Transylvania University is the first university in Kentucky and 16th in the United States, founded in 1780. It offers 36 major programs, as well as dual-degree engineering programs, and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Transylvania's name, meaning "across the woods" in Latin, stems from the university's founding in the heavily-forested region of western Virginia known as the Transylvania colony, which became most of Kentucky in 1792.
Transylvania University actively pursues a national admissions process, and includes students from overseas. It is ranked as Kentucky's premier undergraduate liberal arts college by several authorities. The Princeton Review ranked Transylvania 1st among colleges with Greek life. Transylvania University student-athletes, called the Pioneers, compete under colors crimson and white at a variety of venues throughout the country; maintain aggressive results; and often compete against larger institutions including the University Of Kentucky. The weekend before classes start in the fall is known as Orientation Weekend. During this time new students move in before upperclassmen, and are given the opportunity to learn about the campus and customs of Transylvania. They take part in community building exercises including a serenade of the first-year women by the first-year men on the steps of Old Morrison and a greet line, where every first-year student goes down the line and shakes hands with every other first-year student.
Transylvania is also known for the Kissing Tree, a white ash tree that is estimated to be approximately 260 years old – 35 years older than the university itself. In the 1940s and 1950s, the administration turned a blind eye to students kissing in public near the tree, at a time when it was frowned upon elsewhere on campus. Today, with the rules on public displays of affection slackened, students refer to the tree as the Kissing Tree. In 2003 The Chronicle of Higher Education included the Kissing Tree among the most romantic places on college campuses in America, and it was mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article about romance on college campuses.