Many stories feature a principal cast that is primarily made of children or teenagers, and many such series therefore spend a good amount of time with these characters in school. When these stories end, it's common to send the cast off in a grand fashion by having them graduate from their present school level. As the big day approaches, characters meet to talk about where they're going next, reminisce about the good times together (such finales are often part ClipShow, allowing the audience to relive those moments), or just have one last great bash before they graduate and all (or some) go their separate ways. These are especially poignant when the characters are in High School, as it adds an extra layer of the cast passing into adulthood and really starting their lives on their own. This ending may also be combined with AndTheAdventureContinues as the group finishes the ceremony and sets off on their last summer together.

This is sometimes even reversed: In stories set in a summer camp, the separation is brought about by the ''beginning'' of the school year, rather than the end.

This is TruthInTelevision, as many school friendships are broken up (at least partially) as the group's members go to different schools in the new year. Even when friends keep in touch afterward, a good portion of their time together is cut short as they no longer attend the same campus.

This combination of shared accomplishment and impending separation usually makes these {{Bittersweet Ending}}s.
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!!Examples:

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[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/AzumangaDaioh'' concludes with the girls having graduated and passed their college entrance exams. During Chiyo's internal monologue, she says even though they'll be soon be going their separate ways, they'll remain in each other's hearts. It ends with a still frame of them heading to the Magical Land amusement park, [[OneLastFieldTrip for old time's sake.]]
* ''Franchise/{{Jewelpet}}'' ends like this in its [[Anime/JewelpetTwinkle second]] and [[Anime/JewelpetSunshine third]] seasons.
* ''Manga/KOn'', though there are two bonus episodes that follow to allow the audience a little more time with the cast.
* In ''Anime/MaiHime'', several members of the cast, including Shizuru, Haruka, Reito and Takeda, graduate from Fuuka Academy in the last episode. Shizuru even jokes about deciding not to graduate so that she can stay behind with Natsuki, who must do make-up work lest she be forced to repeat a year.
* ''Anime/OjamajoDoremi'' ended with the characters graduating from ''elementary'' school.
* This is the reason why ''Anime/PrettyCure'' invokes ComicBookTime: ''Anime/YesPrettyCure5'' had Komachi and Karen on the verge of graduating and since ''Yes'' got [[Anime/YesPrettyCure5GoGo a sequel]] and they wanted to keep the same cast...
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[[folder:Film]]
* ''Film/{{Grease}}''. [[FanonDisContinuity What other movie?]]
* ''Film/HighSchoolMusical'': The third movie ends with their graduation, although [[SpinOff Sharpay isn't gone for good]].
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[[folder:Literature]]
* This is subverted by the ''Literature/HarryPotter'' books, which is notable in light of it being a school-based series, with one book for each year at Hogwarts, and most readers were probably expecting a graduation ending. Instead, in the last book Harry, Ron, and Hermione drop out of school to fight Voldemort. The book ends with the FinalBattle, followed by a brief DistantFinale. (According to WordOfGod, Hermione resumed her education after the Final Battle, but Harry and Ron didn't.)
* The Creator/ChristopherPike ''Final Friends'' mini-series ends with high school graduation.
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[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* Averted with ''The College Years'', as the show was cancelled after a season. Conversely, ''The New Class'' took the trope to its logical extreme by having Mr. Belding retire as the students graduated.
** The various ''[[FollowTheLeader Saved By The Bell]] [[RecycledInSpace Meets [X]]]'' shows played with this trope - ''Hang Time'' & ''Saved By The Bell: The New Class'' subverted this due to RevolvingDoorCasting meaning several characters were written out with this an excuse, ''City Guys'' on the other hand played it straight.
* Subverted in ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' despite graduating and blowing up their school on the [[HellGate Hellmouth]], the driving force of the story, at the end of the third season no major character has this happen to them. Three end up in a ({{spinoff}} series Series/{{Angel}}) and one [[PutOnABus leaves shortly after]], but none leave because they graduated.
* ''HeadOfTheClass''
* ''Series/BigWolfOnCampus'' ended (save for a finale ClipShow) with the main characters graduating high school. While it seemed like this would break up the gang, Merton decided to switch schools and room with Tommy, and Lori wasn't far away.
* ''Series/{{Skins}}'' series 2. The third series featured a new cohort, including the former RecurringCharacter of Tony's little sister Effy.
* ''TheYoungOnes'' ends with the boys receiving their university results - "You have come last out of everyone in the world" - then deciding to [[spoiler:abandon the everyday world and hit the road (before [[KillEmAll crashing over a cliff and dying]])]]
* ''Series/EvenStevens'' ended with TheMovie, in which Ren graduated middle school and went on to high school, but due to {{Dawson casting}} it felt like a high school graduation.
* ''Series/TheFreshBeatBand'' ends with the titular quartet finishing music school. They're old enough to have been in college, but in light of a preschool audience, what we actually see is nothing like it.
* The [[Series/TheSuiteLifeOfZackAndCody Suite Life]] series ended this way too.
* ''BlackHoleHigh'''s series finale takes place right before and through graduation.
* Happens often in ''Series/{{Degrassi}}''. This serves [[RevolvingDoorCasting not only to let other characters leave but also to let in new characters]] (freshmen). Many of the original characters graduated in seasons 6 and 7.
* An odd case concerning ''Franchise/PowerRangers''. In ''Series/PowerRangersZeo'', Billy ends up graduating early from high school due to his incredibly high grades. He later leaves the show. The rest of the team graduate fully in the first episode of ''Series/PowerRangersTurbo'', but don't officially move on from the show until halfway through.
* Happens at the end of ''Series/{{Glee}}'''s third season. Technically eight members graduated from Lima at the end of season 3. However, Rachel, Kurt, and Santana receive a decent chunk of screen time due to the New York narrative, and Finn spent a majority of season 4 hanging around Lima.
** Season 5 mostly inverts it. [[spoiler:Of those who graduated, only Tina left the show, as afterwards the show took place entirely in New York.]]
* Averted in ''Series/KamenRiderFourze''. Halfway through, Shun and Miu end up graduating and it makes the Kamen Rider Club worry as they're part of the club and they're kinda needed. However, it turns out the college they're to attend is right near the high school, so there's no worries of the team being separated.
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[[folder:Video Games]]
* Another video game example, but with a twist: When you graduate from the Guild in ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonExplorers of Time/Darkness/Sky'', it starts the post-game story.
** Same deal with ''VideoGame/{{Bully}}'', "graduating" from Bullworth Academy.
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'' features this in both the good and bad ending, even though the hero and the majority of the team are not graduating that year.
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona}}'' did it first with its ending. It even gives a nice little WhereAreTheyNow on the party members noting that the Protagonist's future is for us to decide. (Though ''VideoGame/{{Persona 2}} Eternal Punishment'' tells part of it was ButNowIMustGo.)
* Inverted and played with in ''VideoGame/Disgaea3AbsenceOfJustice'': a graduation does play an important part in the story, but [[spoiler: it happens in the ''middle'' of the main plot, enabling Raspberyl, Kyoko and Asuka to become full time {{Player Character}}s now that they don't have to worry about maintaining their perfect attendance any longer]].
* ''VideoGame/ManaKhemiaAlchemistsOfAlRevis'': Video game example, but yes.
** It also had a subversion with Flay, who had to repeat a year because he basically never took any of his exams. Having several fairly decent skills, most players were thankful for his willingness to stick around for another year.
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[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/ScaryGoRound'' ends with the school-age characters finishing school and going off to university or starting work, and Shelley leaving Tackleford to take a job in London.
* ''WebComic/VampireCheerleaders'': At the start of vol.4, Lori, Zoe, and Leslie have all graduated and are enrolled in college, though they still make brief appearances when Leonard and the others [[spoiler: time jump into the distant future]]. Which was done as a means of writing them out of the story, due [[BrokenBase how divisive the cheerleaders were.]]
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[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible''. The GrandFinale is even named "Graduation".
* The original version of ''WesternAnimation/{{Doug}}'' ends with them graduating middle school. This is ignoring a ChristmasEpisode that aired nearly six months later and didn't really wrap anything up.
** Well, the Christmas special was made towards the beginning of season four, but they held it off from airing until December (since ''Doug'' would usually air new episodes in the fall).
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Daria}}: [[TheMovie Is It College Yet?]]'' had [[TheSnarkKnight Daria, Jane]] and the rest of their class (except [[TooDumbToLive Kevin]]) get ready for college and graduate at the end. [[LovableAlphaBitch Quinn]] and her friends are a year younger, of course, so they just get to move on to senior year.
* ''WesternAnimation/RecessSchoolsOut'' had the kids leave fourth grade in the beginning, as the movie was [[SeriesFauxnale supposed to be]] the GrandFinale. The kids are shown in fourth grade in the [[PostScriptSeason episodes after that]] (maybe, since the classroom scenes were gone and Miss Grotke went AWOL, they might have moved up already), only because the show was UnCanceled. We do see them move up to fifth grade in the 2003 DTV movie ''WesternAnimation/RecessTakingTheFifthGrade''.
* ''WesternAnimation/FishHooks''
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