The First-Year Seminar program is designed to help introduce students to what it means to undertake serious intellectual work at the college level. The seminars provide small class settings where students can engage with a particular topic, a professor, and their peers. They provide an opportunity for in-depth study of a subject of mutual interest, as well as a place to develop college level skills of critical thinking, both reading and writing. The development of such skills is a central feature of first-year seminars. Approaches to this vary, as do the norms of academic writing being taught. All first-year seminars, however, involve frequent writing practice, individualized feedback on writing, and an assignment structure that teaches students how to draft and revise. Additionally, the seminars provide both an introduction to library research and an overview of the expectations of academic honesty and citing sources. This opportunity to learn and practice academic writing is both an independent goal of first-year seminars, and an additional means through which faculty can introduce their discipline and help students to engage with a particular subject matter.
Each year a number of departments offer first-year seminars. Registration in each is limited to sixteen students. Sufficient seminars are offered to ensure that every first-year student has the opportunity to participate during at least one semester of the first year. Registration for the seminars takes place before registration for other courses, to facilitate scheduling.