First-Year Writing Seminar

The one course all students take their first semester at Bowdoin is a First Year Writing Seminar (FYWS). First-year Writing Seminars balance significant intellectual work with instruction in writing as a process, introducing first-year College students to a range of modes of writing while instructing students how to make evidence-based arguments.
Student writing with a pen in Thorne Dining Hall

Students choose from over thirty first-year writing seminars on topics that traverse the Bowdoin curriculum. They provide an opportunity for in-depth study of a subject, as well as a place to develop college-level skills of critical thinking, through reading, writing, and discussing.  All first-year writing seminars involve frequent writing practice, individualized feedback on writing, and an assignment structure focused on drafting and revising. Additionally, the seminars provide an introduction to critical evaluation of source materials and ethical practices within the discipline, ranging from citation of sources and attribution of ideas and theories to modes of ethical collaboration.

What to Expect from First-Year Writing Seminar 


Faculty from across the curriculum craft courses around important questions, historical texts, and complex issues. The First-Year Writing Seminar helps transition students to the expectations of college-level writing through a deep engagement in disciplinary content. As you make your way through complex texts and writing assignments, you will receive frequent feedback from faculty. This “write to learn” approach rewards the hard work of writing through difficult questions and challenging content. Rather than seeing writing solely as a product or a performance, writing is taught as a process.


As a process, writing is revised with input from faculty and fellow writers in your course. Students write frequently and engage in consistent and deep revision throughout the semester. When you finish the course, you should have effective strategies for revision to apply to other courses throughout your Bowdoin career and beyond Bowdoin.


These courses depend upon the active and engaged participation of you—the students. Led by an expert in the field, you will discuss the questions that shape your course, wrestle with complex ideas, and engage in a collaborative experience of meaning making.

Transition to College 

Your First-Year Writing Seminar will introduce you to library resources and expectations for academic integrity. You will be supported in your transition from student to scholar by developing skills in academic communication on the citation of sources and what it means to be a part of an ethical academic community. You’ll learn about academic support available through the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching, and will work directly with Writing Assistants.


One of the benefits of the small, writing-intensive seminars is a connection to faculty and to classmates from your first day of classes as a Bowdoin student. You will get to know your fellow classmates as you work together to transition to college and write to learn within a discipline. Students in First-Year Writing Seminars frequently get meals together, study together, and form lasting friendships. These small classes provide a welcome landing as you make a new home at Bowdoin.