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St Andrews is famous for its strange traditions! Here are some of the main ones.

Academic families

A big part of life in St Andrews is academic families. Older students adopt freshers, and help guide them through university. Some families are only active for Freshers' Week and Raisin, whilst others continue beyond graduation.

Incoming freshers often worry about finding an academic family. However, there are lots of ways to meet potential parents, and third years are often desperate to find new kids.

Freshers' Week events run by societies and sports clubs are one of the best ways to find academic parents, but just as many people get adopted later in the semester. Our Wellbeing Subcommittee holds academic family matching events in semester one.

Raisin Weekend and the Foam Fight

The biggest event in the academic family calendar is Raisin Sunday, when children are entertained by their parents and encouraged to play pranks and silly games. 

On Raisin Monday, children are dressed up in silly costumes and head to Lower College Lawn for a big shaving foam fight. Your academic father will give you a Raisin receipt to carry to the fight - originally a parchment with a Latin inscription on it, but nowadays usually an object related to your costume (but still with the inscription!).

The name "Raisin" comes from children traditionally giving their academic parents a pound of raisins as a thank you for welcoming them to the town. That's also what the Latin inscription on your Raisin receipt refers to - it's a thanks from your parents for the pound of raisins. Nowadays, it's quite rare to actually gift someone the raisins!

Raisin is about celebrating new lifelong friends, and taking part in a tradition that makes St Andrews different -- it's not all about drinking!

Find out more about planning and support during Raisin.

Typical Raisin schedule
  • Sunday
    • Morning: head to your parents' house for food and games with your family.
      • Parents often spend a lot of time and money to make Raisin a fun experience, so remember to bring them a gift.
      • Some parents might tell you to meet elsewhere, such as a beach, before going to their house.
      • Wherever you're told to meet, be on time. Parents might give punishments if you're late (or early).
    • Midday: go into town with your siblings for a scavenger hunt. In families with lots of kids, you'll probably be split into teams.
      • The scavenger hunt varies wildly between families, but common tasks include forming a human pyramid on the PH, or proposing to a stranger outside Northpoint.
    • Afternoon: head back to your parent's house for more food, games, and rest.
    • Evening: go to a party with your family.
    • Some kids have separate parents, who might have different plans for Raisin. It's best for these kids to discuss a schedule with their parents in advance. For example, they might go to one parent in the morning, and visit the other parent at 5pm.
  • Monday
    • 9am: head to your first parent's house (traditionally the mum). They will dress you up in a costume.
      • Parents: do not leave the creation of your kids' Raisin costumes until Monday morning. You won't impress anyone by dressing them up in bin bags.
    • 10am: head to your second parent's house (traditionally the dad). They will give you your Raisin receipt.
    • 11am:foam fight on Lower College Lawn. Enter via North Street, leaving your receipt at the entrance.

Academic sins

Academic sins are superstitions which are said to make you fail your exams. Some of the most famous are stepping on the PH outside St Salvator's Quad, or wearing your academic gown wrongly for your current year of study. But don't worry, you can cleanse yourself of any sins with May Dip!

May Dip

May Dip is where you run into the freezing North Sea at dawn on the first of May, which is said to promote good luck in exams and cleanse any academic sins. If you don't 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. Friends will meet them as they leave the exam hall to shower them with a bucket of cold water.


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 (or not at all) if you like. 

The red gown was introduced as a way of preventing under-age students from illicit drinking in public houses! 

Students wear the red gown differently according to which year they are in:

  • First-year students (bejants) wear the gown fully up on their shoulders.
  • Second-year students (semi-bejants) wear the gown slightly back off their shoulders.
  • Third-year students (tertians) wear the gown either fully off the right shoulder if studying science or the left shoulder if studying arts (“Arts have hearts, but scientists are always right”!).
  • Fourth-year students (magistrands) wear the gown off both shoulders, across the elbows.

This tradition represents each student growing wiser with each passing year and shrugging off the support of the University until they finally leave as a graduate, ready for the world.

To find out more visit the university's website.