Colleges from coast to coast have quirks that distinguish them from the competition. Some throw toilet paper on trees after big football games, while others party it up with late-night pancake breakfasts. These traditions, no matter how small, simplistic, or old-fashioned they may seem, are at the very heart of the bond we share with our school. Here are 10 schools that live, feed, and breathe those traditions.
10) THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA (Iowa City, Iowa)
Iowa's tradition? Football. It begins with Frank Kinney Holbrook, who, in 1895 is believed to be one of the first African Americans to play on a college’s varsity athletic team. It ends (or rather, continues) with the opponent’s locker room in Kinnick Stadium, which happens to be painted an HC-approved shade of pink! This color was chosen by former head coach Hayden Fry, who had majored in psychology and knew that pink was a color that dampens excitement and aggression. The Hawkeyes also celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. through a weeklong celebration of human rights, where students, faculty, and staff participate in programs that encourage dialogue about diversity and reinforce the principle that the University is a forum for the free exchange of ideas.
9) DICKINSON COLLEGE (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)
As the first college or university chartered under the newly formed United States, you would expect Dickinson to be the bastion of nationalism. Instead, the school is well known for its international programs, sponsoring 12 study centers in other countries and receiving national recognition for its global pursuits. The school’s Raven Claw society (no, not the one at Hogwarts) is one of the oldest secret societies in the country and is even more elite than Harvard’s final clubs. How elite? The club only elects seven senior men each year, all of whom are selected by the previous graduating seven. Also, Dickinson students will want to watch where they step. Legend has it that if a student treads on the college seal embedded in the middle of Britton Plaza, he or she won't graduate. Scary stuff.
8) UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA (Athens, Georgia)
How 'bout them dogs? One of America’s first public, state-supported colleges prides itself on its tradition of athletics, from ESPN’s ranking among the best sports towns (Athens), to its 24-hour Dance Marathon for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, to an annual showdown on the football field with the University of Florida, an event dubbed as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Its famed mascot, a white bulldog named Uga, remains beloved throughout the state, even as the school plans to introduce its ninth pup just in time for football season. Georgia is the only college in America known to bury its mascots inside the stadium upon their death, so if you were wondering about Uga VIII, well… it got the Jimmy Hoffa treatment.
7) HOWARD UNIVERSITY (Washington, DC)
Howard University, established shortly after the end of the Civil War, is a historically black college with notable alumni ranging from Thurgood Marshall to Toni Morrison and even P.Diddy. The school stands against all injustice–from opening its arms to all students of any ethnic background to the recent "Am I Suspicious" videos that emerged as a result of the Trayvon Martin case. Academically, the school has over 50 majors to choose from, but all students are required to take courses in English composition and Afro-studies, staying true to their HBCU status. The Howard-Morehouse football rivalry, which dates back to 1923, was renewed just last year, as the two teams went head-to-head for the first time in 14 years.
6) YALE UNIVERSITY (New Haven, Connecticut)
If you hear the word “rush” at Yale, don’t assume it’s all about #fratlyfe. Rush is the night that Yale’s oldest a capella groups, most notably the Whiffenpoofs and Whim n' Rhythm, perform for freshmen in order to encourage them to try out for a spot in the prestigious music clubs. As for athletics, there’s “The Game” with Harvard on the football field and the Harvard-Yale Regatta, a rowing race that turned 150 years old in 2011. As expected, Yale is also known for being academically elite, a tradition that has filtered into its not-so-secret, secret societies. The most renowned society, Skull and Bones, was formed in 1823 over a dispute about the recipients of the Phi Beta Kappa awards.
5) STANFORD UNIVERSITY (Palo Alto, California)
If you thought marching bands were harmless, you haven’t heard about “The Play,” the most controversial ending to a game in the history of college football. In 1982, members of the Stanford Band, assuming the game was over, rushed the field, nearly interfering with UC-Berkeley player Kevin Moen, who ran over a trombone player en route to the game-winning touchdown. The band’s actions have continued to cause controversy to this day, including a 2004 Mormon polygamy skit mocking Brigham Young University. Cardinal students also show a softer, more romantic side during Full Moon on the Quad, a tradition in which senior men and freshman women meet under the light of a full moon to kiss.
4) HARVARD UNIVERSITY (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
“The Social Network” may have introduced you to Harvard’s age-old finals clubs, but the traditions don’t end there. The holy trinity one must complete before graduating includes peeing on the historic statue of John Harvard (so yeah, don’t touch the foot), primal scream, in which students run through campus buck naked on the night before finals, and having sex in the stacks of Widener Library, second only in size to the Library of Congress. There’s also “The Game,” which pits Harvard against arch-rival Yale on the football field and Housing Day, when freshmen find out which one of the 12 residential houses they’ll be living in for the next three years.
3) AUBURN UNIVERSITY (Auburn, Alabama)
The Auburn War Eagle, sweeping the stands during football games to this day, dates back to the Civil War. “According to legend, the first War Eagle was recovered on the Civil War battlefield and made its way to an Auburn football game accompanied by the soldier who rescued it. Eventually the eagle broke free from the soldier during an Auburn vs. Georgia football game, one that the Tigers won in dramatic fashion, securing the bird’s legacy.” The eagle isn’t the only thing flying on this Alabama campus, as according to many students, including rising senior Ellery Badcock, Auburn is known for “the famous (toilet paper) rolling of the oak trees at Toomer’s corner after big football games, one of a variety of traditions beloved by the students and community alike. When a fan from the arch-rival University of Alabama poisoned the trees in 2011, the story made national headlines.
2) UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY (West Point, New York)
Though staunch, inflexible rules come to mind when we think of a Military Academy, West Point has a sentimental, fun and sometimes surprising set of traditions. Sentimental: the presentation of a silver dollar, a tradition which dates back to the 19th century, is a sign of respect from newly commissioned second lieutenants to the first enlisted soldier who salutes him. Fun: the annual Army-Navy football game against the United States Naval Academy, a rivalry amongst brothers in arms which dates back to 1890. Surprising? Given the Army's renowned position on homosexuals in the military, the first ‘Inaugural Knights Out’ was held in March--a dinner celebrating and supporting LGBT soldiers.
1) THE COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY (Williamsburg, Virginia)
It’s the second oldest college in America, so as expected, the College of William and Mary is successful at incorporating tradition with an epic college experience. Who doesn't want to see their college president, dressed up as Santa Claus, and reading a story like "Twas the Night Before Finals" as the entire student body warms up to glowing hand torches? On the final day of classes, seniors have the opportunity to clang on the Wren bell, while underclassmen are treated to a huge party in Sunken Garden with late-night pancakes. "We were the first college to implement an Honor Code, which new students recite during orientation to this day,” notes Her Campus William and Mary President Mary Gabrielle Eriquez. “With Colonial Williamsburg right across the street and bricks lining every walkway and forming every building, the second you step onto campus you can feel the history in the air.” It goes without mentioning that the school is the alma mater of three U.S. Presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and many modern-day public figures such as Glenn Close and Jon Stewart.