As befits a 600-year-old institution, the University of St Andrews has many traditions which students may take part in if they wish. Taking part is not a requirement, but most students enjoy the traditions as a unique aspect of the St Andrews experience.

Red academic gown

Our most famous tradition is probably the red academic gown, which is usually worn at formal occasions – though you can choose to wear it all of the time if you like.

Students wearing their red gowns

Academic families

St Andrews is also home to a large number of academic families – a tradition where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. This is a fantastic way for first year students to meet new people, and many of the friendships that begin as part of the academic family tradition continue throughout a student’s time at the University and beyond.

Raisin Weekend

This ‘mentoring’ culminates in Raisin Weekend, when children are entertained by their parents and are encouraged to play pranks and silly games. On Raisin Monday, the children dress in embarrassing, flamboyant costumes, are given strange objects with a traditional Latin inscription, and are let loose on Lower College lawn for an enormous shaving foam fight.

May Dip

Another famous tradition that many students choose to take part in is the May Dip, where you might find yourself plunging into a freezing North Sea at dawn on the first of May, which is said to promote good luck in exams.

If you do not fancy a cold swim, you can always help by promising to look after your friends’ clothes on the beach!


A final tradition occurs after many students’ final undergraduate exam when their friends will meet them as they leave the location of their exam to shower them with cold water. This invigorating tradition is a great way to celebrate completing your final undergraduate examination period!