Freshmen at St. Mary’s College of Maryland tend to walk to class a little hastier on their birthdays. They keep their head down, their eyes shifty, and their phone and wallet back in the dorm. Of course, these are futile efforts, which are inevitably thwarted by seemingly “good” friends who are commanded by tradition to hunt down the birthday student and toss him or her into the body of water that sits beside the school.
Sounds fun right? I mean, it’s a little inconvenient to have to change your clothes mid-day, but it only happens to you once, and then you get to chase down your friends, which of course is the best part.
Traditions like these tell us a lot about a school. They tell us what the students are like, how they interact with each other, how much school pride they have, and most importantly, what their reltionship is like with the school faculty. If students are allowed to throw each other into the water once a year, that relationship is probably pretty trusting and supportive, and the students are probably pretty easy going and adventurous.
These communal traditions are what’s great about college. It’s a place where a bunch of young, smart, diverse yet like-minded people come together to live, learn and build their own culture. It’s like being in a relatively small village for four or so years. But while this is the picturesque college world, it’s not always this awesome.
Some schools have yet to develop their own traditions. Other schools have traditions curbed by an overbearing faculty or ruined by disrespectful students. Some schools, for whatever reason, just seem to have apathetic and uninspired students. The difference between these unfortunate schools and the awesome ones has nothing to do with size, location or cost. It’s simply about how well the student experience has developed.
So if you’re looking for a way to get to the heart of that student experience to ensure it’s as lively, historic and fun as you’ve always hoped, make sure to ask student representatives what type of traditions there are.
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