Myers: How to navigate all of Northwestern’s traditions as a new student

Andrew Myers, Op-Ed Contributor

If you visited any colleges, including Northwestern, you were probably overloaded with information about academics, college life and clubs. However, a less talked-about subject when choosing universities is traditions. Northwestern’s traditions are no different as they help to bring the Wildcat community together — at football games, charity events, music festivals or stressful final exams.

Some Northwestern traditions happened during your first week of orientation. Those included the March Through the Arch and the Wildcat Dash. 

March Through the Arch is a symbolic tradition where new students enter through the Weber Arch at the beginning of their first year at Northwestern together and exit out of the arch at the end of their senior year. The Wildcat Dash took place before Northwestern football’s first home game against Michigan State where all first-year students and transfers run across Ryan Field before kickoff. It was one of the few times in your years at Northwestern where you will be able to actually stand on Ryan Field — unless, of course, you are in the marching band.

Further along your first year at Northwestern, you will also walk past the iconic rock that sits at the intersection of Kresge, University and Harris. The rock has been on campus since 1902 and has been painted over for nearly 80 years. Student groups consistently paint the rock to promote their club or an event, but in order to paint the rock, they must guard it for 24 hours.

In Winter Quarter, I highly recommend participating in a crazy but incredibly fun NU tradition: Dance Marathon. Dance Marathon is a 30-hour dance-a-thon, a charity event where students dance outside Norris University Center in a tent to raise money for a specific organization each year. 

Dance Marathon has existed at Northwestern for 46 years, and last year, Northwestern dancers supported Communities in Schools Chicago by raising over $1 million. 

One of my favorite traditions at Northwestern that bonds the entire student body is the primal scream. The scream takes place at 9 p.m. on the Sunday before finals week each quarter. With just about every student on campus cramming in their last hours of studying before finals week commences, everyone on campus, no matter where they are —  even sitting in the silence of Deering Library — screams.

While I’ll admit the first time I heard it I thought someone was in real danger, it was quite hilarious and exhilarating to scream at the top of my lungs in Deering Library as I was struggling to finish a long paper.

Thankfully, when Spring Quarter comes and warm weather is upon us, we are blessed with the last Northwestern tradition of the school year: Dillo Day. Dillo Day is a one-day music festival put on exclusively by and for Northwestern students. 

It started in 1972 when Northwestern students from Texas held a celebration to honor their home state’s animal — the armadillo — and it has since grown to become the largest student-run music festival in the country. Last year’s lineup included Teyana Taylor, Daya and A$AP Ferg, as well as performances from a student band and DJ.

I have certainly not covered every tradition at Northwestern, but these traditions should get you in the Wildcat spirit for your first year at Northwestern. Engaging with these traditions is a great way to involve yourself in the community and help make Northwestern feel like your home away from home.

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