Preparing students to join college life has always been a concern to university administrators.
In 1915 (and for some years after), freshmen at SMU were called “Fish.” During that first spring semester, seniors pranked two unsuspecting classes with fake finals. As early as 1919, incoming freshman had mandatory psychological tests. These tests (although updated) remained in place until the mid-1970s.
The first formal freshman orientation was in 1924 and it lasted one day. It began with a devotional exercise, and President Charles Selecman spoke on the ideals and traditions of SMU. By 1928 that freshman day had expanded into a five-day-long orientation.
Beanies were a part of freshman life from 1916 until 1963. The first-year student were required to wear beanies until the end of the fall semester or if SMU won the homecoming game—whichever came first. Beanies had one’s name printed on the front of the hat—and were not the most “fashion-forward” items. Anyone caught not wearing their beanie was tossed into the fountain. In 1963, a beanie cost $1.28.
In a book called, “The Freshman Girl,” published in 1925, there was no talk about a formal orientation program, but deans and professors from different colleges and universities discussed how to acclimate new students on how to study, survive social life, budget, and take care of their health. “There are few groups of human beings more interesting than a class of schoolgirls going out into the new world of college or of society. There are few hearts of men or women that do not yearn toward them, longing to help them….”
Fifty years ago, in 1967, the SMU’s orientation process included a Tuesday to Sunday program-filled schedule.
Freshman in 1967 moved in to their dorm rooms on Tuesday morning. After their first lunch in the cafeteria, they were welcomed in an assembly by Provost Neill McFarland. Another meeting at 7 pm introduced the group to the Student President. At 10 pm, men in their dorms, women in theirs, learned their “respective rights and privileges.” Wednesday and Thursday students pored over physical and psychological exams deeming them “fit to be a Mustang.” An all-university street dance was held Thursday night behind Boaz Hall. On Friday, students registered for their first semester of classes. After learning the SMU cheers on Saturday, students attended a 10 pm until midnight dance. Women had a special curfew of 1 am that night. On Sunday, students went to religious services.
Today, in the late summer SMU first-year students still take part in an orientation to college life. Today that process takes place in two steps, AARO (Academic Advising, Registration, & Orientation) and Mustang Corral. At AARO, a two-day event, incoming students are advised on classes, and parents are counseled about student life. During Mustang Corral, a five-day event, first year students are introduced to Dallas, each other, SMU policies, and traditions.
No matter how or when you became a Mustang, we are happy that you joined Southern Methodist University. To relive some of your glory days, you can always visit the SMU Archives in the DeGolyer Library in person or online.