Student Life


Women studying in Old Main, n.d.



Early Student Experiences at Iowa State

The first graduating class entered Iowa State in 1869.  The semester ran from March until November, in part because of difficulties in heating Old Main.  Room rent and tuition were free to all in-state students.  It housed some of the faculty and all of the students, both women and men, classrooms, the library, museum, and the dining hall.  Electric lights were installed in the building in 1884.

A typical school day in 1869 would have started at 5:30 a.m.  Breakfast was served at 6:45, chapel was at 7:45, and then classes were held until dinner, which was served at 12:45. Students were required to work part-time on campus in the early years.  Typical jobs were laundry and cooking, landscaping and other horticultural work, and helping out in the dairy. Between work and tea, which was served at 4:45, there was time for amusements such as baseball, croquet, and other activities.

In the early years, dating was forbidden unless you had the permission of the president and preceptress.  Over time, rules were relaxed, and campaniling became a requirement to become an official Iowa State co-ed. The first on-floor co-ed housing began fall of 1974.

Military instruction was required of all male students from the beginning of the college until 1962. From 1878-1897, military drill was also available for women students.  There were two units, Company G and Company L.

Literary societies provided a social outlet for the early classes. Social fraternities and sororities also appeared here early in college history.  The first fraternity was Delta Tau Delta in 1873. The first sorority was Pi Beta Phi, in 1877.  As one of his first responsibilities at Iowa State, President Beardshear banned fraternities and sororities on campus in 1892, because he felt that it distracted the students from learning and stunted their spiritual growth.  In 1904, President Storms reinstated the fraternity and sorority system.

Sports have always been important here.  The first intercollegiate sport played was baseball, in 1892, closely followed  by football, also in 1892. The letter "A" was used for letter sweaters until 1929, when it was changed to I.  Our original school colors were black, silver and gold.  The colors were changed to cardinal and gold in the 1890s, because it was simpler to obtain sweaters in red.

Student life has changed greatly over the years. Although many changes have occurred, the one thing that remains constant is that students have always and will always be an important part of Iowa State.

Iowa State Sesquicentennial

Time Line
Cyclone Facts and Trivia
Campus Buildings
Student Life
People of Distinction
Oral Histories


This is a historic exhibit and the information provided within it may be out of date. Please contact the Special Collections and University Archives Department with questions about Iowa State history (