8 Weird Ivy League Traditions You Don't Know About

07/12/20176 minute read
8 Weird Ivy League Traditions You Don't Know About

The Ivy League colleges are eight of the finest education institutions in the Americas and they uphold rich and cherished traditions some dating back to the 17th century.

Each college, in their own way, influences the way we teach and learn around the world. However, while the Ivy League Schools certainly shared some great contributions, they’ve also founded some truly bizarre behaviours and traditions.

Most of these "rich" Ivy League traditions are like putting your socks on over your shoes, to be frank - they just don't make much sense. And that's exactly why we're writing about them.

While aspects of college life, such as party culture, weird traditions, and the amount of bars on campus, shouldn't really influence your decision of where to study, it’s hard to deny that these factors are silently persuasive. These weirdo events just look and sound fun!

Now you just need to decide: is partying at Yale all night long or streaking through Harvard the night before final exams more exciting? Here are the best and weirdest Ivy Leagues traditions to help you decide what college you'd like to party -- I mean, study at!

1. Yale’s Bladderball:

Bladderball is a rugby-like game played by many (sometimes up to 6) ill-defined teams, who chase around a giant leather ball in an attempt to score points in an ill-defined (or sometimes non-existent) goal.

Teams are allowed to use any means at their disposal to get the ball to their goal. If you think Bladderball has a distinct lack of purpose, well, you're right. However, the lack of meaning is what makes Bladderball such a special tradition at Yale University!

Originally, Bladderball started as a prelude to the Yale-Dartmouth Football match way back in 1954, and was played annually up until 1982 when a string of minor injuries and increasingly antisocial activity during the game forced then president, A. Bartlett Giamatti, to ban the sport.

However, since its banning, Bladderball has made few elusive and fleeting cameo appearances on campus, keeping the flames of hope alive for all Bladderball enthusiasts and prospective Bladderball stars.

In 2009, 2011, and then briefly in 2014 Bladderball sporadically appeared on campus and then vanished again, and has not been seen since. Bladderball, if you're out there reading this, we miss you, please come home.

2. Cornell University - Dragon Day

This is one of the stranger traditions of the Ivy League institutions, which consists of a dragon, a bonfire and heckling fellow students - doesn’t seem too refined and cultured to me.

Each year around mid-March, freshman from the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning construct a dragon, similar to that from Chinese culture, and parade it around campus in outrageous outfits.

While the students lumber through campus, their rivals from the College of Engineering heckle at top volume. The dragon eventually comes to rest at the Cornell Arts Quad where it is then burned in a symbolic bonfire. This tradition dates all the way back to 1901 - that’s over 100 years!

3. Harvard University - Primal Scream and Streaking

You know the night before exams when you have that anxious feeling in your stomach and many pent up emotions of excitement, nerves, stress, anger, sadness and doubt? Well, the most natural and normal way to respond to those feelings is to have a cup of chamomile tea, take one last glance through your textbook and have an early night

Unless you attend Harvard.

It’s tradition at Harvard, to take all of your clothes off and streak through the iconic Harvard Yard. Alternatively, if you’re not game enough to get your kit off and shake your stuff, you can roll down your dorm room window and and release all of that pent up emotion by screaming at the top of your lungs at the frolicking naked people below.

Yep, streaking and screaming are a tradition at Harvard - one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

4. UPenn - Toast Throwing (Athletics)

Ahhh, The University of Pennsylvania, known for producing some of the world’s finest academics, artists, business people and toast throwers.

Wait, what?

Yep, that’s right, toast throwers.

UPenn gave us some of the world’s finest minds, including Elon Musk and Warren Buffet, but its grandest old tradition is throwing toast at a football game.

And it’s not just toast, Penn supporters - known as 'Quakers fans' - hurl all manner of baked goods onto the field during the third- and fourth-quarter break at every home game.

At the end of the third quarter, Quaker fans sing the college’s fight song, “Drink a Highball”, ending with the line, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn” - traditionally taking a swig of whatever beverage is on hand. When alcohol was banned from the stadium in the late 1970s, fans decided to interpret toast more literally and chuck throwing toast onto Franklin Field ever since.

What a time to be alive!

5. Princeton - Newman's Day

Princeton isn't known for its partying or cutting loose. But that all changes on April 24 when many students attempt to drink 24 beers in 24 hours while going about their regular day, classes and all.

That day’s tradition stems from actor Paul Newman who is attributed (possibly falsely) to the quotation, "24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not." Seriously, that's how Princeton came up with this thing A dubious quote from an an old acting legend. Talk about weird.

Any excuse to drink a case o’ beer, right? … right? While a seemingly ridiculous thing to do, the tradition actually extends far beyond Princeton's campus and is beloved by many US colleges.

6. Columbia - Orgo Night.

If you’re lucky enough to gain admission into Organic Chemistry at Columbia, then you might want to avoid studying at the library the night before your final exam. You might ask ‘where could possibly be quieter than the library the night before final exams,’ well, at Columbia, just about anywhere on campus.

At exactly midnight the night before the Organic Chemistry final - usually the first day of exams - Columbia Marching Band occupies Butler Library and belts out a few tunes, ignoring their classmates desires to study.

Allegedly, this is done in order to help raise the grading curve on the exam… which, if you ask me, is hilarious. After about 45 minutes of playing and distracting diligent students, the band moves on to start playing on the lawn in front of the campuses residence halls. All in the name of fun and culture.

7. Brown - Van Wickle Gates

It may sound odd, but the main entrance onto the Brown campus is only open three times a year!

The Van Wickle Gates hold a lot of meaning on campus and are a symbolic representation of your journey with Brown University. At the beginning of each fall semester, the incoming freshman pass through the gates to be welcomed by the University President. Then the gates are opened for new students who enrolled as part of the spring semester. Lastly, they open for graduating seniors to pass through as they leave the University - one final send off before they receive their degrees and start the next chapter of their life.

The Gates hold such a special place on campus that it’s considered bad luck to go through them more than two times — at the start of your enrolment and again upon graduating.

8. Dartmouth - Polar Bear Swim

The polar bear swim at Dartmouth is relatively new compared to other Ivy League traditions, dating back only 23 years.

While only a baby, it’s still equally as odd as some of the other school's traditions - looking at your Toast Throw. This event is a popular part of the Dartmouth’s annual Winter Festival, which celebrates the beauty of the Upper Valley in Vermont and the college's winter sports teams' achievements.

The Polar Bear Swim takes places in the frozen-over Occom Pond, where a small pool is carved out. Students and faculty, rallied by their peers, brace the cold and swim a length in the frigid conditions.'

If jumping into an ice cold lake is on your bucket list, then Dartmouth is definitely the place for you!

Final thoughts...

The fun of college life is a huge part of the university experience. When considering your admissions application, you should put some thought into the environment and people you'd like to surround yourself with. The Ivy League Schools have many weird and colourful traditions, which will make your journey through a US college much more fulfilling.

But it's not all weird and wonderful at the Ivy Leagues, check out how they stack up against the Oxbridge schools: Oxford and Cambridge.