50 College Traditions From Around The Country
Every college has its own traditions that the student body keeps alive year after year. Some are well-known, while others remain a little more secret. That is until now.
We have compiled a list of 50 college traditions from around the country that are sure to make you miss your college days—or wish you were part of a college with these awesome traditions. So come join us and see which schools made our list.
Cornell Dragon Day at Cornell University
Every year in March, the students at Cornell University celebrate Cornell Dragon Day, a college tradition that began sometime between 1897 and 1901. The truth is, no one is really sure of the exact time this tradition started, but it's been going strong for over one hundred and twenty years.
The Dragon Day tradition brings first-year architecture students together in a competition to build a giant dragon that gets paraded across campus. They battle the engineering students who build a large phoenix for Dragon Day.
Spirit Splash at the University of Central Florida
For the University of Central Florida's Spirit Splash, students rush to the Reflecting Pond on campus to celebrate the weekend of homecoming. The tradition began in 1995 when someone shoved the student body president into a pond, and now, students flock to the water to push each other in.
Students participate in this tradition at the end of every October, and the Spirit Splash even won the National Association for Campus Activities' "Best Campus Tradition" award.
THON Weekend at Pennsylvania State University
Held every February since 1973, THON Weekend is a 46-hour-long dance marathon where the participants are not allowed to sit or sleep. Not only that, but the students must also dance at the event.
The student body holds this tradition each year to support the Four Diamonds Fund, a non-profit that raises money to fight pediatric cancer. THON organizers began recording their contributions to the Four Diamonds Fund, and the students have raised more than $114 million since 1977.
Great Midwest Trivia Contest at Lawrence University
Since 1966, the students at Lawrence University have held The Great Midwest Trivia Contest on the last weekend of January, but this isn't your regular trivia game. The event runs for 50 hours straight, beginning Friday and running until Sunday evening.
This extraordinary challenge is known as the "world's longest-running trivia contest" because they use a question from the previous year's contest to begin the new game the following year. The contest is broadcast over the campus radio station.
The Krispy Kreme Challenge at North Carolina State University
The Krispy Kreme Challenge at North Carolina State University is a fairly new tradition that began in 2004. Held every February, this tradition requires participants to do a lot of running while eating a lot of donuts.
The race begins when runners traverse 2.5 miles to the nearest Krispy Kreme Shop, eat a dozen glazed donuts, and then run the 2.5 miles back to the campus. This tradition began as a dare between undergrads and has become a noteworthy event, with proceeds going to the North Carolina Children's Hospital.
The University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt
This campus-wide scavenger hunt at the University of Chicago spans a four-day weekend, with the last day ending on Mother's Day. Participants must collect items from a list and donate at a blood drive, all while taking a possible 1,000-mile road trip and looking for the obscure items on the list.
The Guinness Book of World Records awarded the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt the honor of being the world's largest of its kind. Students have been keeping this tradition alive since 1987.
Civilians vs. Cadets Snowball Fight at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech's student body was once made up entirely of Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets. Today, however, the students are a mix of civilians and cadets, and the rivalry runs deep between the groups.
After the first heavy snowfall of each year, students split into two teams, cadets versus civilians. After dividing into sects, the teams participate in a huge snowball fight to honor the school's history. The funny thing is that no one knows exactly when the snowball fight began.
The Pull at Hope College
Every September since 1898, the students at Hope College have participated in The Pull — a college tradition that makes all other tugs-of-war games look like child's play. Each team consists of 18 pullers along with 18 "moralers" — students responsible for boosting the morale of the pullers during the war.
The Pull goes until one team becomes the victor, and the record for the longest pull was three hours and 51 minutes. The shortest one lasted only two minutes and 40 seconds. The Pull was named the "mother of all tug-of-war games" by Sports Illustrated.
Renn Fayre at Reed College
Reed College's Renn Fayre is a crazy college tradition that began in the 1960s and runs either at the end of April or the beginning of May. This tradition celebrates the end of the school year and features food, live music, skate ramps, and a giant slide.
You may want to divert your eyes when you see some of the students covered in nothing but blue paint. One of the event's highlights is the Thesis Parade, where the graduating seniors light a giant bonfire where the grads burn their thesis and all their notes and march around campus chanting.
Dolphy Day at Le Moyne College
Since 1971, the students at Le Moyne College have celebrated Dolphy Day each spring, where the faculty surprises the students with a random day off. Every year, the date of Dolphy Day is a tightly kept secret that is revealed at 2 A.M. with a fireworks display.
The party begins at the announcement and runs throughout the entire next day. During this surprise day off, the students host live concerts, barbecues, and other campus-wide parties in celebration of Dolphy Day.
Little 500 at Indiana University
Every April since 1951, Indiana University holds its Little 500 bike race — an event modeled after the Indy 500, and it is the largest collegiate bike race in the country. Teams consisting of four people each compete against one another in a race.
The women’s race is 100 laps, while the men's race is 200 laps. Over 30,000 people either attend or participate in the event, and all the money earned throughout the event goes towards a scholarship fund for the students.
Drake Relays at Drake University
The students at Drake University participate in the Drake Relays, a renowned college tradition that has been a part of Drake's history since 1910. With more than 40,000 spectators every year, the Drake Relays are a race that features both college teams and world-class athletes.
Students can participate in either the 10K run or the 5K run beginning at 7:30 A.M. and remains open for three hours to allow runners to traverse the track at their own pace.
Dartmouth Winter Carnival at Dartmouth College
For over 100 years, the students at Dartmouth have participated in the Dartmouth Winter Carnival, an event that features ski races, a polar bear plunge and swim, and an ice sculpture contest. There is even a human-dog sled race!
This event is a tradition within a tradition. While the Dartmouth Winter Carnival has been around since 1910, another college tradition emerged that occurs during the carnival. It's the Alpha Chi Alpha beach party — a tradition that has been going on since 1976 and is the largest campus party every year.
The Harvard-Yale Football Game
This college tradition involves two well-known Ivy League schools and their football teams. Every November since 1883, the Harvard-Yale Football Game has entertained students, staff, alumni, and college football fans with this annual game.
The Yale Bulldogs and the Harvard Crimson battle it out when they face off in The Game. This year's game will be held in November and will be the 140th annual game.
Carnegie Mellon Sweepstakes at Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University holds its annual Carnegie Mellon Sweepstakes every April, known as Buggy. This beloved college tradition takes place between various organizations throughout the campus, where each team constructs a torpedo-shaped vessel and pushes them down the course of a relay race.
This competition has taken place at Carnegie Mellon each year since 1920, and while it isn't a well-known event, it draws quite the crowd around campus.
ASU BB Run at Arizona State University
Would you run a race in only your undergarments? Well, the students at Arizona State University do just that in this risque college tradition. At the ASU BB Run, over 15,000 students run across the Tempe campus in nothing but their bras and boxers on the last day of classes.
This cooky event began in 2008, and after the run, students stick around for live music and lots of entertainment. The best part is that the kids then donate the clothes they wore to the event to Goodwill Arizona. Wait, does that mean they have to leave the party in nothing but their bras and boxers? Yikes.
Rotblatt at Carleton College
Named after baseball great Marv Rotblatt, Carleton College's Rotblatt game is a marathon of intramural softball. Rotblatt's annual event commences at sunrise on a spring afternoon, but it is difficult to predict when it will end.
Why you ask? It's because the game is neverending. The students have played one inning every year since Carleton's founding in 1866 (this year, it will be the game's 160th inning). Rotblatt players often bat and perform with a drink in hand. That's because the games are more about having fun, school pride, and college camaraderie, not competition.
Mirror Lake Jump at Ohio State University
Since 1990, the students at Ohio State University have gathered together to take the plunge into Mirror Lake in celebration of the Ohio State vs. Michigan football game. The Jump takes place at the end of November, and anyone in Ohio knows that it can get pretty cold there during that time of year.
Faculty at the facility actually forbid the students from engaging in the event, although very few listen, and no punishments are ever given to anyone for attending the event. The issue the school officials have is how dangerous it is to jump into a freezing cold Mirror Lake.
Purdue Grand Prix at Purdue University
Every April since 1958, the students at Purdue get together in friendly competition on the raceway. The Purdue Grand Prix is a thrilling go-kart race held at the prestigious university. Any current student can participate, and an alumni competition is held every five years so that graduates can regain their glory.
There is also a Classics Race in which only go-karts built before 1986 can participate. There's also a week-long celebration leading up to the race.
Beer Bike at Rice University
Since 1957, the students at Rice University participate in the Beer Bike Relay every March. Students break up into teams, and one person from each team drinks beer or water (depending on age).
Once they are done with their beverage, that team's bikers can start racing a few laps around the track. The team's next chugger starts drinking on the last lap. After the race, a battle unfolds in a giant water balloon fight.
Oozeball at the University of Connecticut
Started in 1981, Oozeball is the University of Connecticut's knockout-style muddy volleyball tournament. Nearly 400 teams of 6-8 students can compete every year, and there is a requirement that the tournament is "safe, fair, and inclusive."
Each year, crowds of more than 3,000 come to cheer the players on, and everyone usually leaves the court absolutely covered in mud and smiles.
The Coke Toast at Emory University
Freshmen at both Emory campuses celebrate their first day of class with bottles of Coca-Cola (and again four years later at graduation). The toast always remains the same, "To our rebirth!" So why is Coca-Cola maintaining this student tradition? Simple.
Warren Candler — one of Emory's first presidents — had a brother who established the Coca-Cola Company. His donation of $1 million (along with some property) enabled Emory to move from Oxford, Georgia, to Atlanta. This donation, and another Coca-Cola-related donation 50 years later, helped establish Emory as one of the nation's premier research institutions. We'll toast to that!
Ski-Beach Day at Pomona College
Young college students about to go to college have an important decision to make, do they want to be closer to the mountains or the beach? Well, thanks to the annual tradition at Pomona College, students get the best of both worlds. In fact, the school formed a college tradition completely around this geographical dilemma.
At Pomona College in Claremont, California, students are close enough to see the San Gabriel Mountains and the Pacific Ocean in one day. On Ski Beach Day, the bus leaves the campus around 6:00 A.M. to take the students to the slopes for some skiing and snowboarding. Just after lunch, they all travel to the Pacific Ocean beaches to prepare s'mores and watch the sunset.
$2 Bills at Clemson University
Clemson University is another school that cherishes its sports traditions. Every Friday, faculty, students, staff, and alumni wear orange to celebrate school spirit. However, this Clemson tradition is not as unique as the one that requires $2 bills.
According to legend, Georgia Tech tried to reschedule its annual game against Clemson in 1977. Angry Clemson fans stamped orange tiger paws on $2 bills and spent them in Atlanta, illustrating the revenue the game generates for the city.
More than 40 years later, fans still use the stamped $2 bill to go to an away game. In fact, this tradition is so strong that nearby banks and credit unions order an unusual amount of these bills ahead of Clemson's football season.
The Hudson Relays at Case Western Reserve University
The Case Western Reserve campus moved from Hudson, Ohio, to Cleveland in 1910. To celebrate this big move, the school hosted a 26-mile relay race known today as the Hudson Relays, where each class teamed up.
According to tradition, if an undergraduate wins the race three times, they win burgers and beer for all class members. If the student can win all four years, each member of that class will be treated to steak and champagne. In 2017, the junior class won for the third year in a row.
Gold Rush at Montana State University
Many college traditions are rooted in their athletic programs, and the Montana Gold Rush at Montana State University is no exception. The Gold Rush is a football tradition where fans descend to Bobcat Stadium dressed head-to-toe in gold (or, more often, yellow).
Students can buy their official t-shirts directly from the school, and many get creative with face painting and bandanas. The crowds at these home openers are quite the (bright golden) sight, especially if you gaze into the stands.
Serenading at Vassar College
Few knew that when they chose Vassar College, they would soon be taking part in one of the school's infamous traditions, Serenading. This tradition, originally known as "step singing," was a ceremony in which young students sang songs to teach new students a school song.
The tradition has since evolved over the years. It once included a food fight going from dormitory to dormitory and ended in a field where students sang songs to seniors. Today, however, for environmental reasons, they do not conduct food fights anymore and instead throw water balloons.
Breaking Through the Band at the University of Tennessee
In 1965, Doug Dickey, the University of Tennessee head coach, partnered with the band director, Dr. W.J. Julian, to create a unique tradition at the school. It involves the team's entry onto the field for the University of Tennessee football team.
The duo choreographed the band to stand in T formations to perform outside the locker rooms. As the teams took to the field, they ran through the band members in a tradition known as Breaking Through the Band. It's a tradition that brings fans to the stadium well before kickoff.
The Traveler at the University of Southern California
At the Rose Parade in 1961, Richard Saukko rode in on the Traveler I, his white horse. He rode Traveler through the entire route of the parade that year. USC's Director of Special Events at the time, Bob Jani, discovered the horse and rider and convinced them to be the official mascot at the University of Southern California.
Today, whenever players from USC score points, the song “Conquest” is played by the marching band while Traveler roams the Coliseum with a Trojan warrior on his back.
Rubbing Of Howard’s Rock at Clemson University
In a college tradition dating back to the 1960s, Clemson University in South Carolina once had a football coach named Frank Howard. He was presented with a gigantic piece of white flint his friend found in Death Valley, California.
Howard brought it to the school, where it was originally used as a doorstop. It was eventually installed at the top of a hill leading to the football field. Since 1966, football players have stopped at Howard's Rock to rub the stone for good luck at the start of every home game.
Handsome Dan at Yale University
Since the early 1980s, Yale University football fans have seen Handsome Dan on the sidelines of every game. This unique team member is a happy-go-lucky bulldog and is reportedly the first live mascot a team has ever had.
The original Handsome Dan crossed over the Rainbow Bridge many years ago. Yet, the Handsome Dan we see today is the great-great-grandson of the OG Handsome Dan!
Calling The Hogs at the University of Arkansas
This college tradition is over 100 years old, beginning sometime in the 1920s. The Calling the Hogs at the University of Arkansas is exactly what it sounds like. At Razorback football games, the crowds are heard chanting, "Woo, pig! Sooie!"
While no hogs are actually involved in the tradition, it was started by a group of farmers who attended the games, hoping to boost the morale of the team and encourage a lagging team to kick it into high gear and win the game. Today, crowds loudly call for the hogs, even when their team is winning.
The Bounce House at the University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida opened a new stadium in 2007 called Spectrum Stadium, replacing the campus' former home in downtown Orlando. Along with the new digs, several new traditions have emerged, including what fans call "bounce houses."
In this obscure college tradition, the spectators jump up and down, and the arena literally shakes and sways like a bounce house. It is quite the spectacle.
The Midnight Yell at Texas A&M
One college tradition has gotten the attention of the Washington Post, which has dubbed Texas A&M's Midnight Yell "one of college football’s must-sees before dying." At midnight, the night before every home game, hundreds, if not thousands of fans gather at Kyle Field to sing and chant "Aggie War Hymn" by five "screaming leaders."
What began as a method to teach new fans the school cheers and fight song has become one of the school's most enduring and beloved traditions.
Play Like a Champion Today at Notre Dame
Since 1986, exits from the Notre Dame locker room have been hung with simple blue-and-yellow signs that read, "Play Like a Champion Today." Before each home game, every player entering the field presses it as a part of their good luck ritual.
Coach Lou Holtz, who erected the sign 30 years ago, told ESPN, I told my players, 'Every time you hit this sign, I want you to remember all the great people that played here before you, ... all the people, your coaches, your parents, who are responsible for you being here.'"
The Sooner Schooner at the University of Oklahoma
Since 1964, the University of Oklahoma has held the Sooner Schooner, where the school's two horses, Sooner and Boomer, drive the Studebaker Conestoga wagon onto the field before every game and after every touchdown.
The school also has an all-male spirit squad named the RUF/NEKS that rides in the wagon. Over the years, there have been a few mishaps, as you can expect when you mix live animals and college students. Luckily, it's always been an event free from serious injuries.
Light Up Sanford at the University of Georgia
The college tradition at the University of Georgia is a relatively new one. The university's "Light Up the Sanford" began in 2015 as a social media campaign but has since become an integral part of the team's night games. Right before the start of the fourth quarter, approximately 93,000 fans turn on their cell phone flashlights and play “Krypton Fanfare,” leading to a dazzling light show.
Kenneth Hubbard, a former Georgia student, said, "It’s about us being there for the team in the fourth quarter when we are rallying behind them…Whether we are up by 40 points or down by 40 points, we just want to make sure that [the team] knows the fans are there for them.”
The Tiger Walk at Auburn University
According to students, alumni, staff, and faculty of Auburn University, the Tiger Walk is one of "the most imitated traditions in all of college sports.” Roughly two hours before every home game, the Auburn Tigers — with their mascot leading the way — walk down Donahue Dr. from their track and field facility to Jordan Hare Stadium.
That said, the football teams don't walk alone. Thousands of Auburn students and fans line the streets, shouting and cheering, in one of the most inspiring rituals in college football.
Iowa Wave at the University of Iowa
The Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital was completed in 2017, launching a very special tradition that has been carrying on for nearly six years. You see, the hospital is located directly behind Kinnick Stadium, where the Hawkeyes play their home games.
At the 2017 season opener, the announcer at the University of Iowa asked all 70,000 fans attending the game to turn around and wave to fans watching from inside the hospital, and now this simple gesture has become one of the best college traditions in the entire country.
The “March On” Ritual at West Point
Arguably the most traditional game in all of college football, the annual Army vs Navy game certainly has plenty of time-tested traditions to choose from. Among them, the most notable is the “March On.”
Prior to the start, all student groups from the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy step out into the field to march in an impressive show of solidarity and comradery before taking their seats.
Ralphie’s Run at the University of Colorado
The University of Colorado is another school with a live mascot, and this one is quite the sight. Ralphie the Buffalo has five handlers who escort Ralphie across the field to open every home game at Folsom Field.
The team follows Ralphie onto the field as the crowd cheers, which doesn't seem to bother him at all. In fact, the seemingly tame buffalo actually looks like he enjoys all the attention when you see him prance across the turf.
The Homecoming at the University of Missouri
Almost every college in the United States has a homecoming tradition, but the University of Missouri is said to be the first to host an annual homecoming.
Since 1911, when coach Chester Brewer invited graduates "home" to a Missouri-Kansas football game, students and alumni have returned each year as a sort of reunion. Nearly 9,000 alumni attend each year, making this college tradition one of the biggest homecoming events in the nation.
The Ramblin’ Wreck at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech's official mascot is a 1930 Ford Model A sports coupe. The Roadster, the Ramblin' Wreck, is painted the same yellow as the Yellow Jackets’ uniforms.
It is filled with cheerleaders and the school's other mascot, Buzz, who runs onto the field to lead the football team at the start of every game. The old jalopy inspired another big school tradition, "The Ramblin' Wreck From Georgia Tech" fight song.
The Haka and Ha’a at the University of Hawaii
Until 2007, the Haka, the traditional New Zealand Maori shout, chant, and dance, was used as a pregame ritual by the University of Hawaii's Rainbow Warriors. After that, they switched to Ha'a, which is similar to a war cry, song, and dance but is native to Hawaii and speaks the Hawaiian language.
Over the years, the team has moved back and forth between Haka and Ha'a, yet the strength and importance of this tradition have not changed.
Harvard University’s Little Red Flag
Here we are with yet another tradition that comes to us from the Harvard-Yale rivalry. From the late 1800s, until he died in 1949, Frederick Plummer attended 59 Harvard-Yale football games. Each time he would carry a little red flag to support Harvard and bid them good luck.
After Plummer died, the flag was gifted to the school, and it was proposed that the flag get passed on to the person who has seen the most Harvard-Yale games. Today, more than 10 different men are responsible for making sure this college tradition lives on and that Harvard's Little Red Flag makes it to the games.
The Cowbells at Mississippi State
According to Mississippi legend, a Jersey cow wandered across the field during a football game in the mid-20th century, causing quite an uproar. Cowbells were used to distract the cow from the crowds so they could wrangle the beast.
The Bulldogs eventually won that game, and as a result, the cowbell became the school's unofficial good luck charm. Today, Mississippi State games are almost deafening from the throngs of bells ringing almost continuously from start to finish.
Sailgating at the University of Washington
Forget tailgating. Go sailgating. In one college tradition, that's exactly how students celebrate before a big home game. The University of Washington stadium's proximity to the water allows for this entirely unique pregame tradition.
During home games, cruise ships, and private boats fill Union Bay's Husky Harbor. Sailgaters can enjoy food and drinks on the water before, during, and after the game.
Planting the Spear at Florida State University
While many professional and college teams have come under attack and pressured to change their racist or bigoted mascots in recent years, the Florida State Seminoles are one exception to the rule. The school's iconic Chief Osceola and horse Renegade are endorsed by the Florida Seminole Tribal Council.
In one of college football's fanciest traditions, Chief Osceola and Renegade lead their team on the field before every home game and throw flaming spears into the ground from midfield. In this tradition, the school is careful to honor the Seminole people, and this is why this tradition lives on.
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” at West Virginia University
Since 1972, the official West Virginia theme song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" has been played before each West Virginia University home game. They also play the song after home wins, and fans participate by remaining at the stadium and singing along to the tradition.
Before the game, while the theme song is played, the marching band, cheerleaders, and players assemble on the field, forming the shape of West Virginia. If you haven't been to a WVU home game, we strongly encourage you to!