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Before Sen. Amy Klobuchar ’82 ever pursued elected office, she was just a first year in Farnam Hall, eager to join the biking team and make ends meet to support her education.

The Minnesota native — who is polling at roughly two percent according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted between Sept. 2 and 5 — is set to take the Democratic debate Sept. 12. She has campaigned on the environment, rural job growth and free community college tuition, among other issues. But four decades ago, her peers and professors saw her as a standout student with a passion for politics, biking and professional sports.

It was a passion that carried her far, said close friend Maggie Jackson ’82, now an author, who met Klobuchar during their first few weeks at Yale. The two were the only women on the Yale Biking Team, she told the News, and they decided to quit after learning they were going to race up and down East Rock — a “brutal ride.”

“The thing about Amy is she’s totally not a quitter,” she said. “But she’s also very realistic.”

Afterwards, the two quickly became close, bonding through their short stint on the bike team and their initial “overawe” of being at Yale.

Like Jackson, Klobuchar felt University life was daunting at the start — especially since she did not graduate from a private school like many of her peers. When asked for comment, Klobuchar’s campaign pointed to her autobiography “The Senator Next Door: A Memoir from the Heartland.” In the memoir, the political science major recalls bringing just two suitcases and a trunk to her first-year dorm room in Farnam A32 after applying to Yale on a whim.

In her first year, Klobuchar remembered taking “everything from international relations to French to calculus” and spending hours studying in one of the reading rooms of Sterling Memorial Library. She studied methodically, preparing for upcoming exams by typing her class notes and filling out index cards and treated every assignment as “an opportunity to learn and excel.”

Because she spent a large part of her time in high school waitressing, attending rock concerts and spending time with friends, Klobuchar felt she had “a lot of catching up to do” in her classes at Yale and wanted to make her parents proud.

“[I was] determined that no one in my family would come to regret my decision to go to an Ivy League school,” she wrote.

Money was tight, wrote Klobuchar, who grew up in a working-class family. She spent her breaks eating Ritz crackers and cheese or dining at Claire’s Corner Copia and Yorkside Pizza. She also worked various odd jobs, including a summer spent pounding survey stakes for the Minnesota Highway Department and Christmas breaks as a temporary secretary, she wrote.

When she wasn’t working, the future Hennepin County District Attorney canvassed for the Jimmy Carter’s 1980 presidential campaign and attended meetings for the Yale College Democrats. But her time for extracurriculars was limited due to her classes and various jobs, she wrote in her autobiography.

“I had very little spare time,” she added, but “somehow, I always made time for friendship.”

Jackson, who remembers taking the English class “Daily Themes” with Klobuchar, said she was very studious in college. And according to professor emeritus Ted Marmor, her advisor for her senior essay, that could not be more true.

On Sunday nights, he said, Klobuchar and fellow student Matt Hamel ’82 would meet in his residence in Hopper College, then known as Calhoun, and discuss their essays. Klobuchar’s senior essay was a political analysis on the construction of Minneapolis’s Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which came to the city on schedule and under budget. Her theoretical approach was particularly fascinating, especially for an undergraduate, Hamel said.

“She was terrific at [analysis],” Marmor said. In her autobiography, Klobuchar wrote that she was able to combine her love of professional sports, Minnesota and its politics into an ambitious academic paper.

As the length of her paper ballooned from 30 to 215 pages, Marmor recommended she publish it as a book. The book — titled “Uncovering the Dome” — is used as an assigned text for government classes in several universities across the nation so that professors can show students what they’re capable of as undergrads, according to her autobiography.

“What can you say? Very few undergraduates publish their thesis as a book,” Marmor said.

Now, after earning her law degree at the University of Chicago Law School and spending years in elected office, Klobuchar is pursuing the United States presidency as one of several Democratic candidates.

Though the Minnesota Senator just barely made the mark for the third Democratic debate, Jackson remained optimistic at her good friend’s chances. Marmor said he didn’t expect Klobuchar, the young college student, to pursue such a position.

Still, both agreed she’s more than capable.

“If Amy doesn’t capture the primary, she’s young and she’s a dynamo,” Jackson said. “She’s only got a brighter future ahead of her.”

Klobuchar first became a Senator in 2007.

Matt Kristoffersen | matthew.kristoffersen@yale.edu