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The 7 Weirdest College Traditions


Sure, your school may have a crazy homecoming weekend or raging parties on St. Paddy’s Day, but does your campus have a tree made of shoes? Do you parade a giant dragon around campus? These schools do! Here are seven of the weirdest college traditions.

7. Tufts University: The Naked Quad Run

The annual Naked Quad Run took place just before fall finals in early New England December at Tufts University. It attracted hundreds of students looking to unwind… or just looking to, well, look.

Dorm residents would “warm up” with alcohol and gather in the basement of a dorm, undress as a group and exit from the rear of the building. Though it was called a “naked” run, many participants sported odd props like hats and capes.

Unfortunately, the decades-long tradition for celebrating the end of the semester has come to a halt, as the president of the school cancelled it in 2011 with students’ health in mind—and the fact that it’s technically illegal. After it was canceled, students modified the tradition that year and implemented an “Excessively Overdressed Quad Stroll” instead.

6. Murray State University: The Shoe Tree

In the middle of Murray State’s Kentucky campus stands a tree with at least 50 pairs of mismatched shoes nailed to it. Though it isn’t the prettiest of sights, it has quite an interesting backstory. While no one on campus can really say when the tradition of the shoe tree began, it has become an integral part of the university’s history and an ongoing tradition.

The story states that if two students meet at Murray State, fall in love and get married, they’ll have good luck if each partner nails a shoe to the tree. Couples often write their anniversaries on their shoes as well, and it’s common for people to return to nail a baby shoe to the tree when they’ve started a family.

5. Pomona College: Ski-Beach Day

Only in Southern California would it be possible to go skiing and visit the beach in the same day – so Pomona College has taken advantage of it. For one day in February or March, a busload of Pomona students heads to Mountain High resort to take on the slopes. Then in the afternoon, they board the bus and head to Newport Beach to finish the day with a cookout and boogie boards.

Though students aren’t quite sure just how Ski-Beach Day got its start, they do know bits and pieces of its origins. Early in the school’s history, classes were dismissed one day a year for an all-day outing. By the 1920s, they had Snow Day in the nearby mountains. In 1940, a lack of snow forced the students to head to Laguna Beach instead for a “Beach Day.” At some point between then and now, the two events were brought together to create today’s Ski-Beach Day.

4. Vassar College: Senior Serenading

Vassar College has a number of cool traditions, but the annual serenading definitely tops the list. Each year, to establish their power, the seniors walk dorm to dorm, where freshmen sing songs to them–though they’re usually pretty insulting.

As if that wasn’t strange enough, the innocent singing eventually becomes a campus-wide food fight. As the freshmen sing, the senior class throws condiments – anything from chocolate syrup to balloons filled with ketchup – at them.

3. Cornell University: Dragon Day

Every year on the Friday before the university’s spring break, the freshman architectural students of Cornell get together to design an elaborate dragon structure that stands several stories high. Students from the department dress in outrageous costumes and parade the dragon around campus during the day.

The first Dragon Day was in 1901, when a Cornell senior led a group of students around campus carrying a model dragon. The idea was partly inspired by the legend of St. Patrick, who drove the snakes and serpents out of Ireland. About 50 years later, the event evolved into its current lively and outrageous form, with an actual constructed dragon.

2. Columbia University: Orgo Night

The day before the infamous organic chemistry exam on the first day of finals at Columbia University, all hell breaks loose. At the stroke of midnight, “Orgo Night” begins with the Columbia University Marching Band occupying the main room of the library to distract students from studying– as one of the night’s purposes is to lower the curve of the orgo exam.

The band starts with some campus-relevant jokes and music, and after about 30 minutes, it moves on to Van Am Quad to entertain residents of the nearby dorms. The band plays at various other locations around campus and ends the night in front of the Furnald Hall dormitory, where seniors gathered on the steps are presented with champagne and are serenaded by the freshmen band members.

1. Reed College: Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day

You can’t see it, smell it or taste it, but you sure can celebrate it! Reed College in Oregon sets a special day aside each year to appreciate the students’ favorite element: nitrogen.

The school describes their “Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day” as a “celebration of one of the universe’s most important, yet under-appreciated elements.” The celebration is complete with free food, a band and poetry readings on the student union porch – and everything is nitrogen-themed.

The “Seventh Annual” part of the celebration’s name doesn’t refer to the year, as every year’s celebration is actually called the Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day. That’s because nitrogen is the seventh element on the periodic table. We see what you did there, Reed…

The Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day has become one of the most popular traditions on Reed’s campus, happening every year since 1992. Its origin is hard to trace, though one chemistry professor says the celebration sprung out of times when passionate science majors would give nitrogen-related speeches in the quad.


Bet you didn’t come to college thinking students would run naked in the middle of winter or nail shoes to trees… but college is full of surprises! Does your school have any wacky traditions? Let us know in the comments! 

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