SEC students tailgating before a big game (Image via ESPN)

Now that college football has gotten underway, students across the country will be attending tailgates more and more often. The ritual of tailgating before football games has been going on for longer than anyone can even remember, so it only makes sense for current college students to be excited for this time of year.

Whether you are interested in football or not, you should definitely be participating in this collegiate tradition. While it might seem strange at first, a bunch of people standing in a parking lot for hours and hours before a big game, it is actually one of the most important things about being a college student. There aren’t always going to be clear ways for you to show your school spirit and take part in the traditions offered to you.

Tailgating, at its core, is basically the same all over the country, but there are little things that each school does to make them extra special for you. So, here are all the reasons why tailgating is one of the best parts about being a college student.

1. Food

What’s the most important part of any social gathering? The food. In addition to friends, good weather and music, food meant for tailgating is one of the most anticipated aspects of the entire experience. There are some foods that are essentially synonymous with tailgating, such as hot dogs, burgers, chips and store-bought cookies.

An LSU fan grills up some chicken during a tailgate (Image via USA Today)

While these are basic staples of any tailgate, there are always some dedicated fans who go the extra mile and steps up their cooking game. Some of the greatest next-level tailgate foods are homemade baked goods or any kind of chili; the desserts will satisfy any sweet tooth and the chili, whether on a hot dog or by itself, will keep you full and get you energized for a long game up in the stands.

Finally, when the weather gets colder, no tailgating table is complete without some hot chocolate or hot apple cider. These fall-specific drinks will warm you up, and get you in the mood of the season!

2. Meeting New Friends

It is not very often that an entire community of students is in one place at one time. Tailgating physically brings hundreds of students into a common space, making it the perfect opportunity to meet some new people. You already know that you have at least one thing in common with everyone there—you’re there to cheer on your team—so why not branch out and try to establish some new friendships build upon that common ground?

Also, since everyone is typically in a happy and energetic mood before the game, it makes it easier to approach and connect with some people whom you never would have talked to otherwise.

No matter what anyone says, it is never too late to make new friends. Even if you have a solidly established friend group, there is no harm in going to a tailgate to find some new friendly faces you can see around campus. Doing so might even make your college experience better than you ever thought it could be by bringing you a lifelong friend.

3. Games

In the same vein as meeting new people, tailgating activities are the perfect way to break the ice between you and your new friends. Games such as corn hole and Kan Jam will help you get into the team spirit, because you will be directly competing against another team. Even if you don’t play, encouraging your friends will help set the mood for the football game and get you and everyone else ready to cheer your hearts out for your team.

You can also really dive right into tailgating season by bringing along a football for you and your friends. Although you won’t be at the same level as the players on the field, you’ll definitely be able to get ready for the game in a fun and active way.

4. Enjoying the Outdoors

Since tailgating is an outdoor event, students will be able to appreciate their campuses in a different light. No matter how much time you spend on campus on a day-to-day basis, the entire atmosphere changes during football season.

Spending the entire day outside is something that most students are not accustomed to doing. Tailgating is the perfect excuse for getting outdoors and enjoying the fall weather at your university. Seeing the campus so alive while taking in the nature around you is a breathtaking experience, one that you will most likely carry with you long after you have graduated.

Sitting back in a lawn chair, watching the leaves change colors while you are enjoying your hot chocolate, watching a lively game of corn hole is the best way to kick-off college football season.

5. School Spirit

When a campus turns into tailgating-central, the entire mood of the university seems to shift; everyone is smiling and happy, making the campus seem even brighter than usual. Every person there is dedicated to their school’s team, which creates an undeniable sense of unity among everyone.

The tailgating area will inevitably be filled with the music that your fellow students listen to, creating an even more overwhelming and ecstatic environment.

You will also never see anything more heartwarming than a sea of your school colors swarm the entire campus and stadium for the big game. By participating in these events, you will be able to feel more connected to your school, as your support adds you to an entire community that is coming together for a common cause.

Believe it or not, your time as a college student goes by alarmingly quickly, making it even more important to make as many meaningful memories as you possibly can. The memories you make out in that tailgating parking lot with your friends will last a lifetime. You will be able to look back fondly on your school spirit and you will forever be proud that you took the time and energy to support your school.

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