homecoming? ›

Homecoming's essence is rooted in its unifying power, drawing people together through shared school spirit and pride. It fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie among students, alumni, and the community, reminding them of the shared experiences and values that bind them together.

What does homecoming mean? ›

: the return of a group of people usually on a special occasion to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home. especially : an annual celebration for alumni at a high school, college, or university. often used before another noun. a homecoming rally.

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