The senior prom is a memory now. Corsages have wilted, rented tuxedos have been returned to the shop and miniature brandy snifters imprinted with the name of a high school have been relegated to a bedroom shelf.

Almost as an afterthought to the last hectic days of senior activities, at ceremonies held at the Kennedy Center and Cole Field House and in high school auditoriums, solemn and sweaty and teeming with realtives, diplomas have been awarded.

The class of 1980 is on the loose and many of them are heading for college.

"I've wanted to go to the Coast Guard Academy since I was 11," said John Warrington, a graduate of Robert E. Peary High Shcool in Rockville. "It's the humanitarian line of the armed forces. It enforces the 200-mile fishing limit, cleans up oil spills and provides rescue for ships at sea.

"Besides," he added, "I don't want to pull a trigger and kill somebody."

Before reporting July 7 for "swab summer," the Coast Guard equivalent of boot camp, Warrington plans "one last fling" -- a biking and hiking trip along the full 144-mile length of the C&O Canal with his best friend. Then he will square his shoulders and move toward his next goal: graduation from the Coast Guard Academy in 1984.

The prospect of four more years of academic work, before he can become a "lawyer -- or an engineer -- or maybe a political adviser" does not daunt Warrington, a life-long participant in competitive swimming and a cross-country runner at Peary. He recalls in grim detail his first Maryland Marathon in 1978:

"When I reached the 15-mile mark, my whole body was in pain from pounding on the pavement. My knees were jammed up into my hips, and the waffles on my shoes felt like they were imbedded in the soles of my feet," said Warrington.

He completed the 26-mile run and returned for the 1979 marathon.

While some students know exactly what they want, others are searching. Erich Neupert of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt will declare "unknown" as his major when he enters the University of Maryland this fall.

"I thought about forestry for a while," he said. "I love the sciences and was into ornithology . . . Teaching? I've thought about that. I like working with young people . . . I can't narrow it down to any one thing."

Playing trombone in Roosevelt's Symphonic Band and Orchestra and the Eight O'Clock Jazz Ensemble has led Neupert to consider music as a career. The band and orchestra went to Bermuda in May for the International Music Festival.

"We were judged on international standards for how well we do, not against other groups. We got a bronze . . . We are going to play for the governor, but we got rained out." he said.

This summer Neupert will return to Boulder, Colo., where he has worked for four years wity 6- to 12-year-olds in the "Playgrounds" program there.

"This year I'm an assistant director. Working with kids is great. We take them to amusement parks and to a reservoir that we go swimming in. They love to do that because they don't have an ocean" to go to, said Neupert.

University of Maryland offers Neupert plenty of scope for testing his options. In addition, he can commute from his home in Greenbelt.

Barbara Spahn, on the other hand, chose Eastern Kentucky University because of its good law enforcement program and "because I knew I needed to be away from home."

Spahn plans to major in public administration with perhaps a sociology minor.

"I don't know how far I want to go," she said. " You have to be a street cop for a year, then you can be a detective . . . It's exciting. You don't have to sit in an office all day. And you're working with people."

During her senior year at Peary High School, Spahn worked part-time as a secretary for Tousimis Research Corp. in Rockville, where she will continue full-time this summer. Although a less-than-enthusiastic student in the past, Spahn has few qualms about the challenge of college: "I know I can do it because that's what I want."

She has another dream, too.

"I've always wanted a lot of kids. I grew up in a big family, and I think that's the only way to grow up. There are always brothers and sisters around to help you with problems . . . I'm not for women's lib. I still believe that women should raise the kids and do the housework."

She also believes that women should have the opportunity for college and career.

"I might even be a probation officer. Seeing all the kids that get into trouble, who don't know any other way. I want to show them that there's something else," said Spahn.

Spahn is not alone in wanting to help others. For her senior project at Holy Cross Academy, Beth Cuddeback chose to work with a second-grade special education class at Forest Knolls Elementary School.

"I was in an actual classroom situation, working with seven students. Five of them were in wheelchairs. A couple have cerebral palsy. Their minds are a little slow, too," said Cuddeback.

Her eyes lit up as she described the satifaction of helping a child: "One girl is in a wheelchair. She can't put any pressure on her bones. She was turning one end of a jumprope, the teacher was turning the other and I was jumping."

Cuddeback has accepted a full time swimming scholarship at the University of Georgia, where she will enroll in special education.

As a member of the Potomac Valley Amateur Athletic Union, Cuddeback swims nearly four hours a day. In April she qualified for the National Junior Olympics.

Cuddeback believes the benefits of her rigorous swimming schedule outweight the inroads on her time.

"We've met a lot of interesting people and we've learned to cope with feeling good and winning as well as losing and feeling bad," she said.

Sandie Rogers' background in theater, which has helped her learn to communicate through gestures and facial expressions, should be a plus in the career she plans in education for the deaf. At Beltsville's High Point High School, Rogers appeared in productions of "Cheap Theatrics" snd "Oklahoma" and realized a "dream come true" when she played the majorette in "The Man" at Rockville Musical Theater.

Rogers hopes to combine her desire for world travel with her career. This summer she will travel to Spain as an exchange student.

Her determination to help her deal younger brother led Rogerst to her decision to make deaf education her life work. She selected Boston University, where she will enter the basic studies program and later the school of education. While attending High Point, she studied sign language and vocabulary at Gallaudet College, where she hopes to earn her masters degree.

"Right now I'm not sure where I want to teach or how . . . I think there's something I can do, and I'm willing to try," said Rogers.

"It may be going out of style, but I still believe in the American dream," said David Chang, a graduate of Peary High School. If you work hard now, maybe it'll pay off later."

When he enters Yale College this fall, Chang plans to major in biology or math with an eye on medicine.

For the last couple of years, Chang has worked with a Red Cross-sponsored first-aid unit at events such as picnics and the recent Kemper Open. Unlike a rescue squad, "we're not called out to something, we're already there," he said. "We can all splint bones and handle CPR. Most of the time it's nothing more than than cuts and scratches, bee stings or sprained ankles."

This summer he will type and file for the grants division of the National Institutes of Health, which is "as close as possible to the type of work" that interests him -- medical research.

"College is for those who want to do more," said Chang. "It's not just learning philosophy or English or math. It's also learning about yourself and other people. You are alone for the first time. You have the chance to learn how strong you are as a person or what your moral values are . . . Will you still be the same person when you get to college?"

More over, world. Here comes the class of '80.