- Graduations are the stuff of tradition, but sometimes those traditions are truly bizarre.
- Some schools race wooden hoops, some throw watches off rooftops, and some distribute the wrong diplomas.
- They may be ridiculous, but those traditions are what make some schools treasured institutions.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For those graduating from university this year, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to their alma mater.
Thankfully, graduation ceremonies exist as both a formality for their parents to take pictures of, and as an opportunity for the new grads to conclude years of hard work and hard partying by throwing their caps in the air.
But not all grads throw their caps in the air. Some colleges have stranger traditions – Smith College distributes diplomas unlike any other school, Yale University has a lucky toe, and Wellesley College rolls wooden hoops downhill.
Here are some of the strangest and silliest graduation traditions in American universities.
Smith College’s Diploma Circle
While most graduates receive their diplomas when their names are called as they walk across the stage, at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, graduates get a random diploma with any one of 700 classmates’ names. They then walk over to a field on campus where they form the Diploma Circle.
The Diploma Circle, a century-old tradition, is when the graduating class stands around in concentric circles while diplomas are passed from student to student until everyone has her diploma.
Wellesley College’s wooden hoops
Wellesley College students have one of the strangest traditions upon graduating: they race wooden hoops down Tupelo Street.
It started out as May Day celebration in honour of spring, but soon grew to become a graduation day tradition. The winner of the race is said to go on to achieve success. The winner is also swept up by the other students and promptly thrown into Lake Waban.
It may seem like an exciting race, but the reality is a little more haphazard – grads dropping their hoops, colliding into one another, all to win the coveted first place.
Yale University’s lucky toe
Yale students have a rather bizarre tradition that involves the toe of former Yale president Theodore Dwight Woolsey’s bronze statue.
Yale tour guides routinely explain that students rub the toe for good luck once they graduate. Legend has it that Woosley, when he was president, would attend a regatta in support of the Yale crew team. Every time he kicked off a boat with his left toe to start the race, the Yale team would win.
Unfortunately, however, this legend has no basis in fact, and the toe itself isn’t known to be lucky. And the tradition that grads rub the toe isn’t true either – it was invented to cover up the real tradition: when students graduate, they urinate on the toe, which might explain the slightly worn golden tint of the bronze toe.
Williams College’s watch throwing
At Williams College, a destructive tradition has been held for the last century – throwing watches off of Thompson Chapel, to celebrate the passage of time. Perhaps these grads don’t want time to keep on moving. If they could stop time at any moment in their lives, graduation day is a fitting choice.
Throwing a watch, like many graduation traditions, is said to bring good luck to the thrower.
Notre Dame’s 3D graduation cap decorations
Students graduating from Notre Dame’s School of Architecture make their graduation cap decorations over-the-top –literally.
The students build 3D replicas of buildings, bridges, Ferris wheels, and more to wear during commencement ceremony.
“Needless to say, the architecture seating assignment during the University Commencement Ceremony is located in the back rows of the main floor section,” says the Notre Dame school website.
Liberty University’s nursing students burn their scrubs
Liberty University nursing students celebrate their freedom from school by burning their scrubs – and the school dean joins in.
Each year, graduating students gather at the home of Dean Deanna Britt’s house for a bonfire, where they fling their scrubs into the fire.
“It’s freedom! In the hospital we are recognised by our uniform and so burning our white scrubs means that we no longer have to label ourselves as student nurses,” former nursing student Sarah Hacking said on the school’s website.
West Point nominates a “class goat”
In an otherwise cruel nightmare, the worst-performing West Point student gets recognised in front of the entire graduation crowd and gets named the “class goat.”
Though the practice seems harsh, class goats are a time-honored tradition. They also receive a cash prize and a standing ovation, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Notre Dame walking down the steps
The steps outside the front of Notre Dame’s main campus building – with the iconic Golden Dome – are off-limits to students until after they graduate. When graduation day comes, excited seniors get to walk down the steps on their way to the commencement ceremony.
The tradition dates back to the 19th century, when students used to smoke with professors after completing a degree program, according to the school’s website.