Late-night programming is a fantastic way to engage students in exciting and growth-oriented ways.
Whether your institution offers late-night activities almost every day or only during specific times of the year, these program ideas are for you.
1. Team Builder Bonanza
Invite small teams of students to compete in a team-building Olympics. Check out this ultimate list of challenges to get started.
2. Night of Wellness
Build resilience and encourage relaxation through mindfulness worksheets, yoga sessions, DIY zen gardens, and massages offered to students and stressed-out staff. Check out Boston University’s wellness fair for inspiration.
3. Animal Therapy Visit
Many institutions invite dogs, donkeys, llamas, and other animals to campus. Some schools will ask staff to bring in their leashed pets and others will invite certified therapy animals.
4. Upcycling Art Night
Encourage students to tap into their creative sides with a guided crafting session. Go a step further and talk about sustainability through trash or junk art, which involves turning items that would otherwise have been thrown away into art.
5. Speed Friending
Here’s a list of questions that you can call out or supply to students in guiding their conversations.
Live action role-playing games are a fun way to reenact battles and scenes from students’ favorite shows and movies. Check out Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s annual LARP.
7. Canoe Battleships
If your campus has a pool or lake, along with canoes and lifeguards, then consider mimicking the University of Vermont’s game of battleship wherein students try to stay afloat and sink each other using buckets and shields.
Salsas, pies, lasagnas — truly any dish can inspire a cooking contest theme, with university swag offered as prizes. Encourage bakers and chefs to avoid using ingredients containing common allergens and dietary restrictions.
9. Stand-Up Comedy Night
Invite students to be a comedian for a night. Provide props, lighting, costumes, and comical sound effects too.
Let students take the mic individually or in groups to perform their favorite hits.
11. DIY Spa Night
Host a show-and-tell for favorite skin care products or home remedies. Students could even DIY their own scrubs.
A speedrun is a play-through of a video game, performed with the intention of completing it as fast as possible. It could make for an easy and fun late-night competition for gamers.
13. Game Tournament
Utilize your on-campus lounge space and encourage students to bring their favorite video games or board game to participate in friendly competition or a tournament-style battle.
14. BYO Mocktail
Here’s a list of mocktails that you can customize using your institution’s colors and hand out in branded, reusable cups.
Improv is a form of live theatre in which the story and characters are made up in the moment. Students can sign up in advance to participate or enjoy laughs from the audience. Check out this list of 10 easy improv games for beginners.
16. Group Dance-A-Thon
All-night dance-a-thons are a tradition beloved by campuses as a way to raise money for charitable causes, often local children’s hospitals. In 2021, Pennsylvania State University’s Thon raised over $10 million for pediatric cancer patients!
17. Costume Party
This late-night activity might be most popular around Halloween but who says you can’t have a costume party in February? You could encourage different themes for your costume party — like pirates, superheroes, zombies, and much much more. But be sure to check out this resource from Dickinson College to avoid cultural appropriation.
Invite a beloved band, singer, or a student group to perform. You can even invite multiple performers for an extended music festival.
Bring the excitement with entertainers, rides, food, and live performances all week long. Virginia Tech has even brought a Ferris wheel to campus.
20. Talent Show
Encourage students to showcase their top talents.
Host a pageant show focused on school spirit. Check out this article on how the University of South Florida adjusted their pageant to be gender inclusive, avoiding the sexism inherent in many traditional pageants.
22. Club Takeover
Encourage a student group to host a late-night event on its own or in collaboration with other orgs on campus. It might help them boost their membership and get students excited about their future events.
23. Health Festival
You can educate students about hydration, stress management, sleep, exercise, nutrition, sexual health, and other health topics through booths and interactive activities, like Boston University does for its wellness fair.
24. A Night at the Theater
Invite a student group or performing arts class to perform a musical or play.
25. Field Trip
Look for local destinations that your students would be extra excited to visit after dark — such as a theme park, carnival, or comedy show.
26. Midnight Breakfast
Although this tends to be a finals week event, you could easily adapt it to any time of the year. After all, who doesn’t love breakfast food?
27. Guest Lecturer
Hype students up with a speaker to motivate them on resilience, mental health, academic excellence, or another value in line with your institution’s mission or key learning outcomes.
28. Silent Disco
Silent discos are like regular dance parties but with headphones for students to choose from different playlists to groove to. Colorado College even added a laser show.
29. Haunted House
Transform a campus gathering space into a haunted house for students to meander through.
30. Mud Volleyball
Also known as “Oozeball”, many campuses, such as the University of Texas at Arlington, host volleyball tournaments in the mud, putting a challenging spin on the classic sport.
31. Glow-in-the-Dark 5K
Bring on the competition via a race. Requiring students to wear neon attire and glow sticks will make it safe (and extra fun) at night.
32. Food Truck Festival
Give students a taste of local foods by inviting food trucks to campus. Encourage truck owners to give a portion of the proceeds to a charity that students have voted upon. Trucks could also use the event to test out new foods; students will surely be willing to offer honest feedback.
33. Take Back the Night
Take Back The Night events are held annually in over a thousand communities around the world. They often entail evening marches, walks, runs, or bike rides. All involve raising funds toward preventing and educating the community about sexual assault.
34. DIY Beach Party
You could bring students to the beach or bring the beach to your campus! Landlocked Springfield College built their own beach on the campus green and had events every weekend on their DIY island.
35. Intramural Night
Bring on the friendly competition through a student tournament of soccer, volleyball, kickball, or any other sport your students adore.
36. Bubble Soccer
This is like soccer but with plastic bubble orbs. West Texas A&M University brought the bubbles to their campus in 2015, and it was a hit.
37. Outdoor Movie
Project a movie in an outdoor space for students to enjoy. Bonus points if you poll for movie preference via social media.
38. Campfire Night
Pause for reflection by posing these guided questions around a campfire. Don’t forget the s’mores, including gluten-free graham crackers and vegan marshmallows!
39. Petting Zoo
Goats, bunnies, and ducks are all aww-worthy and can help stressed students take a step back to appreciate nature.
40. Sleep Out
Invite students to sleep on the campus lawn to raise awareness and funds toward homelessness. Columbia College Chicago’s Student Veteran Association hosts an annual sleep-out in which participants gather in solidarity with the homeless veteran population for 24 hours, braving the elements of Chicago winter.
Each year, the University of Connecticut invites students to fill up buckets and other containers with as much ice cream as they want out of a (you guessed it) one ton pile of ice cream. Remember to include dairy-free and vegan options.
42. Reflection Walk
Encourage students to take a guided meditation or reflection walk around campus. For safety, pair everyone into groups of at least two participants. You could even add a friending portion of the walk with students randomly paired with someone they haven’t met before.
43. Scavenger Hunt
Give students a list of specific locations around campus to take selfies. Offer prizes for the fastest finishers or most creative photos.
44. Folklore Tour
Is your campus sprinkled with historical facts, myths, or legends? Host a guided tour that students will remember into their alumni years. You could even make this a spooky ghost tour, perhaps best suited to Halloween.
45. Capture the Flag
A beloved camp favorite, Capture the Flag can be played indoors or outdoors in groups small or large.
46. Online Escape Room
Did you know that escape rooms can be played virtually? Check out these escape challenges that will require students to work together online.
47. Virtual Paint Nite
48. Get Moving
In-person or virtual workout classes get students moving and grooving. Check out Hagerstown Community College’s Zumbathon.
49. Live TikTok Contest
Students could win swag by garnering the most likes from a dance or song contest. Gauge competitors live based on the number of likes, reshares, and/or comments using a hashtag that’s unique to your competition.
50. Virtual Friend-Roulette
Host a web call and randomly assign students to rooms for a few minutes in hopes of making new friends.
51. Zoom Scavenger Hunt
Challenge students to take selfies with items around their home or local area. This could work well in teams or individually.
52. Book Club
Pick a book that speaks to challenges commonly faced by students, such as finding motivation, overcoming loneliness, or tackling transitions. Here are 19 books to start you off.
53. Virtual Movie Night
Host a watch party followed by a discussion.
54. Crafting for Service
Encourage students to tap into their creative sides with a guided crafting session. One of my favorites is no-sew tie blankets, which can be donated to local homeless shelters.
55. Trivia Night
Use Kahoot to design an interactive game with trivia facts unique to your institution.
56. E-Sports contest
Create a competition for students who enjoy e-Sports games either individually or in teams.
57. Live Cooking Show
Livestream a beloved campus chef teaching students how to make their favorite dining hall dishes at home.
58. Zoom Bingo
Bring the fun and competition with this classic game, which is consistently one of Shawnee State’s most popular events.
59. Tiny Campfire
Let students gather around a virtual campfire. Tell ghost stories, host ice breakers, or even a student performer. Bonus points if anyone is seen roasting marshmallows over the stove.
60. Tea vs Coffee
Facilitate a coffee and tea tasting experience. A week or so before your event, mail or invite students to pick up different varieties of coffee beans and tea bags. Make sure to mark each envelope as “do not open” so that the flavors will remain a surprise.
Have an amazing idea that’s not here? Share it with us on Twitter @themoderncampus.