Forget plush mascots or vanity license plates. What really shows pride in your alma mater is your ride -- or the wheels you aspire to own. You know that when you finally buy that dream car, the first sticker you're going to slap in the window is Calvin peeing on the mascot of your rival school. You know you're checking to see if your state's DMV has vanity plates with your school's name emblazoned across the bottom. You know nothing screams "Tarheel pride" like a Carolina-blue F-150 with a giant footprint on the grille.
Alright, Ford trucks don't come in Carolina blue. But the point remains: schools have spirits. So do cars. And sometimes, they just seem to reflect one another.
Here are a few cars that really showcase your school spirit:
Toyota Prius -- Arizona State University
Considered one of the greenest schools in the country, ASU hosts the School for Sustainability -- and builds every new building to exacting environmental standards. Its carbon-conscious grads can ease their consciences with the hybrid powertrain and plant-derived plastics of the Prius. Toyota is even nudging dealerships toward making environmentally-friendly updates to their buildings. In fact, six dealerships are already claiming LEED Gold certification -- and if you know what that is, you may well be an ASU grad.
Chevrolet Silverado -- Texas A&M University
Texas A&M boasts a conservative student body with one of the largest chapters of the College Republicans in the country. On top of that, U.S. News research shows that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to own a pickup and to own an American-made vehicle. Plus, the top truck in the U.S. News rankings, the Chevy Silverado, makes a good tailgating platform. The parking-lot parties before the Texas vs. Texas A&M game are reputed to be epic, so you'd better bring your truck and come prepared. There's even a special Texas edition.
University of Michigan -- Jeep Patriot
UM offers a variety of fulfilling academic experiences, but it's no accident that it boasts the largest football stadium in the United States. It holds more than 107,000 screaming fans -- 219 more than Penn State's giant structure. Wolverine tailgates are legendary. You'll need the cargo hold of an SUV or crossover to hold all those coolers, grills, big screens, inflatable Spartan mascots and darts. The Patriot offers large SUV cargo space in a small, inexpensive 'ute. It also has a set of fold-down speakers in the tailgate the let you blast your favorite music, and a vinyl-covered cargo area for easy cleanup afterward. And this is Michigan, after all. Don't roll up in a Honda.
University of California, Berkeley -- Smart Fortwo
With its reputation as the home of thousands of Birkenstock-wearing, Nader-voting liberals, you don't want to try driving around Berkeley in a Hummer. With a location in one of the most congested U.S. cities, you certainly don't want to try parking there. And with everything being San Francisco-expensive, chances are Cal Bears don't have enough money left over for a Mercedes. The perfect solution -- the Smart Fortwo, a tiny, gas-sipping, park-anywhere two-seater made by Mercedes, but available for under $13K. There's even a Cabriolet model with a snap-off roof for enjoying that California sunshine.
University of Florida -- Ford Mustang Convertible
Sure, there are academics at Florida -- it cracks the top 50 in the U.S. News college rankings. But it's also known nationwide as a great party school. And of course, it can claim weather that makes Notre Dame grads cry. Gator fans have no excuse for not taking advantage of the sun cruising in a classic pony car with the top down. The Mustang Convertible is even available in blue and striped with orange for an additional fee.
Harvard University -- BMW 1-Series
The U.S. News-ranked top school for Business majors gets the top choice for newly- minted MBAs. BMW introduced its new entry-level 1-Series for those wanting a taste of legendary German handling for under $30K. The 1-Series is small, but offers all the performance of its larger stablemates. Why wait for the 5- or 7-Series you aspire to own only after a few years on the job market? Ivy-leaguers can get blistering acceleration and taut, balanced cornering now at Accord-like prices.
MIT -- Nissan GT-R
The 2009 GT-R may be the most high-tech car ever built. The unholy union of a supercomputer, a formula-1 racer and a robot from the future, it's a supercar for proud nerds. Nevermind navigation with traffic reporting or Bluetooth hands-free cell phone integration -- you can get those in any car these days. The GT-R's dash has a built-in performance meter that monitors torque split, gas and brake pedal percentages, turbo boost -- even the G-forces you generate with each turn. And the tech isn't limited to the cabin -- this car's engine is literally hand-built in a hermetically-sealed facility to maximize performance. It's a car and a physics lab in one, which makes it perfect for MIT brains.
For a closer look at these spirited cars, see our slideshow.