30 vintage photos that show how colleges have changed

Sal Dimarco Jr./Getty ImagesComputers started become dorm-room staples in the mid-80s.

Though many colleges are all about tradition and preserving a rich history, there are several parts of on-campus culture that have inevitably changed throughout the years.

Classrooms have updated amenities to reflect changing technology, while dorm rooms have evolved from small cramped spaces to apartment-style suites. Students’ fashion has also evolved over the years, as well as the growing influence of fraternities and sororities.

These vintage photos show how colleges have changed over time.


Classrooms didn’t look wildly different in the early days of college, though the amenities certainly did.

The New York Historical Society/Getty ImagesA Columbia University lecture hall in 1895.

This classroom pictured in 1895 at Columbia University had the bare necessities: rows of wooden chairs with mini desks and a small chalkboard.


Instead of stadium seating, lecture halls appeared to be equipped with lines of desks.

JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty ImagesStudents typically dressed more formally during this time.

The above photo was taken at Johns Hopkins University in 1930.


Smartboards may be the norm today, but traditional chalkboards were typically used at the start of the 1800s.

JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty ImagesA classroom at Johns Hopkins University in 1918.

The classroom above at Johns Hopkins University, pictured in 1918, featured a series of sliding boards that allowed for optimal use of the limited space.

According to an excerpt from Lewis Buzbee’s “Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom” published by Slate, the use of blackboards in classrooms spread quickly after its invention by George Baron in 1801.


Though laptops and tablets are now commonplace, some people were just learning how to use a typewriter in the ’30s.

Imagno/Getty ImagesTypewriters were all the rage.

The above photo shows a typewriting instruction class at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, in 1931.

According to Mental Floss, the typewriter was invented in 1867 but didn’t become a major household item until the 1930s when manufacturers made them sleeker and more appealing to a wide audience.


Libraries have always been a popular study spot.

Peter Stackpole/Getty ImagesStudents studying at Smith College.

Of course, the libraries like the one pictured above at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1948, weren’t filled with computers and laptops as they are now.


Public computers become common in many university libraries by the 1990s.

David Butow/Getty ImagesTechnology became in university libraries.

The photo above shows a row of computers in the Powell Library at the University of California, Los Angeles.


When it comes to living arrangements, the interiors of dorm rooms have undergone some major changes.

Spencer Grant/Getty ImagesA freshman unpacking her dorm room in 1975.

The setup of standard dorm rooms has stayed relatively the same, but the decor has certainly changed.


Bunk beds were a common way to save space in smaller dorm rooms.

Spencer Grant/Getty ImagesA dorm room at Tufts University in 1976.

Bunk beds can still be found in dorms today, but roomier options like suites have made them slightly less commonplace.


The ’70s brought about many more dorms on college campuses due to higher attendance rates.

Spencer Grant/Getty ImagesStudents at The Jackson College for Women in 1975.

For instance, the University of California’s dorms expanded from accommodating 2,900 students in 1958 to 20,000 students in 1970.


Computers started to become dorm-room staples in the mid-80s.

Sal Dimarco Jr./Getty ImagesA student shows off her new computer in 1985.

Drexel University gifted its incoming students with desktop computers in 1985, according to Time.


Larger apartment-style dorms started to become more commonplace in the ’90s.

Boston Globe/Getty ImagesA larger dorm at Babson College in 1998.

According to a Time article citing the Association of College and University Housing Officers International,the trend of roomier dorms kicked off between 1995 and 2004,when the vast majority of residence halls built were apartment-style suites.


Modern dining halls may be filled with several fast-food options and different cuisines, but it was more streamlined in the beginning.

Bernard Hoffman/Getty ImagesDining halls had far fewer amenities in the ’40s.

The large dining hall of Vassar College was largely filled with traditional dining tables in 1946, but has since undergone a major modern renovation.


Over time, college campuses have served as a reflection of changing fashion trends.

Ronald Dumont/Getty ImagesA group of students at Oxford University in 1963.

The ’60s in particular seemed to bring about an era of more casual on-campus fashion. The days of formal skirt-suits made way for casual pants and loose-fitted clothing.


The late ’60s and early ’70s brought in an era of bright colours and plaid prints.

Lambert/Getty ImagesPlaids and bright colours were popular fashion trends.

Students seemed to begin using fashion as a form of self-expression around this time.


1980 rang in an era that embraced preppy style.

George Rose/Getty ImagesFour UCLA students model typical ’80s fashion in 1980.

Polos and jeans became a popular go-to outfit for both men and women on campus.


Greek life also looked slightly different, though some of the traditions have remained the same.

Denver Post/Getty ImagesA fraternity house at the Colorado School of Mines in 1967.

This house at the Colorado School of Mines in 1967 is a typical example of what you’d find in most university’s Greek villages.


Boys in fraternities were often spotted in more formal clothing for major events.

Kirn Vintage Stock/Getty ImagesFormal wear was common in the ’30s.

The photo above shows a fraternity from the University of Chicago in various suits and formal outfits in 1930.


Drinking appeared to be a popular pastime in fraternity houses.

JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty ImagesCollege students at a fraternity party in 1947.

In the above photo, fraternity members from Beta Theta Pi at John Hopkins Universitycan be seen filling a stein and tapping a keg in 1947.


This is what a typical rush week would look like in 1956.

Frank Scherschel/Getty ImagesRush week is still a Greek life tradition to this day.

Here, members of a fraternity at the University of Illinois prepare for their recruiting activities in 1956. According to Campus Explorer, rush week is when fraternities and sororities start recruiting new members at the beginning of the school year. Both tend to host parties and social receptions where prospective members can learn more about Greek life.


Hazing was a popular and controversial fraternity activity, as seen here at New York University in 1949.

Ralph Morse/Black Star/Getty ImagesA freshman being hazed at New York University in 1949.

Author John Hechinger detailed the long-running history of dangerous hazing activities in the book “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.” According to his research, one of the earliest high-profile cases of hazing occurred in 1873 at Cornell University when a Kappa Alpha Society pledge fell off a cliff and died during a blindfolded walk in the wood.


Read more:
12 disturbing pictures that show what life is like in an American fraternity


Sometimes fraternities would have a bit more wholesome fun.

Gene Lester/Getty ImagesA little friendly competition.

In this photo, the boys of Sigma Pi and Phi Kappa Sigma got into a water fight at the UCLA campus in April 1957.


Fraternities continued to be an influential part of campus culture well into the ’90s.

Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Getty ImagesDelta Tau Delta of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

As seen above in the photo featuring Delta Tau Delta of Miami University in 1999, their style became slightly more casual through the years.


Sorority houses also looked similar in the earlier days of Greek life.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Getty ImagesSorority houses had similar architecture to fraternity houses.

The Gamma Phi Beta sorority house at the University of Kansas is shown above in 1939. Its sprawling brick building is a good example of the types of houses that filled on-campus Greek villages.

According to Town and Country, the oldest active fraternity is the Kappa Alpha Society, which was founded in 1825 at Union College. Town and Country also reported that Kappa Alpha Theta became the first sorority when it was founded at DePauw University in January 1870.


Sororities have long been known for both their social events and philanthropic duties.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Getty ImagesMembers of Kappa Alpha Theta in 1939.

In this photo, members of Kappa Alpha Theta at the University of Kansas prepare for a dress auction in 1939.


Sorority sisters often dressed in pleated skirts and coordinated ensembles in the early days of Greek life.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Getty ImagesMembers of Kappa Kappa Gamma in 1939.

The girls of Kappa Kappa Gamma at the University of Kansas posed for this photo in 1939 wearing classic styles of the late ’30s.


Here, the members of Alpha Kappa Alpha at Howard University hold a meeting in 1946.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Getty ImagesMembers of Alpha Kappa Alpha gather for a meeting.

Alpha Kappa Alpha got its start at Howard University in 1908 with nine founding members.


Sororities continued to hold their popularity in the ’90s.

Boston Globe/Getty ImagesThe members of KAO in 1994.

The photo above shows Harvard University’s Kappa Alpha Theta sorority in November 1994.


Sports have also been an integral part of college life over time. Football started becoming a major part of college life in 1869.

Bettmann/Getty ImagesA football game between the University of Southern California and Notre Dame in 1940.

Rutgers University became known as the birthplace of college football in 1869, and it soon developed into a major staple of campus culture. Though the rules have remained mostly the same, the stadiums and uniforms have changed with the times.


College basketball got its start in the 1890s, then eventually became a popular pastime.

Bettmann/Getty ImagesA game between Stanford University and the City College of New York in 1937.

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the first intercollegiate college basketball game was played on February 9, 1895, between Hamline University and the Minnesota State School of Agriculture in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Like football, the uniforms and court amenities have changed throughout the years to reflect the times.


Sports especially became a major part of college culture when widely televised games made household names out of several teams.

Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesThe Stanford Cardinal and Notre Dame Cardinals play in October 1994.

According to the New York Times, several teams began signing deals with TV networks in the ’90s as televised games continued to be ratings gold.

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