Why Do We Wear Caps & Gowns? – And Other Collegiate Trivia

While you’re taking a break from packing for your upcoming freshman or transfer year at UC Davis, we’d like to share some fun facts about higher education, courtesy of the brainy wonks at RandomHistory.com.

    1. In the United States, there is little difference between the terms “college” and “university.” However, the term “college” in other countries, such as Canada, refers to a junior college or trade college, where as a “university” is larger, more research focused, and usually contains multiple colleges.
    2. Typically, the worst paying majors are Social Work, Theology, Elementary Education, Music, Spanish, Horticulture, Education, Fine Arts, Hospitality/Tourism, and Drama.
    3. The majors with the best pay include Engineering, Economics, and Physics.
    4. The word “alumnus” is Latin meaning “a pupil” and, literally, a “foster son.”
    5. The term “college” is from the Latin collegium meaning “community, society, guild” and, literally, “association of collegae”. It was first used to describe an academic institution in the late fourteenth century in relation to Oxford and Cambridge.
    6. “University” is a shortening of the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium or “a community of masters and scholars.”
    7. The term bachelor in “bachelor’s degree” most likely is from the Medieval Latin termbaccalaureate, which is a play on the Latin words bacca lauri or laurel berries. The word is also a re-Latinization of the French word bachelor, which means a “youthful knight” or a “novice in arms.”
    8. Approximately 2.94 million U.S. students graduate from more than 27,000 high schools each year, meaning each college applicant is competing against 27,000 valedictorians, 27,000 salutatorians, 27,000 student government presidents, and 27,000 editors-in-chief.
    9. If one student has high grades but low test scores and another has low grades but high test cores, the first student is far more likely to get accepted into a better college. Colleges prefer the “bad test-taker” to students who don’t apply themselves.
    10. The SAT was developed by Carl Brigham who, in the early twentieth century, felt that American education was declining due to racial mixing. The SAT was administered for the first time to high school students in 1926.
    11. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is currently investigating whether colleges are discriminating in favor of boys in order to achieve gender balance. Colleges have found that when a college has 60% girls, high school boys stop applying there.
    12. Costs associated with higher education constitute 3 percent of the gross national product.
    13. There are over 4,000 accredited colleges and universities in the U.S. which enroll over 15 million students and grants over two million degrees a year.
    14. As late as 1940, fewer than 1 in 20 adults held a B.A. degree. From 1945-2000, the number of B.A degrees awarded annually rose almost eightfold, from 157,349 to approximately 1.2 million.
    15. In 2006, the five colleges with the highest enrollment were University of Phoenix online campus (165,573), Ohio State University main campus (51,818), Miami-Dade (51,329), Arizona State University Tempe Campus (51,234), and University of Florida (50,912).
    16. During 2008-2009, colleges were expected to award 731,000 associate’s degrees, 1,603,000 bachelor’s degrees, 649,000 master’s degrees, and 61,7000 doctorate degrees.
    17. In hard times, early colleges in the U.S. were forced to accept payments such as cotton, sheep, pewter, and food rather than hard currency. Most U.S. colleges were constantly on the verge of insolvency.
    18. Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of 60% more than people with only a high school diploma, which adds up to more than $800,000 over a lifetime.
    19. The oral defense of a dissertation or thesis is a direct descent from the obligatory oration of the colonial college and from the medieval university disputation, orconventus, and even of oral interrogations of the Mesopotamian tablet-house.
    20. The graduation cap was initially a “hood” and is believed to date back to the Celtic time when Druid priests wore capes and hoods to symbolize their intelligence. Historically, academic dress for faculty or students was clerical dress.

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