The Craziest College Traditions

Ohio State Mirror Lake Jump

Parents everywhere would probably like to believe that college is a time for quiet contemplation, and feverish studying, but the truth is a little more complicated. Even the nation’s most obscure universities tend to have long and celebrated histories, which can shine through thanks to traditions that can seem downright bizarre to outsiders.

Whether you’re in college now or you’re still trying to find that perfect university to continue your education, you might enjoy taking a look at some of the craziest college traditions you’ll find in the US.

Ohio State University – Mirror Lake Jump

Ohio State Mirror Lake Jump

Let’s start by recognizing that some of the traditions on this list aren’t exactly what you’d call safe. Ohio State University is home to the Mirror Lake Jump, which began in 1990. It came about when 100 OSU students jumped into nearby Mirror Lake in anticipation of a high-stakes football showdown with Michigan State, their most contentious rivals.

These days, it’s not at all uncommon for thousands of students to make the plunge to celebrate the Ohio-Michigan face-off. The danger doesn’t come so much from the impact but from the temperature: students make the jump in the colder months, which means that hypothermia is a very real possibility.

Cornell University – Dragon Day

Cornell University - Dragon Day

Located in beautiful Ithaca in upstate New York, Cornell University is a very well-regarded Ivy League school. The institution’s prestige and seriousness seems to evaporate every St. Patrick’s Day, however, when freshman in the school’s architectural program design a stories-tall dragon to parade around the campus.

The students accompany the dragon throughout its journey, dressed in all manner of outlandish costumes. In years past, the dragon was ceremoniously retired in a huge bonfire, but the practice has been discontinued due to safety concerns.

Florida State University – Sod Cemetery

Florida State University - Sod Cemetery

It may seem strange, but FSU is home to a small cemetery that hosts not dead bodies, but chunks of sod. It has headstones and everything, completing a portrait of strangeness that’s business-as-usual to students at the school.

The tradition dates back to 1962, when then-Dean Coyle Moore challenged the school’s football team to bring back some sod from the football field at Sanford Stadium. Ever since, the team has continued the tradition of stealing sod from rival schools, bringing it back home, and burying it to commemorate their victories.

Reed College – Annual Nitrogen Day

Reed College - Annual Nitrogen Day

For quite a few years now, Reed College has been celebrating nitrogen, an element which they seem to believe does not receive the appreciation it’s due. The event is formally named “Reed College’s Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day,” but don’t let the number seven fool you: it’s a reference to nitrogen’s place on the periodic table, not to the number of years the event has taken place.

The celebration is one day long, and has students taking part in campus-wide festivals featuring free food and entertainment and, strangely enough, a haiku recital.

Traditions for the Non-Traditional Student

This is just a short list; there are many more traditions among the nation’s universities. Of course, a traditional college experience isn’t necessarily for everyone. The thing to remember is that even if you’re attending one of the nation’s top online colleges, or you’ve constructed a hybrid curriculum, you can create traditions of your very own.