There’s a little luck involved in making it to college graduation, and some needed in everything that comes after it. That might be why some college students have superstitions about what things on campus can bring them luck in their coursework — both good and bad. Or maybe it just adds to the fun. Either way, here are a few colleges that have lucky (or not so lucky) traditions.

Gustavus Adolphus

A campus tour guide for this college in St. Peter, Minn., faces the camera in a video on the college website as he stands near the “BC/AD” sculpture, a spinning piece that shows the letters A, B, C and D. Someone else pushes it to make it spin as he begins to speak.

“Another great tradition about Gustavus is spinning the BC/AD wheel,” he says.

“The thought behind it is, you’ve got a couple tests coming up, you want to know what grade you’re going to get so, you spin the wheel. And at Gustavus,” he says as he grabs hold of the sculpture to stop it at the letter A, “we always try for A’s.”

It’s the tradition that junior Joy Dunna heard when she toured campus and the same one she tells students now that she’s one of the tour guides. It’s believed that the letter facing a student after they spin the sculpture before an exam is the grade they’ll receive.

“You will see people stopping to spin it,” Dunna said. “And the whole joke is that there’s not the letter F on it, so you’re not going to fail your test.”

Dunna admits she has spun the sculpture, made by Paul Granlund, before exams, too, but it hasn’t always worked out the way the sculpture predicts. That doesn’t stop her from trying it again.

“If it’s nice outside, and I have the time to stand there, I’ll definitely still spin it before walking into the library,” Dunna said.

Even if the sculpture doesn’t get it right every time, Dunna finds that the tradition helps her feel better before an exam.

“I’m not really superstitious, but I think there’s some sort of comforting feeling in knowing that, I don’t know, some outside force might be responsible for how well you’re going to do on something like an exam or a test,” Dunna said. “It’s just the action of spinning it and seeing the outcome can be calming.”

University of Minnesota

If anything’s going to offer good luck at the University of Minnesota campus, it’s the statue of mascot Goldy Gopher that stands outside Coffman Memorial Union. Sculpted by Nicholas Legeros, it’s said that rubbing Goldy’s teeth before a test can bring good luck. At least, that’s what incoming students sometimes hear on campus tours.

“It’s a pretty big statue to the school that’s really well known,” said Joah Bingert, a former student. “So I think they wanted to just kind of add to it and make it something for students, and even just visitors, to kind of enjoy it more.”

But it’s another superstition, one about the “Platonic Figure,” a large stainless steel sculpture of a human figure by Andrew Leicester that’s outside of the Mechanical Engineering building, that Bingert was more familiar with when he attended. According to camp lore, it’s best to avoid walking under it.

“I’ve heard that if you walk through its legs, you won’t graduate in four years,” Bingert said. “I wouldn’t say it’s definitely true, but I’m also not going to mess with it. Just in case.”

Bingert said that when he was touring other campuses, he heard about similar superstitions at those schools, but he doesn’t know why the stories are so common.

“I don’t know how they spread so fast to so many students,” Bingert said. “But I think it’s just all for fun in the beginning.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison

A large statue of Abraham Lincoln, made by Adolph Weinman, has sat serenely on Bascom Hill since 1909. His face is cast in shadow and his copper-colored figure has a green discoloration, but his shoes still retain their shine, a testament to how many students pass by and rub them for good luck, said Sinclair Richards, a junior.

Students on their way to tests often visit the statue on the way. And it’s not just current students who seek the president’s blessing; Richards rubbed the shoes when she was applying to the university in hopes it would improve her chances of being accepted.

“I think that it’s just so embedded in the culture that it’s just kind of what you do,” she said. “There’s nothing to lose if you believe in Abe, but if you don’t believe and you don’t rub his foot, maybe you’re not going to get the magic or the help. So, it’s like, why not be excited about it and go for it?”

During finals, lines form in front of the statue, Richards said. She says rubbing its foot before an exam helps set her mind at ease.

But the statue does more than just bolster test-takers. Another tradition is for students to sit in the statue’s lap on graduation day and whisper their dreams and goals into Lincoln’s ear in the hopes that he might help them come to fruition. The line before graduation gets particularly long.

“It’s like an amusement park line, where they say, if you’re this far away, you have an hour wait, if you’re this far away, you have two hours’ wait,” Richards said. “A lot of people go with their friends and they have a ladder and everything and a professional photographer.”

Why not skip the line by going to visit the statue earlier? Because scaling the statue to sit in its lap before graduation day is said to bring bad luck. Richards isn’t sure she entirely believes that part of the story, but, just to be on the safe side, she’s decided to delay sitting in Lincoln’s lap until she dons her cap and gown.

Metropolitan State University

There’s a study room in the St. Paul school’s library that displays a painting of a girl with rainbow-colored hair. Titled “Prism Girl,” an acrylic painting by Heidi Fuhr, the girl’s multicolored streaks of hair silhouette her as she gazes over the room. She’s part of the study room’s popularity. Some students say the girl’s intense gaze keeps them motivated as they work.

“From the past, what I recall from students checking out that room, they like that room because I guess they feel it makes them study more during midterms and finals,” said MaiSee Vang, an information commons specialist who works at the library. “I think just because of the, you could say, position of the girl and her face expression in there, it kind of puts more pressure on you to study in there.”

Although the girl isn’t believed to be lucky per se, students motivated by her gaze don’t need as much luck after they’ve spent a few hours with her keeping them focused.


Imani Cruzen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.