photo of students celebrating homecoming

The Ultimate Guide to College Homecoming Season

With the semester cruising by, here's a look into how different universities are celebrating.
October 23, 2022
8 mins read

Halfway through October, homecoming has begun. So far, several schools have already celebrated with football games and dances. With the month cruising by, college homecoming season is in full swing.

Different universities across the country have started to host their celebrations, and many more are sure to follow. Various events and rituals will continue for the rest of the month and into November as well. Some colleges may push their homecoming celebrations even later, such as Florida State University, which had to move theirs due to Hurricane Ian.

Homecoming typically occurs at the beginning of the year, and colleges use the time to welcome back alumni and others associated with the school. Events take place throughout the week as students and alumni come together to celebrate. The following weekend usually ends with a homecoming football game that is very exciting. 

Colleges and universities have many different traditions that take place during their homecoming celebrations. Some of them may include a parade, tailgate, pep rallies, football games, dances, and even tournaments.

The origin of homecoming and its traditions are a bit complicated. According to CS Press Online, three schools are considered to have started the celebration: Baylor University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Missouri (UM). Each school claims to have started the tradition in 1910, but no one knows for sure. The National Collegiate Athlete Association and the television show “Jeopardy” both credit UM as the inventor of homecoming. All three schools have their own traditions and continue to celebrate their beginnings today.

Each school takes a different approach when it comes to honoring its homecoming traditions. Just like high school, colleges and universities have their own homecoming celebrations.

Many consider historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to have some of the best homecoming traditions. Events are everlasting as students and alumni come together throughout the week. Many HBCUs take their homecomings very seriously and have allocated budgets for all the events that take place.

Many consider the homecoming traditions at HBCUs to be very welcoming and familial since they give off the vibe of a family reunion. Homecoming is a way for students and alumni to connect and network as they commemorate their shared experiences at their alma mater.

HBCU homecomings are the time to really show off and have a lot of fun. Students will spend countless amounts of time and money on their wardrobes and hair for the celebration. When it comes to homecoming, people will really go the extra mile. Some of the events that HBCUs host during homecoming are pageants, step shows, bowl-a-thons, stroll competitions, parades, concerts and pep rallies. They will also celebrate with block parties and formals at locations outside of campus.

Along with HBCUs, there are other schools that have their own traditions. The five best homecoming celebrations in America are named in an article done by Sports Management Degree Guide.

One unique tradition that occurs during college homecoming season is the University of Florida’s Gator Growl. The celebration starts with a pep rally, then proceeds to a pageant and a parade. The university also hosts Soulfest, a music festival filled with different foods and music, along with a race and alumni barbeque.

Another tradition includes Hobo Day, a controversial celebration put on by South Dakota State University. As a part of their homecoming events, the school puts on a body hair contest where judges decide who has the best body hair after letting it grow for one month, a paint-the-town tradition where students paint on the windows of local businesses, and a hobo-day parade where people will dress as hobos.

The University of Central Florida has a celebration called Spirit Splash. The school’s traditions include students jumping into the university reflecting pool right before the homecoming football game. Meanwhile, at East Brigham University, students walk up a mountain that features a letter shaped like a “y” on it. Once they’ve made it to the “y,” students screw in light bulbs to outline the letter, and the lights can be seen from miles away. Lastly, in the top five list, UM has a blood-drive tradition.

There are many other universities that have some great homecoming events as well. The blog Recess highlights 10 of its favorite traditions, which include the University of California Riverside’s bonfire that burns its school mascot, a soapbox derby done by Texas State University, Arizona State University’s annual lantern walk and Howard University’s Yardfest. As an honorable mention, Penn State University hosts a white-out during which all the people in the stadium wear white for the homecoming game.

With all these events, homecoming season generally brings in a lot of money. Thanks to returning alumni, hotels, and restaurants are booked and busy during this time. The celebrations bring a lot of people together — and a lot of revenue to college towns. There are also a lot of donations made during college homecoming season, which are usually honored at football games. Different alumni from organizations such as fraternities and sororities will usually give back to the school through fundraising.

However, universities also spend a lot of money on homecoming. As parties, concerts and celebrations occur, colleges follow detailed budgets to make sure their events take place. The funds can come from the activity and service fees that students pay each year as a part of their tuition, or they can also come from other avenues. Universities can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the events that take place throughout the week.

This year’s homecoming for all universities should see a big turnout. With more students coming back to campus after the pandemic, there should be an influx of people at the events. Colleges will continue to honor their traditions as they welcome back alumni and come together to celebrate their schools. As students continue with the fall semester, expect the college homecoming season to be a fun time.

Chelsie Ross, Florida A&M University

Writer Profile

Chelsie Ross

Otterbein University
Creative Writing

Hello! I’m Chelsie Ross and I enjoy reading and writing. I’m in my fourth year of college and am excited to be writing for Study Breaks magazine! I also enjoy binge watching shows on Netflix.

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