First Year Seminar

Your intro to college learning

First-year students take courses titled First-Year Seminar (FYS) and First-Year Research Seminar (FYRS). Most students take FYS in the fall term and FYRS in the winter term, though some start in the fall with a class called First-Year Seminar: Expository Writing (FYS-E), then progress to FYS in the winter term. Building on the skills gained during First Engagements, first-year seminar courses immerse you in the kinds of rigorous intellectual work you’ll use at the college level.

Professors from all disciplines teach the courses, and the small class size encourages close interaction between you and your professor. You’ll also be introduced to the campus Writing Center, where you can get guidance to help adjust to college-level writing.

Students in Classroom

First-Year Seminar

During FYS, students engage a broad range of texts, from shorter essays and books to films, lectures, performances, and art exhibits. These experiences form the basis for seminar discussion and provide the materials from which students write three pieces of formal academic prose: an analytical summary, a text-based argument-response and an argumentative essay.

First-Year Research Seminar

During FYRS, students gain extensive experience in research methods appropriate at the college level. A series of related assignments—a topic analysis, an annotated bibliography, a strategic plan and a class presentation—culminate with a substantive, well-informed argumentative essay of approximately 15 pages.


The First-Year Seminar Program focuses on:

  • Developing clear and effective writing on substantial topical and enduring issues
  • Fostering critical and balanced reading of complex and challenging texts
  • Encouraging rigorous, critical, open-minded and sustained discussion of issues flowing from students’ reading and writing
  • Honing the research skills necessary to produce well-informed and original scholarship