Unique College Graduation Traditions in the US

Unique College Graduation Traditions in the US

Graduation is an incredible experience for any college or university student. College itself is a collection of sleepless nights studying, agonizing tests, and constant reality checks. By crossing that stage and accepting their diploma, these celebrations give meaning to all students’ struggles and celebrate success.

Now, campuses across the country are opening again. Students are gradually filtering back into in-person classes and, in turn, are once again experiencing all that campus culture has to offer. With virtual commencements wrapping up, let’s discuss some of the most unique college graduation traditions in the U.S. that students can expect to see when their classes are done.

Crazy Campus Rituals From Different States

Campuses across the country have rituals that are decades, if not centuries, old, as a way for students to bond and keep their university experience distinct. Here are just a few of the campus rituals you might see graduates engage in across the country:

Notre Dame's School of Architecture Caps

For anyone attending Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony, the architecture students are easy to spot. Situated towards the back of the student seating are graduates whose caps are adorned with 3D sculptures of the world’s most iconic buildings. The school arranges these students towards the back so that their cap decorations don’t keep other students from seeing the actual stage past the Eiffel Tower or Seattle’s Space Needle.

The Bobcat River Jump at Texas State University

San Marcos, Texas, is known in part for its gorgeous stretch of river. While the river boasts floating tubes, kayaks, and wild rice plants most times of the year, commencement day at Texas State University changes things up.

Graduating Bobcats jump right into the river, dawning their full cap and gown attire (sans their shoes, usually). Many students incorporate tricks like backflips and synchronized jumps, but this ritual is more than a great photo op for families. By jumping into the river, graduates take a confident plunge into their future.

Crossing the Seal at Rhodes College

At Rhodes College in Tennessee, one graduation tradition occurs over the course of a student’s entire career. A commonly held superstition among students prohibits them from walking over the Rhodes seal located in the Cloister of the Southwestern Hall. According to belief, any student who steps on the seal during their academic career graduates late, or potentially, doesn’t graduate at all.

During the Rhodes College commencement ceremony, however, the graduating class is permitted to finally step over the seal and move forward as alumni of the institution.

Unique Graduate Gifts Across the Country

Alongside the wild and, at times, strange campus traditions, there are also a few unique gifts that graduates receive on the big day. While these gifts aren’t limited to any specific campus, they are unique to a student’s family. Here are just a couple examples of graduation gifts you won’t see every day.

Stacking Graduation Lei

Hawaiian families both in the Archipelago and on the mainland give gorgeous lei as a celebration of their loved one’s accomplishments. For some, a single lei adorns their robe and joins them as they accept their diploma on stage. For others, however, lei can get stacked so high over their shoulders that they are impossible to see past! In that case, the graduate often asks friends and family to temporarily hold onto their flowers until they’ve made it past the stage stairs.

Giving Money Sculptures

Money sculptures are an increasingly developing craft that makes for incredible graduation gifts. As with Louisiana’s tradition of money pinning on birthdays, giving the gift of cash helps the graduate as they move forward. However, some friends and families take their cash gifts to the next level.

From cash origami and money leis to full money-made cakes, people with a bit of paper skill find ways to present their cash gift in a way that’s impossible to forget!

A Piece of Home

Some families choose to give new graduates a piece of home as their unique gift. A gift that encompasses their state or town serves as a reminder that no matter where they go, there are people supporting them back home. These gifts, from dried state flowers to state-specific mugs and jewelry, are ideal for graduates who seek to move away in pursuit of a career.

Making a Graduation Special

Each one of these unique college graduation traditions in the U.S. serves to turn graduation into something truly special. From the gifts given, the speakers present, and the campus antics undertaken, the point is to ensure that no one forgets this incredibly important day. Even if your student’s campus lacks a particular ritual, you can still do your part to make a graduation special.

Host a Graduation Party

Consider hosting a graduation party for your graduate and their peers or sponsoring a trip to kick off their new path. In the Midwest, it’s almost impossible to attend a graduation party that doesn’t feature a trifold of family photos and a plate of pulled pork sandwiches. That said, whether you live in the Midwest or not, feel free to get creative with the setup and food options.

If you choose to throw the graduation party as a surprise, coordinate with your graduate’s family and friends to ensure your graduate’s schedule doesn’t conflict with the party. You also want to look for clues as to the perfect foods, gifts, and activities to make the party special.

Celebrate Their Progress

The path to earning that degree is a long one, with challenges, celebrations, and many helpful people along the way. Make a graduation special by giving a gift that reminds a graduate just how far they’ve come. Photo albums are an incredible keepsake gift, perfect for remembering the moments that made their accomplishment possible. Even a hand-written note or letter can go a long way to show your graduate how respected their achievement is and that people genuinely support and admire their ambition.

No matter what college or university your grad attends, graduation plaques make for a beautiful, unique, and personal gift. At Crystal Central, you have the tools to customize a plaque to celebrate your grad’s accomplishments. With intuitive online design tools and a responsive customer service team, we are happy to help you send the perfect message and have it perfectly engraved into long-lasting crystal.

Unique College Graduation Traditions in the US

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