My First Semester Away to College
My First Semester Away to College
In September 1962, I left home for the first time and went away to college at the University of Wisconsin (UW) in Madison. Enrolled in a pre-med course of study, I was attending science courses with 200 students in a big lecture hall and competing with kids from Wisconsin and around the country who were just as smart or more intelligent than me.
When not attending class, I was adjusting to living in a dormitory. I now had to wash my clothes and get up in the morning on my own. Socially, I was starting to date which I never did when I went to high school.
In this article, I recall my adjustment to college life both inside and outside of the classroom. Each one of my classes had an experience that I will always remember.
Preparing to Go to College
As early as the seventh or eighth grade, I had decided to attend college. Although dad had only gone to one semester of college, he encouraged me to enroll at the University of Wisconsin after high school and study to become a doctor.
In preparation for getting accepted into college, I enrolled in college prep courses in high school starting in the ninth grade or my Freshman year. Throughout four years of high school, my college prep courses included four years of mathematics, three years of science, four years of foreign languages, two years of history, and four years of English. For math, I took two years of algebra, one and a half years of geometry, and one-half year of trigonometry. My science subjects consisted of one year each of biology, chemistry, and physics. Two years of Latin and two of Spanish satisfied my foreign language requirement.
To ensure acceptance into the University of Wisconsin's College of Arts and Sciences, I was very industrious in school and earned membership in the National Honor Society for four years and became valedictorian of my graduating Senior class. As part of the application process, I also took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing (ACT) exams.
Pre-registration for College
Late in the spring of 1962, I was accepted for admission into the Freshman class of UW-Madison which began in September. As a service and aid to new incoming students, the UW offered pre-registration for fall beginning classes during the summer of 1962.
Since I had never been to the UW-Madison campus, I took advantage of this pre-registration and went to Madison for two days and night during July. There, I met with a university pre-med advisor to select classes for the first semester. I had originally wanted to get into an Honors Program but was dissuaded by the advisor due to my low scores on the ACT.
My advisor and I jointly agreed it would be best for me to register for 15 credits during the first semester. These credits would include three of general inorganic chemistry, five of zoology, four of differential calculus, and three of English composition. Also, all Freshman students were required to register for two hours of physical education each week with no credit.
Around the middle of September, I made the long-awaited move from home to college at UW-Madison about 80 miles away.
Accompanied by one or two suitcases, dad drove me to the destination of my new home for the next school year. It was one of the residence halls for students on campus adjoining Lake Mendota.
For the next week, I would be very busy getting used to my new dormitory life, exploring the UW campus, opening an account at a Madison bank, book shopping, and attending a University Freshman orientation.
My new dorm room was on the fourth floor of Tarrant House in the Adams Hall complex. Tarrant House had about 50 residents in both single and double rooms on all four floors. I was in a small double room and had a Freshman roommate, Max, from Illinois.
The residents of Adams, Tripp, and Schlicter Halls all ate in a common dining hall called Van Hise. Adams and Tripp had all-male dorms and Schlicter was an all coed dorm.
Coin-operated washers and dryers were provided in the basement of one of the Adams Hall houses. A TV room was also in the basement of another house. Our mail was delivered to a gatehouse in front of the Adams Hall quadrangle.
After getting oriented to my new living facilities, I started to explore the vast UW campus. My classes were scheduled all over the campus so I had to know my way around.
From my dorm along the lake, I ascended a 500-meter slight rise long hill (Bascom Hill) to reach the heart of the campus where some of my classes were located. There, I learned that my zoology classes were in Birge Hall and my English classes in the Social Science Building.
My chemistry classes were in the Chemistry Building below Bascom Hill to the west. It was right across from the Medical School.
My math and physical education classes were at the foot of Bascom to the east. Calculus class was in the Journalism Building and physical education in the old Armory which looked like a medieval castle.
Bordered by Lake Mendota to the north, the campus adjoined State Street which ran from the foot of Bascom Hill through the city to the State Capitol Building. To the south, the campus was bounded by University Avenue. Camp Randall Football Stadium and the University Field House for basketball games were farther south of University Avenue.
After learning my way around campus, it was time to go into the city and open a bank account. I did this by walking a few blocks down State Street toward the Capitol and finding a Madison bank. Following the filling out of some paperwork, I deposited money into a checking account and was then presented with a box or two of personal checks.
Next, I went to the University Bookstore on State Street just off campus and purchased my books and supplies for the fall semester. There were signs all over the aisles inside the store indicating courses of study and the books required for each course. I selected a calculus book for Math 21, a zoology book and lab manual for Zoology 101, and a chemistry book and lab manual for Chemistry 5. I forget which book was required for English 101. The books seemed very expensive and I remember writing a check for around $50.00.
A few days before the first day of classes, orientation for all incoming Freshman students was held inside the UW Field House. While seated listening to UW officials, I remember to this day a remark made by one speaker. He or she told all students to look first at the person sitting on their left and then to the one on their right. "Only one of you will graduate," was the solemn warning made. I couldn't understand the truth of this statement until I experienced college life and completed my first year.
My First Week of Classes
During the third week of September, I started my first week of first semester classes. My 15 credits of courses plus non-credit physical education took up approximately 25 hours of class time per week.
A five-credit Zoology 101 course met 10 hours weekly. It was broken down into three hours of lecture, three hours of discussion, and four of laboratory work.
The three credit Chemistry 5 classes met six hours per week. It consisted of two hours of lecture, two hours of discussion, and two lab work.
My English 101 and Math 21 classes didn't meet as often as the science courses. English 101 was scheduled for three hours weekly and differential calculus for four hours each week.
Non-credit physical education took up two hours weekly. Also, I had an hour or two of non-credit introduction to the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
As I remember, my first college class was a chemistry lab that met from 7:45 until 9:40 on Monday morning. That was followed by my math class from 11:00 until 11:50. In the afternoon, I think I had a zoology lecture from 2:25 until 3:15.
Except for my math class which met Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, my other classes met either Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning.
I quickly found out that college life was a lot different from high school.
Whereas in high school I only had to move from classroom to classroom in one building, I now had to move a considerable distance between different buildings where my classes were held. That is why there was a 15-minute break between classes in the morning and afternoon.
Another big difference was the vast size of lecture classes and labs. Both my chemistry and zoology lecture classes had 200 students. This led to little or no contact with my professors.
I also noticed that there was a lot of competition in my science classes. Many students were also in the pre-med program and they were top students in their high school graduating classes.
Adjusting to Dormitory Life
When not in a class, I spent most of the time in my dorm. It was difficult for me to study in a small room because I had a roommate who always had friends over.
Fortunately, Adams Hall residents could study in the Van Hise dining hall during the hours of 7-11 evenings. In the day, I could also prepare for my classes in some college libraries.
On Friday evenings, dorm residents could watch free 35 mm reel projector movies in the Commerce Building on campus.
On Saturdays in the fall, I would often go to football games at Camp Randall Stadium. The UW football team went to the Rose Bowl after a very successful 1962 season.
Sundays were a dress-up day for me and other dorm residents. In the morning, I put on a suit to attend Catholic Mass just off of campus. Later, I had to wear that same suit for noon dinner served in the dorm dining hall. Sunday evening meals weren't served in the dining hall. Consequently, my friends and I would often order a pizza.
Socially, the dormitory provided many activities. Once every two months, candlelight suppers were arranged between the residents of our dorm and other co-ed dormitories. Our dining partners were always blind dates. I took the first one to a house party and the second one, Sally who I liked, accompanied me to the Homecoming Show where Bob Hope was performing. Twice a semester, our dorm also had parties on Saturday night where 3.2 percent beer was served.
Carson Gulley Hall
Tarrant House Residents
Lasting Memories of Classes
During the fall semester of 1962, I will always remember the following from each of my classes.
I burnt my fingers bending glass during one of the first lab sessions.
I scored 100 on a laboratory quiz identifying bones and their parts.
I couldn't understand the theory of limits and was failing my calculus course after the first six weeks of classes.
While walking to classes on Saturday mornings, I could hear jets taking off and landing from nearby Truax Field in Madison.
During physical education classes for men, we all had to swim naked in the pool.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Paul Richard Kuehn