What is a Freshman Seminar?

Find out more about first-year seminars and how they ease the freshman transition.

For many students, the transition from high school to college can be an intense and challenging one.

The freshman seminar is a way to get students used to the pressure of college life and the demanding nature of many classes.

Make sure you check out the rules for enrolling in and taking seminars.

First Year College Courses

Freshmen have it tough! Sure, you get to stay up late and do whatever you want when you get to college, but students quickly learn that college is not all fun and games. You have to be productive and studious to keep up in college academia. For some students, that lesson comes from bad grades on their first-year transcript.

Colleges don’t want you to do poorly, and they understand that very good students sometimes hurt their academic career because they don’t learn to cope with the radical life changes that happen in college. The freshman seminar is offered to give students experience working with faculty and other students in a broad, open conversation format, as well as using the writing, communication and critical thinking skills required in a university setting.

Why Should I Take a Freshman Seminar?

Freshman seminars are designed to make the freshman transition into college more manageable. They’re often taught by experienced faculty and are centered on a variety of topics.

A survey of first year seminars offered by universities showed classes in Russian Humor and the techniques of GPS mapping systems from the University of Oregon. UC Santa Barbara offers a debate on Creationism vs. Evolution, a class on Beowulf, and even one seminar simply titled “Accidents” that covers the nature and theory of what accidents really are.

In addition to being interesting classes that you might not be able to take anywhere else, since they are only offered to freshmen, it’s a great opportunity to meet your peers. Also, since seminars are kept at small class sizes, it’s a great way to establish relationships with faculty members at your school.

Freshman seminars are also typically not burdensome on your credit load and do not affect your GPA in any way, which makes them invaluable for testing out college. Most schools make freshman seminars one-unit courses and grade them as Pass/No Pass. This means you don’t need to worry about getting a grade. It’s generally enough to just do your work and be active and eager to learn with your classmates.

Other Things to Think About

Make sure you check out the rules for enrolling in and taking seminars. Yale, for example, has a very strict application deadline and lottery system with certain restrictions on acceptance if you are enrolled in other courses.

Other colleges may be different, and the opportunities vary from one school to the next. UCLA has a GE Cluster system that acts as a freshman seminar and fulfills general education requirements at the same time.

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