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The Top 9 Quirkiest College Traditions

Chances are your school's traditions aren’t quite as strange (or awesome) as these 9 quirky college rituals.

Does your school have any unusual traditions? Chances are, they aren’t quite as strange (or as awesome) as these 9 college rituals.

1. Excessively Overdressed Quad Stroll

Tufts University - Excessively Overdressed Quad Stroll
A creative alternative to streaking!

Where: Tufts University

This end-of-semester tradition didn’t always involve absurd layers of clothes. In fact, when it started in the 1970s, it didn’t involve any at all! Students back then would streak naked across the quad to blow off steam before finals. When the tradition was banned in 2011, students devised a way to bring it back without baring it all.

2. Shoe Tree

Shoe Tree at Murray State University
Foot-related antics with Murray State University’s Shoe Tree

Where: Murray State University

The Shoe Tree has become an integral part of the campus scenery, though its origins are unclear. Some say it began around 1965 as a student art project; others prefer to believe that it was a way to acknowledge the love between two people who met on campus. Students who fall in love or marry reportedly each nail a shoe to the tree for good luck. The current Shoe Tree is actually the third one—the first was struck by lightning; the second was taken down in 2015 when falling limbs created a safety concern.

3. Healy Howl

The Exorcist House on Georgetown's campus.
The Exorcist House on Georgetown’s campus

Where: Georgetown University

William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, is a Georgetown alum, and the campus was used to shoot some of the horror movie’s scenes. So it’s no surprise that students embrace this school-film connection. Every year on Halloween, there’s a screening of the film, and afterward, around midnight, students head over to the cemetery near Healy Hall to howl at the moon, which is meant to scare away the spirits that haunt the campus.

Exorcist House Photo © Kevin Burkett, cc-by.

4. Orgo Night

Orgo Night - Columbia University
Now that’s a study break!

Where: Columbia University

At midnight on the eve of the organic chemistry final, the Columbia University Marching Band bursts into Butler Library playing the alma mater at full volume to distract studying students. This twice-yearly tradition is believed to have started as a prank in the 1960s, with students hoping it would lower the curve of the exam.

It should be noted that in 2016, college administrators banned the band from continuing the tradition. However, it has continued, and last semester the marching band issued a statement to the effect that although libraries are a place to be productive, Orgo Night is meant to disrupt college stress “for two nights out of the year.”

5. Pumpkin Drop

Pumpkin Drop - Muir College
Pumpin piñata!

Where: Muir College, UC San Diego

This Halloween tradition isn’t quite as spooky as the Healy Howl at Georgetown University. Instead of a howl fest, pumpkins filled with candy are pushed off an 11-story freshman residence hall. In 2015, a gigantic pumpkin weighing a whopping 600 pounds and splattering 138 feet set a new school record!

6. Primal Scream and Silent Dance Party

Carleton College Silent Dance Party
The dance party your neighbors won’t even mind!

Where: Carleton College

At 10 p.m. the night before finals, Carleton students in Northfield, Minnesota, put down their books, lean out their windows, and unleash a collective wail of anguish heard across campus. Then they go back to their studies.

The college also has a quieter, relatively new tradition: At 11 p.m. on one of the two reading nights before finals, party-goers gather on the first floor of the library, put in their earbuds or don their headphones, press play at exactly the same moment, and silently dance to an hour-long playlist compiled by the party organizers. The dance party then moves from the library to a variety of other locations around campus.

7. Liquid Latex

Liquid Latex - Brandeis University
A cold walk down the runway

Where: Brandeis University

For this unique Brandeis tradition, a body art dance performance, participants wear nothing but a thong and colorful latex body paint (which can take up to 6 hours to apply). While somewhat risque, the student organizers take it very seriously: Participants must submit designs for their pieces before their models can take the stage. The annual event originated as a “Body Art Fashion Show” but has evolved into a performance using bodies as an artistic medium. There is nothing else like it in the United States, says a former student coordinator.

8. Testudo Offerings

Exam Time Offerings - University of Maryland
Help me, Testudo, you’re my only hope!

Where: University of Maryland

Since the late 1990s, students have been leaving offerings for Testudo, the university’s turtle mascot, hoping he’ll bring them good luck for finals week (as well as ward off parking tickets). From gum and flowers to sunglasses and even electronics, students leave an abundance of gifts for the bronzed reptile. In 2013 a candle offering tipped over and set the offerings ablaze. Fortunately, Testudo emerged from the flames unscathed!

9. Van Wickle Gates

Van Wickle Gates - Brown University
You shall not pass! (More than twice)

Where: Brown University

Students are careful to not pass through these majestic iron and stone gates more than twice during their time at the university: once coming in as a first-year student and once going out during commencement. Any more than that and you’ll be cursed with bad luck!

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