The Most Spirited Colleges

When it comes to the undergraduate experience, nothing says “college” quite like tailgates, a rowdy student section and a closet full of school merchandise. But even without a Division I football team, a college with a proud student body and plenty of spirit to go around can still qualify as #obsessed! 

10. AMHERST COLLEGE (Amherst, Massachusetts)


Freshman year can be an adjustment period, so when 98 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year, you know a school is doing something right. That’s the statistic for Amherst College’s retention rate given by a recent study by U.S. News & World Report, which is the highest rate of any liberal arts school in the country.

It’s clear that students are proud to go to Amherst, and not just for typical reasons. “School spirit goes beyond athletics,” says Erin, a junior. “Everyone is excited to support each other… because most of the time your friends are the ones competing or performing.” Amherst is living proof that sometimes the most spirited schools have a quieter sense of pride that manifests in the close relationship between students. As one collegiette tells Her Campus, said, “No matter what your major is or how you spend your spare time, at the end of the day, WE ALL BLEED PURPLE!” Now that’s camaraderie!

9. THOMAS AQUINAS COLLEGE (Santa Paula, California)


With fewer than 400 students enrolled, Thomas Aquinas still managed to score the #1 spot as the college or university with the highest average percentage of alumni who donate to the school in a 2013 U.S. News & World Report ranking: a seriously impressive 63.7 percent. Why so loved by alumni? “I believe Thomas Aquinas alumni are generous with their donations because so many of us feel that the school was generous to us while we were students,” says Fiona, a recent graduate of the college. “Alumni see that the school is one-of-a-kind in that its curriculum is built around the development of the whole person rather than a career-focused curriculum.”

Having a holistic curriculum and personalized experiences definitely matters when considering whether to donate to your alma mater, but we bet that the liberal arts college’s picturesque location in the valleys of California is a major source of pride as well (come on, it can’t hurt!). Either way, alumni are super spirited and inspired to give back to their school!

8. PRINCETON UNIVERSITY (Princeton, New Jersey)


When you’re an Ivy League powerhouse, having a large endowment pretty much comes with the territory. Even among the Ivies, however, some stand out among the rest. Princeton has an endowment of $1,857,040 per student, making the Ivy number one for endowment per student in the country. Why? People LOVE Princeton, even after they’ve graduated!

So where does all this money come from? For one, it comes from the incredibly active alumni who donated over $58 million to Princeton in the 2013-2014 season. But the generous alumni of Princeton aren’t just donating money; they’re also getting involved, says Audrey, a sophomore. “When I think about school spirit at Princeton, I think about how our students and alumni are constantly planning events to celebrate [the university].” It’s clear that Princeton grads love their alma mater, and with good reason! “Students at Princeton get excited for all events,” says Catherine, a junior, “whether it be sports, arts, random activities, etcetera.” Sounds like the kind of place we’d want to give back to, too!

7. BARNARD COLLEGE (New York, NY)


School spirit isn’t the first thing most people think of when they think of a women’s college (images of football games tend to come to mind instead), but Barnard has got it in spades! The college is only a step away from Columbia University, but many students feel that Barnard has more school spirit than its Ivy League neighbor due to more intimate size and more liberal-arts feel. Students at Barnard are benefitting from the college’s attempts to amp up alumni giving by encouraging school spirit on campus; the efforts include events like Spirit Day, a day to celebrate Barnard (and also doughnuts, BBQs and Build-a-Bears). This basically sounds like the best day ever, so we can only assume that Spirit Days are a huge success.

As one collegiette tells Her Campus, the spirit definitely isn’t centered around athletics. “I definitely wouldn’t say [Barnard] is most known for its team spirit,” remarked one contributor, “but it does have school spirit! We are really united and proud to be Columbia/Barnard students.” Two times the student body sounds like two times the fun (and spirit)!

6. BOSTON COLLEGE (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts)


We couldn’t talk about BC without mentioning the awesome athletics, especially the hockey, basketball and football teams (but why choose?). Just as amazing as the teams? The fans! “Even if our teams don't always do well,” one collegiette tells Her Campus, “having a unified school and an enthusiastic group of fans makes the losses easier and the wins even sweeter.”

While most people know about BC’s amazing athletics, the college has plenty of other activities that garner just as much student support. “We have the ALC Showdown,” explains Ingrid, a junior at BC, “which is a dance battle/competition with all of our teams on campus. In the weeks leading up to the Showdown, the different teams will break into impromptu routines in dining halls or quads, which is really cool and gets people psyched for the event!” Looks like BC has plenty of spirit to go around, on and off the field!

5. BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY (Provo, Utah)


Brigham Young University students have a reputation for being, well, happy! Alumni have been raving about BYU for years, but a ranking from The Daily Beast came out last year listing the college as the seventh happiest college in the country (and tied for the best overall student experience), meaning that there’s some serious school spirit to be found on this campus.

School spirit is bolstered by things like the institution’s religious focus, the stellar freshman retention rate and the general kindness with which students treat one another, according to Deseret News. "BYU has great school spirit because we share values and we always try to be honest and treat others with love," says Isaac, a rising senior.

Clearly, BYU students are happy (and love BYU), and they’ve provided the world with proof in this adorable music video of students lip-synching and dancing to Pharrell’s hit single. At such a spirited school, how can you not be ecstatic all the time?

4. DUKE UNIVERSITY (Durham, North Carolina)


If you follow college sports at all, then you’re probably familiar with the powerhouse that is the Duke University Blue Devils team. Known for having amazing athletics and equally amazing academics, Dukies are crazy proud to be where they are, especially the athletes. “There’s a lot of pride in wearing the Duke uniform,” says Karly, a sophomore and a member of the track and field team. “The athletes not only represent top-tier athletics, but also rigorous academics, and that’s something we hold in high esteem.”

Even for the non-athletes at Duke, school spirit is part and parcel of the college experience. “Have you ever heard about the Cameron Crazies?” asks Elodie, a junior, referring to the ultra-dedicated sports fans who flood Cameron Indoor Stadium during basketball games. “We really couldn’t get more obnoxious if we tried!” she says. “The nights leading up to a game, we tent outside and then we cram body-to-body inside just to watch the games.” Now that’s dedication, especially considering the fact that basketball is a winter sport…

If that image makes you a bit claustrophobic, fear not! There are plenty of other ways Duke students show their school spirit. For example, one student at Duke University wore a piece of Duke apparel every single day of the academic year. That is dedication, friends (and a seriously well-stocked campus apparel section, if we do say so ourselves)!

3. OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY (Columbus, Ohio)


If Duke is bonkers about basketball, Ohio State University is fanatical about football! This large state school is home to a fiercely competitive athletic department and even more fiercely devoted fans. The overwhelming school spirit and pride in athletics brings over 40,000 students together with a common focus, creating a sense of camaraderie among students. “I can definitely say that OSU sports aren’t just an obsession; they’re a way of life,” says Kelsey, a junior.

Not a huge sports fan? You will be soon enough! “During football season,” Kelsey explains, “the social life at OSU basically revolves around the games, and school spirit is not an option!” Spirit is especially out of this world at the final game of the season against the University of Michigan Wolverines, Ohio’s rival team. With such undeniable (and inescapable!) school spirit, it’s no wonder the Buckeyes clocked in at number three on our list! We can practically hear them chanting and cheering from here!

2. THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN (Ann Arbor, Michigan)


Now that we’ve mentioned Ohio State, it only makes sense to mention its biggest football rival: the University of Michigan. When it comes to crazy school spirit, the Wolverines’s spot on this list is well deserved. “At the crack of dawn,” says Rebecca, a junior at UMich, “students wake up sporting head-to-toe maize and blue and get ready to head to the Big House, the largest football stadium in the country.” A huge part of the football culture at Michigan is the famous fight song, “Hail to the Victors,” arguably the most recognizable song in college football. Every student memorizes it before even stepping on campus (We have to admit: it is pretty epic).

While Michigan’s rivalry with Ohio State definitely fuels school spirit on campus, it’s not the only reason why Wolverines are such a spirited bunch. As Rebecca points out, “From academics to athletics, the pride people have at the University of Michigan is ever-present and stays with students long after they graduate.” Go Blue!

1. THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)


And finally, after reviewing nine of the most #obsessed colleges and universities in the country, the title of the most spirited college goes to… the University of Alabama! Why, you might ask? Well, we obviously have to mention the football team that has become one of the most well-known and best-loved teams in the nation, as well as the insanely spirited fans that make UA games such a spectacle. “We have some of the biggest and best tailgates for every football game,” says Connor, a junior. ‘It’s crazy to see how much Alabama gear people are wearing.”

If Michigan has the most recognizable fight song, ‘Bama definitely takes the cake for best, shall we say, “battle cry.” With a stadium that seats over 100,000, it’s no wonder “Roll Tide” pride is off the charts. Connor concludes, “The quote, ‘At some places they play football. At Alabama, we live it,’ sums up our school pretty well.” We couldn’t agree more!

Check out the rest of Her Campus's 2014 College Rankings here!