If You Were a Student at Rollins in 1889

Here are the courses you would have had to take as a student 125 years ago—and what you would have been tested on to be accepted to Rollins College.

Professor of Science Eva J. Root teaches an astronomy class in 1890.  (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections) Professor of Science Eva J. Root teaches an astronomy class in 1890. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)

On November 4, 1885, Rollins College opened its doors for the first time.

At that time, Rollins had four divisions, or what they then called departments: the collegiate, which taught courses “of the highest standard in the ancient classics, in modern languages, in mathematics and physics, and in the English literature and elective studies;” the preparatory department, which was charged with doing “an important work for the present, at least, in fitting students for College;” the training department, which instructed “those who would teach in the public schools and elsewhere;” and an industrial training department, “in which the young ladies and gentlemen of the other Departments can choose some useful line of practical industry.”

The cost of tuition for both the College and the preparatory school was $16 per term. The total for the whole year, including room and board, was $164.

Interested in knowing what courses students were required in Rollins’ early days, I visited the Rollins Archives & Special Collections, located on the first floor of the Olin Library. As it turns out, the College at the time was based on a trimester schedule. And here’s what four years at Rollins in 1889 would have looked like:


(Image courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections) (Image courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)

The best part? “Trigonometry and surveying will be taught and practically illustrated by the use of instruments [… and the] study of Astronomy will be rendered more interesting and profitable by the recent gift to the College of a Clark’s Telescope of five-inch object glass.”

That catalog from 1889, also included a list of what students were tested on before being admitted to the College, which was slightly different than the current SAT or ACT, to say the least.

According to the “Calendar of Rollins College” for 1889-90, while “classical and scientific students of our Preparatory Department will be admitted to the Freshman class upon their certificate of graduation,” students coming to Rollins hoping to attend college for the first time had to pass an exam in the following studies or their equivalents:

Latin Grammar
Four Books of Caesar
Six Orations of Cicero
Six Books of Virgil’s Aeneid
Jones’ Exercises in Latin Prose Composition
Translation of Latin at Sight
Three Books of Anabasis
Three Books of Homer’s Iliad
Herodotus
Greek Prose Composition
Translation of Greek at Sight
Chardenals’ 1st and 2d Courses in French
Corneille’s Le Cid
Victor Hugo’s Hernani
Arithmetic
Metric System
Wentworth’s Complete Algebra
Wentworth’s Plane Geometry
Physical Geography
Elementary Rhetoric
United States History
Roman and Greek History
Life and Mythology
Ancient and Modern Geography.

Those interested in pursuing the sciences were tested on all of those except Greek, plus:

Guyot’s The Earth and Man
Our Civil Government
Outlines of History
Ancient, Mediaeval, and English History

According to College Historian Jack Lane’s manuscript, Rollins College: A Centennial History, the trustees made the decision to close the preparatory division in 1921, and the final class graduated in 1923.