From the Basement: A Freshman Focus

August 27, 2010
By Cherry Crayton

More than 4,500 freshmen began classes at NC State last week. Imagine if they all had to wear a red cap with a white “F” on the front to distinguish themselves. Yes, there used to be such a cap, called the Freshman Cap. First-year students at NC State first wore one when they were on campus in 1916. Six years later, the Student Council made it a requirement, citing a need to boost school spirit and reduce hazing. The requirement remained in effect for the next eight years. NC State magazine provided a time line of the history of the Freshman Cap in its Autumn 2009 issue, and you can read it after the jump. In the photo below, former NC State Chancellor John T. Caldwell tries on an original Freshman Cap in the 1960s:

Former NC State Chancellor John T. Caldwell dons a Freshman Cap. (Photo from the NC State Alumni Association Archives)

Former NC State Chancellor John T. Caldwell shows off a Freshman Cap. (Photo from the NC State Alumni Association Archives)

When we were recently digging around the Alumni Association’s basement and flipping through a file on Chancellor Caldwell, we also came across a clipping of an editorial from the September 15, 1959, edition of The Raleigh Times. The editorial excerpted large chunks of a speech that Chancellor Caldwell gave to NC State freshmen at the time. In his speech, he outlined “four things [freshmen should do]  in the interest of making each day and month here on the constructive side”:

  • “Look for your real self and try to establish your true identity.”
  • Keep your mind open with respect to your choices of student and career aims.
  • “Use the resources of North Carolina State College.”
  • “. . . Hold on to the moorings in your life a which give you the only basis for genuine happenings and progress.”

Read the entirety of Chancellor Caldwell’s advice to freshmen by clicking on the image below:

From the Sept. 15, 1959, Raleigh Times

From the Sept. 15, 1959, Raleigh Times

You can also read, after the jump, the advice to freshmen that nearly 20 of our alumni of today gave on our Facebook page in response to a recent R&W4L Question of the Week:

  • Go to class! 🙂
  • I agree-go to class.
  • Don’t take any advice from sophomores!
  • Don’t go out EVERY friday night!
  • Make it the most memorable experience of your life. You only get one shot.
  • go to class, bad habits are harder to break later when the classes get harder
  • go to class and try to have the highest gpa possible your first yr.
  • 1.   Go to class 2. Do the assignments 3. Study 4. Have Fun.  In that order! 🙂
  • Take control of your Time Management so as to approach this opportunity with the same dedication that you would your next job.
  • Go to class.  Study.  Engage in university activities. Treat yourself and classmates with respect.
  • Do not think that being in college makes you any better than those who did not go. Remain humble and work hard. Appreciate the education and the life you’re about to receive.
  • Absolutely go to class and do the work but also realize that education is not just happening in the classroom. NCSU has a lot to offer. Explore, make connections, and get involved.
  • graduate. the admissions dept picked you (all) out of thousands of other applicants because they thought you had the best chance to succeed. don’t prove them wrong. and to do that, follow ^ their advice.
  • go to class, study hard, go to the football games, basketball games, and other sporting events. Get involved with your college and faculty. Remember this is the best time of your life to endure for the rest of your life. Enjoy the 4-5 years as you will remember them for the rest of your life!
  • Class is important. . .but live life! Experience EVERYTHING that you can while learning! Don’t forget that there are things other than football and basketball to go and see. Go to a gymnastics meet. . . a swimming and diving meet. . . baseball and softball games(etc, etc). . . .Take a class that you think you may NEVER have an interest in (or could possibly get an A in). You never know.
  • Live in a dorm and keep those friends for as long as you can!
  • Get into some trouble and see how you can get out of it. Drink some. Eat some. Fall in love. Paint the Free Expression Tunnel. Do not be scared to make a mistake. . .The best way to learn is to make LOTS of them. Wear Red to every game or meet that you can! Go Pack!
  • Go to class, study everyday, get involved in campus activties/clubs, don’t forget your family and friends at home, make memories, meet lots of people, and remember, everyone is on the same level—- the only “classes” in college are the ones you should be attending — remember I said it first:-)
  • Take lots of extra PE — Bowling is great! Definitely keep a good track of what you have to do on Google Calendar and keep up with it using your Phone, college is all about time management. We didn’t have Phones back in ’97 🙂 Basketball games and football are awesome. Math students — Don’t drink and derive. Take courses based on the professor’s last names if you are concerned about being able to understand them, and ask your friends about who they have for what subjects so you can make sure to get good professors next year.
  • Set high goals. Study. Make friends. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. Expand your mind and try to look at the view from different angles. Don’t forget that those other people you think are so smart are probably struggling a bit too, but are working hard to try to learn the pattern or what the answer might be. The professors and instructors are paid by your tuition-use their knowledge!!! Exercise and eat right. Believe in yourself. Have fun!!!
  • My best advice is to not say no to a club or activity. If it is on campus and cheap, go! Go to the plays, movies on the lawn, cookouts. . . even if you don’t know ANYONE that is going. That is the best way to meet people. The coolest experiences I’ve had were started with, I saw a sign for this thing in the quad and I thought I’d check it out. . . .
  • Be dedicated to your studies! Education is a luxury! Become another proud Alumni Wolfpack!


The following story originally appeared in the Autumn 2009 issue of NC State magazine, a benefit of membership in the Alumni Association.

What Happened to the Freshman Cap?

NC State freshmen were once required to distinguish themselves by wearing a red cap with a white “F” on the front. So why did you never have to wear one? Here’s a look at the life and death of the Freshman Cap.

For the first time, freshmen wear a red cap with a white “F” when they’re on campus.

The Student Council requires all first-year students to wear the caps on campus, citing a need to boost school spirit and reduce hazing. The Court of Customs, a branch of Student Council, can punish students who don’t comply. Freshmen start a tradition by burning their caps just before their spring final exams.

October 1929
The Court of Customs sentences a freshman football player, whom Technician refers to as “Comiskey,” to wear a dress for every day he has not worn his cap. Comiskey claims he lost his cap and didn’t have enough money to buy another one.

Nov. 14, 1929
Comiskey has worn the dress for 13 days when more than 400 freshmen meet and decide to stand in unity with him and burn their caps. Henry Love ’30, vice president of the Student Council, addresses the freshmen, telling them that “burning the caps now would only necessitate the buying of new ones, or trouble.” He advises them to try to get rid of the caps through a student body referendum.

Nov. 21, 1929
Freshmen vote 582 to 18 to seek a referendum.

Dec. 11, 1929
Nearly 1,000 students—about half the student body—vote on the referendum. By 15 votes, they elect to keep the caps. Freshmen accept the decision and continue to wear the caps throughout the spring semester, though the close vote leads the Student Council and the NC State Board of Trustees to consider requiring the caps to be worn just for the fall semester instead of the full academic year.

May 15, 1930
In an end-of-the-year address to students, the dean of students, Edward L. Cloyd ’15, says he supports the elimination of the caps because it makes freshmen easily distinguishable and a target for hazing. He encourages freshmen to continue to work to abolish them.

September 1930
Students return to campus to learn that, during its June meeting, the Board of Trustees abolished the cap. Though they no longer wear the caps, freshmen still carry matches to light the cigarettes of upperclassmen.

Mary Cole Allen


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