Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University is a relative newbie compared to the elite universities it is often grouped alongside. Still, much of modern-day campus life is influenced by the private research university's history. Students in the marching band perform in kilts and knee-high socks, and the school's mascot is the Scottish Terrier, both of which are nods to founder Andrew Carnegie's Scottish roots.

Carnegie Mellon offers a broad academic menu of 80 undergraduate majors and over 90 minors, but the university is best known for programs in computer science, engineering and information technology. So it’s little surprise that students go on to high-paying jobs, with median salaries of more than $110,000. The university also ranks No. 3 out of all four-year colleges on return on investment, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Each spring, student teams at Carnegie Mellon have designed and built "buggies," which look like a cross between a soapbox car and a luge racer, for a race called the Buggy Sweepstakes (or “Buggy” for short).

Another well-known custom draws students outside in the middle of the night to paint a campus fence that serves as an announcement board for student groups. (The “Fence” turned 100 this year.) Tradition dictates the hours the fence can be painted — between midnight and sunrise — and that students must then stand guard to keep other groups from claiming the fence for their own message.