To be admitted as a freshman in the College, students were required to be at least 14 years of age and to have passed entrance examinations in Latin, Greek, ancient and modern geography, English grammar, arithmetic and elementary algebra. If students were particularly well-prepared, it was possible for them to be admitted as sophomores, or even as juniors. These requirements are summarized in the University Catalogue, 1851-1852.
Once admitted, all students followed the standard four-year course schedule, as also described in the University Catalogue, 1851-1852. Much of the instruction focused on classical languages and literature; moral philosophy and religion; ancient and modern history; algebra, geometry and calculus. Subjects of a more contemporary nature included constitutional law, mechanics, chemistry, optics, electricity and magnetism. Instruction in modern languages were available for an extra fee.
Students attended lectures by their professors for three terms each year. In addition they participated in three hour-long recitations each week day, and one one-hour recitation on Saturday. At the end of each term, faculty tested the students through oral and written exams.
Commencement was held on the 3rd of July, or, if that day fell on a weekend, on the Friday before. The program for the July 1852 graduation shows that the academic procession formed at College Hall on Ninth Street at 10 a.m. before moving to the Music Fund Hall, at 8th and Locust Streets. After a prayer by the provost and a number of musical selections, degrees were awarded. Ceremonies closed with more music and an oration by Class of 1852 valedictorian, William Lehman Wells. Degrees were granted as follows: 21 AB degrees to graduates of the College, 19 A.M. degrees in course to earlier graduates of the College, 31 law degrees, and 4 medical degrees (a separate Medical School graduation was held in February of each year).