6 Exciting College Traditions in the US
Many colleges try to keep traditions alive by making them interesting in order to provide a stronger sense of community.
Creating a cultural identity and unity among thousands of students enrolled in one campus at a time seems almost impossible without shared beliefs, values, or behaviors. And so it comes as no surprise that many colleges try to keep traditions alive by making them interesting in order to provide a stronger sense of community — be it in the form of school spirit, academic celebrations, or just plain superstitious beliefs. In this blog, we list six exciting college traditions in the US.
Spirit Splash at University of Central Florida (Orlando, Florida)
Every year, the Friday before the Homecoming game, students at the University of Central Florida rush to the Reflecting Pond to grab a most coveted rubber duck in demonstration of school spirit. The campus’ Reflecting Pond is normally off-limits to students, but the school makes an exception for Spirit Splash, an award-winning event where students and other members of the local community come to enjoy live music, DJs, and free t-shirts.
Spirit Splash made its debut in the 1995 Homecoming pep rally when Miguel Torregrossa, student body president at the time, was thrown into the pond by his cabinet members who all jumped in after him. Today, it continues to be the most anticipated campus event with at least 15,000 participants last year.
Breaking Guinness World Records at University of California, Irvine
It is typical for many colleges to organise events such as Welcome Week in order to help freshmen in transitioning to a new college life. However, Welcome Week at the University of California, Irvine is unlike any other. Aside from traditional festivities accompanied by live entertainment, its students, nicknamed Anteaters, mark the beginning of a new school year by setting world records!
Last year, almost 3,000 participants made Guinness World Records for the largest Capture the Flag game held ever. The years before that, University of California, Irvine has also successfully held record-setting games of dodgeball, pillow fight and water blaster shootout.
Birthday Dunk at Occidental College (Los Angeles, California)
Birthday celebrants at Occidental College tend to be a little wary on their special day while on college grounds, as students have the tradition of catching their victims off guard and throwing them into the Lucille Gilman Memorial Fountain. It is unclear where and when this tradition started, but one thing’s for sure, birthday celebrants never know when it’s coming — they can be pulled out of class at random or kidnapped while having lunch at the cafeteria. So if it’s your birthday, make sure your pockets are free of any valuable electronic gadgets!
Interestingly, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, attended Occidental College from 1979 to 1981, which begs the question if he’s ever been tossed into the fountain on his birthday.
Tiger Walk at Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama)
One of the most imitated traditions in college sports all began with Auburn University when groups of kids during the 1960s would walk the streets of Donahue Drive to greet the varsity football team and get their autographs. Today it has become a treasured Auburn tradition observed two hours before every football game. The team, nicknamed Tigers (hence, the Tiger Walk), would make its way to the Jordan-Hare Stadium on foot – a half a mile walk from the campus’ Athletics Complex. The team is joined by other students and supporters who rally the streets, creating one of the most extraordinary experiences in college football.
However, it was in December 1989 when the Tiger Walk truly made history. During the first ever home game against long-time intrastate rival, University of Alabama, 20,000 fans lined Donahue Drive in passionate support of the team, a fervent event that ESPN.com college football writer, Ivan Maisel, who was there that day, described as a “watermark for years to come”.
Tailgating at Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
In American culture, a tailgate party is a social gathering held on or around the open tailgate of a vehicle on a parking lot of a sports or music venue. Think of it like a picnic where fans share barbecues, alcoholic beverages or soft drinks. Aside from socialising, it is a great opportunity to socialise, which is why it has become a staple tradition for many colleges throughout the US to organise tailgating events to garner support for their athletic teams. While it is commonly held the day before a weekend game, tailgating at Louisiana State University can last the entire three days of a weekend game series, with many fans returning to the same spot year after year.
There is a reason why Louisiana State University, the alma mater of famous retired NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, was hailed as the top destination for college tailgating by Jim Caple, a senior writer at ESPN who described the event as “like strolling through one of Emeril Lagasse's restaurants”. The quality of food served at a Louisiana State University tailgate party is considered an art form for many fans and is taken so seriously that a ‘tailgater of the game’ recognition is awarded by the school.
Kissing Bridge at Florida International University (Miami, Florida)
While college traditions are usually upheld to mark academic achievements or instil school spirit, there are some that can be superstitious in nature. Take Florida International University for example whose traditions include a romantic one: the Kissing Bridge.
It all started in 1972 when it’s Modesto Maidique Campus opened – where the Green Library and the Ryder Business Building are connected by a bridge over a heart-shaped pond. Students began hanging around this pond with their significant others and would from time to time be caught kissing. It is claimed that lovers who share kisses on the bridge will be together forever. Occasionally, the site will be visited by returning couples to tell their stories. It is an intimate tradition that the FIU Alumni Association continues to this day by holding events with food and giveaways every Valentine’s Day.
Wherever you may end up studying, it is important to keep in mind that college traditions are not mere events organised and imposed by the administration – they are a shared culture that largely relies on students enjoying it and passing it on to the next generation. It serves to give institutions an identity that sets it apart from the rest, and some of the longest-standing traditions colleges have today reflect the burning passion the students celebrating them have for their alma mater.