8 Ideas for Great College Campus Scavenger Hunts (Plus free scavenger hunt template!)

PlayTours Team

College Scavenger Hunt Ideas (plus free template)

If you’ve found this article, chances are you’re looking for ideas to engage your student groups or faculties with something fun. Enter campus scavenger hunts! 

The activity needs to hit all the right spots for your participants: 

  • It needs to make clever use of the campus facilities. 
  • It needs to be creative without coming across as stilted or lame. 
  • It needs to be fun.

If you’re a student, you’re likely looking for something to help with orientation activities to get the freshmen familiar with the campus and each other. Other times it could be team bonding between different faculties, student bodies, or student organization camp activities.

If you’re faculty staff, you might be looking for something fun to help with faculty onboarding or team bonding activities without the stigma of being ‘mandatory fun.’

Fortunately, scavenger hunts done well can hit all those boxes and more. We’ll give you detailed steps, templates and a few must-haves to help your scavenger hunt be kickass and successful. We've also included a free downloadable template (read on to access the link)!

First, let’s figure out what we want:

Setting the Objective: What Do You Want Them To Experience?

There are plenty of objectives where scavenger hunts can neatly fit in, but knowing who your participants are and what your focus is should always be the starting point. Things get a lot easier when you design around what you want your participants to do and what they would find interesting.

Having been campus scavenger hunt planners and participants ourselves, here are a few objectives we’ve seen fit college scavenger hunts:

  • Orientation or Faculty Onboarding

Contestants need to know where the main buildings, important facilities and key landmarks are on campus. This leads to a scavenger hunt that could span your entire faculty or even campus with suitable activities too.

  • Building teamwork and cohesion within student groups or faculties

Planning activities that require them to work together and making things more competitive are a must.

Setting the Right Theme and Tone for the Audience

Since there’s no limit to human creativity, the best question to ask around themes is: would your participants like it? If you want to have themes around history, specific figures or even concepts that require thought-provoking discussion, this is your chance to involve them interactively.

For students, something closer to the latest action movies would fit. For faculty members, something from their generation would fit better. 

On another level, you’ll also want to decide how competitive or laid back the scavenger hunt is going to be as well. This will affect how you’ll want to design your clues, riddles, tasks and scoring.

You can adjust the scoring methods to make things more competitive, such as rewarding teams with more points for finishing as many tasks as possible within a fixed time limit or finishing tasks quickly.

Psst. We’ve prepared a free planning template to help you with planning and scoring which you can download here!

From our experience, we’ve experienced some school activities built around pop culture references and movies, but there can be some timeless ideas too. Here’s a quick list of themes:

  1. Today’s Pop Culture

We’ve seen scavenger hunts and station activities themed around things like the Netflix show Squid Game or Running Man for instance.

  1. Mysteries

Since scavenger hunts are about solving riddles, mysteries are a good fit. If you want a time limit you could say that you need to apprehend the suspect before he escapes, and the team that apprehends him first gets the grand prize.

  1. Action Flicks 

One scavenger hunt (or large-scale escape room experience) we’ve experienced is where you’re a group of security agents racing to defuse a bomb. The final task was to play ‘keep talking and nobody explodes’ to win the game within a set time limit.

  1. Adventures

Fitting in with the ‘finding stuff’ theme, this could be something akin to pirates or finding treasure hidden in the jungle.

  1. Thrillers 

Shutter island type mysteries, haunted mansions, zombies, plagues. You could design the tasks around the theme or finding an escape, a cure, or something else. 

  1. Historical Culture

This theme is rather broad, but we’ve seen people theme their scavenger hunts around the history of your school or even ancient history such as Spartan military training. This could fit in with more physically-demanding tasks if that’s what you need to design your college scavenger hunt around.

  1. Food Trails and Pub Crawls

For something more laid back, why not design clues around finding the best food and drinks in town? Now thats something everyone will be happy to hunt down.

  1. Based On the City You’re In: 

Your city or campus could have features unique to it. For example, if your campus is in Oklahoma, USA you can get the students to use the streetcar systems to get around. If your campus is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia you could incorporate the Light Rail Transit system to widen the scavenger hunt.

  1. List Out the Scavenger Hunt Activities Based on Your Objectives

While your goals may vary, here’re 8 different activity ideas you can incorporate into your scavenger hunt grouped by the objectives they serve best. 

Ideas for Orientation and Onboarding

Download the template here!

1. Visit Important Locations on Campus

For those who are new to the college, whether they are students or staff, knowing where all the facilities and offices are is key. 

You can design an orientation scavenger hunt route that systematically takes them throughout the whole campus and design games designed to help them find these buildings. For instance, you could start them off in the auditorium, take them to the library, dining halls and career offices and other key landmarks.

If your college consists of multiple large buildings around campus, such as Oxford University or the National University of Singapore, you can make use of Google Maps coordinates and clues that include instructions on how to get around to guide them to the buildings they need to go to.

There are also scavenger hunt apps like Playtours that can help set online map coordinates to activate their next tasks when they arrive there.

Station 1 set to online map coordinates on Playtours

You can write down the Google Maps coordinates of the buildings on the activity sheet, or get even more creative. In the example below, the organizers used the shape of the flats as ‘keys’ and asked participants to find the right one. Block 116 in Singapore’s Paya Lebar looks sufficiently like the teeth of a house key.

2. Making Use of General Facilities on Campus

Some colleges have different facilities that can make for great scavenger hunt experiences. Do you have different on-campus housing? A running track? A campus green? Swimming pool? Gymnasium? 

Not only should these facilities be visited by students and new staff, but you can also set up activities around these facilities themselves.

Some universities like National University of Singapore have different types of residential options spread across the campus. Remembering where each of them are could be a little challenging.

You could set up some tasks in these different residences or halls and give them clues to get the right halls. E.g. There are 6 hostels in NUS, but only one of them is named after Singapore’s old name: 

  • Eusoff Hall
  • King Edward VII Hall
  • Raffles Hall
  • Temasek Hall (Temasek is the old name of Singapore)
  • Kent Ridge Hall
  • Sheares Halls

When participants  arrive, they can then find a station master or scan another QR code there to begin their next tasks.

3. Facilities Outside Campus

In the first activity, your scavenger hunt can take people around campus, but why stop there when you can take them beyond campus too?

If your college is located in or near towns, cities or an area with external facilities and places of interest, you can set up your scavenger hunt to get your contestants to familiarise themselves with these as well.

To make sure that they visit these locations, you can get them to take selfies of themselves around a landmark or shop in these areas too.

If you want them to take a set route to visit these areas, you can try looking for a scavenger hunt app like Playtours that splits the activities into chapters, so participants will only see the next clues when they’ve finished their most recent tasks.

4. Incorporating Campus Values and Trivia with Riddles

Colleges and universities tend to have a lot of rich history and meaning behind them. Some of the activities that you can plan into your orientation scavenger hunts could require participants to look these up to solve the riddles you’ve placed for them.

Did you know the motto of the University of Oxford is “Dominus illuminatio mea” or “The Lord is my light”. This motto is the incipit (or opening words) of Psalm 27: “The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” 

Many universities like the University off Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom were originally monastic schools for the study of theology, hence the religious nature of their history.

Crosswords could be a good way to get your participants to engage with all the different trivia and history of your college. If your college has a rich history or different meanings to find, these could be grouped together in a crossword to reveal a hidden code to lead your participants to the next scavenger hunt clue. You can set up crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzle types in scavenger hunts on Playtours too.

5. Celebration of Campus Life

Some colleges and universities have mascots or statues on their property. While serving as landmarks, they can also serve as a great way to create memories for your participating teams.

As an activity idea, why not get your teams to post team selfies with the college mascot or statue in question?

6. Interactions with stakeholders outside your group

To round off the orientation and onboarding ideas, you can set up activities to get participants to interact with people from the facilities that they need to use.

You could get them to get the names of some of the library or career office staff for instance or take photos with them to be checked and judged by the scavenger hunt team.

If you're looking for other apps that can help elevate the campus experience, check out our article on the best apps for orientation and campus life here!

Ideas for Cohesion and Team Building

While orientation is great for freshmen, scavenger hunts are great activities for bringing your student groups or staff members together. 

You could craft something more laid back so that the team has more chances to just work with one another, or you could inspire them with a more competitive edge.

If you want to push their teamwork via competition, you can craft different activities that require them to identify their talents, require them to think as a team and also have a prize that makes them want to compete and work together to win.

7. Variety show or Amazing Race style activity stations

Scavenger hunts don’t have to be limited to just answering questions and riddles. You can instead use the clues to bring teams to different stations to complete various tasks.

And one way to encourage talent diversity in teams is to mix up logic and physical activities in your scavenger hunt. These can range from simple ones like putting together physical puzzles to tougher ones like scoring 3-point shots in basketball. Once the activity is complete, the team can be given their next clue, just like in the show.

This is also an opportunity to make use of the different buildings and facilities laid in your campus depending on the tasks you want them to complete. 

8. Food trails and pub crawls

This is a more laid back option, and something that college and university goers could also appreciate greatly.

Considering that scavenger hunts can be designed to lead people on a route, you can also get them to hunt for clues and even have food at different shops and pubs.

You’ll need to work together with the shops and pubs you’re planning to include the game of course.

To help you, you can check out our downloadable template that helps you to keep in mind your objectives, target audience, plot them out on a map of the area and also a section for planning the different tasks.


The scoring of the scavenger hunt sets the tone and pace of the whole activity whether competitive or relaxed. (Download the template here!)

If you want them to have a competitive experience, there’s a number of ways you can go about it:

  • Finishing the most number of tasks within the time limit

You can assign points to each activity and set a tighter time limit to the whole activity. This can encourage teams to split up and cover ground more effectively too if that’s your aim.

  • Assigning points based on task difficulty

Easier tasks can be worth fewer points, and harder tasks that require more teamwork can be worth more points. This scoring method works well in more competitive scavenger hunts.

  • Scoring based on how quickly tasks are completed

If you’re going for Amazing Race activities in your scavenger hunt, you can have station masters time the team at each station and provide more points the faster they finish the puzzles or tasks

  • Penalties for wrong answers

If you’re using scavenger hunt apps, some of them include certain answer types that could be abused by multiple wild guesses. If you don’t want to encourage this, you could set your hunt up so that there is a point or time penalty for wrong answers.

  • Leaderboards

Some interactive scavenger hunt apps can update team points in real-time, letting teams know who’s ahead and who’s behind.

Alternatively, if you’re going for non-competitive scavenger hunts, you could do away with the point systems entirely to let teams focus on finishing the tasks at their own pace

Choosing Your Platform to Put it All Together

Now that you’ve got your whole scavenger hunt planned out, you can consider how the game will be played.

Simpler scavenger hunts can be played using A4 paper game sheets distributed to each participant or team. Coordination can be done via mobile phone in case teams get stuck or need clues.

You could try out a scavenger hunt mobile app designed around expanding and streamlining what you can achieve with your scavenger hunts.

  • Location-based tasks

Scavenger hunt apps like Playtours can link up with online maps to create “physical stations” where player have to go before being able to see the task set there. 

This is a great feature for the exploration teams need during orientation activities

  • QR Barcodes

QR barcodes can be used in many different ways in scavenger hunts. They could be ‘items’ to be found or be the trigger to give teams their next clues without needing to use a physical object. 

This feature links well with getting your teams to familiarise themselves with different facilities around campus or to give them the clue to their next station’s location for team building hunts.

  • Image submissions accessible by the game master all in one place

With chat apps becoming widely used, it’s possible to have teams send the selfies or activity photos to the game masters individually for judging.

However, some scavenger hunt apps lets the game masters see all the teams’ photos all in one place and approve or reject them right from there instead.

  • Multiple answer types

Different scavenger hunts will need different ways of answering your riddles. Apps like Playtours have support for many different answer types like:

  1. Multiple Choice
  2. Word Search
  3. Matching Pairs
  4. Scrambled Phrase
  5. Image Jigsaw
  6. Combination Lock
  7. Puzzles
  8. Text

Worried about misspellings and capitalisation? Apps like Playtours have multiple ways of receiving answers, including leeway for capitalisations and spelling.

We hope that you’ve found this guide valuable and we wish your next scavenger hunt to be a great one.

That's it! If you need help, do email us at hello@playtours.app