Do Colleges Have Prom?

As students transition to college, many wonder if this rite of passage continues into their higher education journey. The question arises: Do colleges have prom?

Do Colleges Have Prom?
Philippe Murray-Pietsch

In the world of high school experiences, few events are as anticipated and iconic as prom—a night filled with glamorous dresses, sharp tuxedos, dancing, and memories that last a lifetime. But as students transition to college, many wonder if this rite of passage continues into their higher education journey. The question arises: Do colleges have prom? 

In this BrokeScholar article, we’ll answer that question and address related issues. We’ll also break down the traditions and events at the collegiate level, comparing them to the beloved high school prom and exploring the ways universities create memorable social experiences for their students.

Table of Contents

Do Colleges Have Prom?

Most colleges don't have proms, but they do have other dances and social events. For example, most colleges have a Homecoming weekend with a dance and football game. 

Proms are formal dances that are usually held at the end of the academic year. They are typically only for high school students. However, some colleges may have formal or semi-formal dances that are not called proms. Most college dances are hosted by Greek societies. There may also be some college-sponsored dances.

Events at College Similar to Prom

While the specific names and traditions can vary depending on the institution, here are five common events held at colleges and universities that often serve as counterparts or analogues to high school prom:

Formal Balls

Many universities, particularly those with Greek systems (fraternities and sororities), host formal balls annually. These events often involve dressing up in formal attire, dancing, and are sometimes themed. They can either be exclusive to members of particular organizations or open to the entire student body.

Homecoming Dance

Similar to high school, many colleges and universities celebrate homecoming with a range of events, including a dance. Alumni might return for the festivities, and there's often a spirited football game followed by a formal or semi-formal dance for students.

Senior Gala or Graduation Ball

As seniors approach graduation, many institutions host a gala or ball to commemorate their time at the university. This event is especially significant because it may be one of the last times the entire graduating class gathers together in a celebratory setting before commencement.

Residence Hall Formals

Many university residence halls or dormitories have their own governing councils that plan events, including annual formals. These are opportunities for residents to socialize, often in a slightly more upscale setting than the usual dorm environment.

Cultural or Academic Society Galas

Universities are home to numerous cultural, academic, and special interest groups that might host their own formal events. For instance, a Model United Nations group might have an end-of-the-year gala, or a Latinx society could host a special celebration that incorporates cultural elements into a formal dance setting.

Each of these events, while reminiscent of the high school prom experience, offers unique traditions and atmospheres shaped by the college or university's distinct culture.

The Bottom Line on Do Colleges Have Prom

While colleges and universities may not replicate the quintessential high school prom, they certainly offer a rich tapestry of events that capture the same essence of celebration, camaraderie, and tradition. From formal balls to senior galas, the higher education landscape is brimming with opportunities for students to dress up, dance, and create lasting memories. 

Each event, shaped by the unique culture of the institution, ensures that the spirit of prom lives on in myriad forms, allowing students to relish in both nostalgia and new experiences as they navigate their collegiate years. Whether you're a high school senior pondering the festivities of the future or an alum reminiscing about past galas, it's evident that the joy and unity of such events remain a constant from high school hallways to university quads.

Andrew DePietro

Author: Andrew DePietro

Senior Researcher, and Content Strategist

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer covering topics such as entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and college for BrokeScholar, Forbes, CreditKarma, and more.