Nine Unbelievable Facts About Top US Universities | Top Universities

Nine Unbelievable Facts About Top US Universities

By Craig O

Updated March 23, 2021 Updated March 23, 2021

American universities are, to put it simply, some of the most famous in the world. That doesn’t mean you’ll know everything about them though, as often the strangest, most interesting facts get left out of the official prospectuses. Here are some of our favorite weird and unbelievable facts about the top US universities in the QS World University Rankings® 2018.

MIT students can become fully qualified pirates


Well, sort of. Any student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who completes archery, fencing, sailing and pistol (or rifle) classes is eligible to receive a pirate’s license. It doesn’t give you the right to commandeer a vessel, smuggle goods or drink all the rum though.

A Stanford student has won a medal at every Olympics since 1908


Not the same student every year, obviously. Still, this is a remarkably impressive feat for the university and its athletes.

The statue of John Harvard at Harvard is actually of someone else

Nobody actually knows what John Harvard looked like, so when it was time for Daniel Chester French to make the statue which sits in Harvard Yard at the university, he used a friend’s likeness instead.

Caltech’s football team has been undefeated since 1993


But only because the university hasn’t had a football team since 1993.

The University of Chicago holds the largest scavenger hunt in the world every year


Nobody’s entirely sure why, but it’s been a university tradition since 1987. As well as items which must be found, each year’s list contains things that need to be built, performed, written, programmed, drawn, eaten, designed, painted or solved. In a word, it’s epic.

Three-quarters of Princeton alumni marry someone else who went to Princeton


And presumably they go on to produce insufferably intelligent children, who then also go to Princeton. It’s basically Prin-cest.

Cannabis was grown in the gardens of Cornell until the 1970s


Cornell University’s Plantation is home to both a weed garden and a poisonous plants garden, but we expect some students would have found its contents much more enjoyable back in the ‘70s.

Yale’s rare book library could literally kill you


Yale University goes to extraordinary lengths to look after the rare books and manuscripts stored in the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. If there’s ever a fire, the library will fill with a lethal, fire-suppressing gas after 30 seconds, so you haven’t got long to get out. Air is also removed from the library as part of the process, meaning you’ll suffocate to death if you decide to ignore the alarms and carry on working.

Businessman Michael Bloomberg designed Johns Hopkins’ mascot costume


Yes, way before he was earning millions of dollars, Michael Bloomberg designed, built and wore the blue jay mascot costume at Johns Hopkins University while studying here and playing lacrosse in the 1960s.

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This article was originally published in November 2017 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

As Head of Content, Craig is responsible for all articles and guides published across TopUniversities and TopMBA. He has nearly 10 years of experience writing for a student audience and extensive knowledge of universities and study programs around the world.

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