1. Guarding the Rock

One of the longest standing Northwestern traditions is guarding and painting the rock. This tradition began long ago, first with the Class of 2019 gifting a fountain to the University. Yes, the rock was originally a fountain. The rock was first painted in the 1940s. While moving the rock in 1989, it was dropped and it broke apart, but was soon repaired. The tradition holds that one must guard the rock for 24 hours before they are allowed to paint it. Rumor has it that a camera is perched on top of a nearby building to ensure this tradition is followed.

2. The Primal Scream

This tradition is one Northwestern has kept for a while and one that many other colleges and universities also partake in. Every Sunday before finals weeks at 9 p.m., stressed students of Northwestern scream their stress away simultaneously.

3. Dillo Day

Dillo Day holds its roots in May Day, which was originally a celebration of the women of Northwestern. Armadillo “Dillo” Day began in 1972 and has held ever since. It is held on the last Saturday of May. It’s an all-day musical festival that has featured big-names like B.o.B, the Decemberists, and Nelly.

4. Jingling of the keys

Every game at kickoff, Northwestern students pull out their keys and jingle them in the air. Although the tradition’s origins are unknown and the meaning of the tradition is controversial, it still remains a favorite of Northwestern fans at football games.

5. March through the Arch

This is a tradition I just recently participated in. Every incoming class of freshmen marches through the Weber Arch, one of the most distinguishable Northwestern landmarks on campus. After marching through the arch, the new, incoming class take a stroll through campus and collect on Deering Meadow where the class picture is taken.

6. The freshmen dance

This is a tradition that I personally was not prepared for. Every year, the Board of Directors for Wildcat Welcome (the welcome week/orientation for incoming students) as well as the Peer Advisors (PAs) create a dance that they teach to the incoming students. Every year gets a different song and dance that the class learns at the first pep ralley.

7. Nicknames galore


The lingo at Northwestern can be daunting and hard to accustom to as a new student. Such examples are the Foster-Walker complex (a residence facility for studnents) is nicknamed “plex”, and the Starbucks in the Norris student center is called “Norbucks”. Many majors are abrievated, such as BME for biomedical engineering or MechE for mechanical engineering.

8. Night at Target

As part of Wildcat Welcome, Northwestern rents out a nearby Target from 10:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. where students receive free ICEEs, popcorn, goody-bags, and can shop for various things they made need for their dorm. Though, the line for checkout isn’t as fun as all the shopping. I personally waited in line for upwards of a half an hour and the line sneaked through all the aisles in the grocery section.

9. Field Museum/Millennium Park

In previous years, the incoming class and transfer students were taken to Millennium Park in Chicago where they were taught the Northwestern fight song, among other things. This year, Northwestern changed the regular tradition to a night at the Field Museum in Chicago. As well as having the freedom to roam the museum, events were held that related to our summer reading book: The Inconvenient Indian.

10. The Wildcat Dash

Another football tradition is to have the incoming students dash across Ryan Field, home to the Northwestern Wildcats, before sitting down and watching their first football game as students. This event happens every year during Wildcat Welcome and has become a favorite among staff and students.


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