12 Unique College Traditions

Quirky college traditions

College campuses are full of history, legends and traditions. Some of them — like “streaking” nude on campus, sharing stories of haunted buildings, hosting themed parties or jumping in fountains — are passed down by students and aren’t always endorsed by the institution. But many colleges have official traditions they pride themselves on as a way to bring the campus community together, promote friendships and even possibly spark romance. The following 12 schools have unique traditions, ranging from a 50-hour trivia contest to a bulldog beauty competition.

Barnard College (NY)

For more than a decade, New York-based Barnard College has hosted the campuswide tradition of “Barnard Big Sub,” during which students line up to eat a 750-foot-long chain of sandwiches made by the school’s dining services. These sandwiches are filled with vegetables and different types of protein, like turkey, chicken and tuna salad. There are also gluten-free and kosher options. This tradition provides a way for students to connect with their peers over a bite (or lots of bites!) to eat.

Brandeis University (MA)

Due to its location in the Northeast, Brandeis University students are no strangers to snowy winters. On snow days, students can be seen sledding down a steep hill near the library. Some use real sleds while others fashion makeshift ones out of cardboard and trash can lids. Other campus traditions include the “24-Hour Musical,” where theater students have just one day to memorize their lines, design costumes and prepare sets for musical performances; and “Midnight Buffet” during finals week (which is just what it sounds like).

Carleton College (MN)

Carleton College has several traditions to boost morale during finals week, including a silent dance party. Before finals, students gather in the library and receive headphones, which are connected to an hour-long dance party playlist. The dance party is moved to several locations across campus. Students can also take a study break at 10 p.m. the night before finals begin by screaming out their windows — letting out their pent-up stress and frustrations. This tradition is known as “Primal Scream.”

Drake University (IA)

For more than 40 years, Drake University has hosted the “Beautiful Bulldog Contest,” where English bulldogs from across the state or country walk a runway and perform tricks for judges. There are seven award categories, with the overall pageant winner being crowned the most beautiful bulldog and Drake Relays mascot for the year. This event kicks off Relays Week, during which the campus community participates in a mix of events, including competitions, reunions and parties.

Indiana University

Every Memorial Day weekend, IndyCar racing fans gather at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch the Indianapolis 500. Indiana University puts on its own motor-free version in April called the “Little 500” — the largest collegiate bicycle race in the U.S., according to the school’s website. Four-person teams compete on a quarter-mile cinder track at IU’s Bill Armstrong Stadium. The women’s race is 25 miles, or 100 laps, while the men’s race is 50.

Lawrence University (WI)

Every year since 1966, Lawrence University puts on the “Great Midwest Trivia Contest.” Taking place from a Friday to a Sunday, the event features individual students or teams divided into on-campus and off-campus groups. For 50 hours, competitors call in to the school’s radio station to answer questions, which is streamed on Twitch. Outside resources, including the internet, are allowed unless otherwise specified. The tradition dates back to 1966 and has involved participants from as far away as Japan.

Miami University (OH)

Miami University in Ohio has numerous traditions that can lead to long-lasting marriages and even good luck on an exam. Students looking to ace an exam, for instance, must stop by the Tri-Delt Sundial sculpture in Quad Central on campus. Legend has it that rubbing one of the copper turtle heads results in an “A” on a student’s next test. However, that academic fortune is squandered if a student steps on the university seal, located in the center of campus.

Murray State University (KY)

Since the 1960s, couples who meet at the Kentucky-based Murray State University hang their shoes on the “shoe tree,” which is rumored to bring a lifetime of good luck. Some of these “sole” mates write their anniversaries on their shoes and come back years later after starting a family to bring baby shoes. The current tree on campus is the school’s third shoe tree. The first tree caught fire after being struck by lightning, and the second was removed for safety concerns due to falling limbs.

North Carolina State University

Every year, students at North Carolina State University organize the “Krispy Kreme Challenge.” As part of this event, participants run 2.5 miles from the campus bell tower to the closest Krispy Kreme donut store, indulge in 12 donuts and finish with another 2.5 miles back to campus. The catch — all of this must be completed in one hour. Not only does the event test endurance, it’s also philanthropic. Since the inaugural race in 2004, the challenge has raised more than $2 million for the University of North Carolina Children’s Hospital, according to the school.

University of Texas at Austin

As a “Big 12” school, traditions at the University of Texas at Austin are rooted in athletics, including the Hook ’em Horns hand symbol; “Texas Fight” song; and Big Bertha, the world’s largest bass drum, according to the school. There are other campus legends and traditions, as well. For instance, students who spot a white fox squirrel on the way to take an exam are allegedly destined to earn an “A.”

Vanderbilt University (TN)

At Vanderbilt University, several commencement-related traditions make the day special. For instance, graduates walk out of the same gates they originally entered as first-year students during the Founders Walk — a move-in tradition where freshmen and transfer students parade around campus in shirts representing their residential houses. The graduation celebration typically continues with champagne and strawberries for graduates and their guests. In 2023, that was revamped and put on the day before commencement to include live music, a dance floor and fireworks.

William & Mary (VA)

Every December in the historic town of Williamsburg, Virginia, William & Mary students gather as part of the Yule Log celebration for live music and singing. The university president also reads a story in the Wren Courtyard, which is located outside of the Sir Christopher Wren Building — the oldest college building still standing in the U.S. That’s followed by the tossing of holly sprigs into a yule log fire to signify good luck. Students can also warm up with hot cider and munch on cookies during this wintertime celebration.

Schools with unique traditions

— Barnard College

— Brandeis University

— Carleton College

— Drake University

— Indiana University

— Lawrence University

— Miami University

— Murray State University

— North Carolina State University

— University of Texas at Austin

— Vanderbilt University

— William & Mary

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12 Unique College Traditions originally appeared on usnews.com

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