The First-Year Seminar program was created to strengthen a culture of close intellectual contact between teachers and students in the pre-major years. The program, which includes over seventy-five seminars annually, offers students the chance to take introductory courses in small settings. Faculty have also found the dynamics of a first-years-only seminar uniquely rewarding; and many departments and programs have discovered that first-year seminars are useful for introducing students to their offerings early in a student’s career. A list of current courses can be in the Yale College Programs of Study.

Answers to some frequently asked questions are listed below. If you have additional questions about the program or would like to offer a seminar next year, please contact the Director of the First-Year Seminar Program, contact information below.

George Levesque

Director of the First-Year Seminar Program

Frequently Asked Questions

How are first-year seminars different from other courses?

The primary distinction between first-year seminars and other courses is that first-year seminar enrollment is limited to eighteen first-year students who are admitted through a centralized online application process (most seminars have fewer than fifteen students) and most first-year seminars meet for two 75-minute sessions each week.

Why first-year students?

The first year of college is commonly a time of profound transition. During this period of adjustment and initiation, first-year seminars provide a welcoming environment in which students may interact with other first-year students, engage with faculty members in small settings, and be introduced to the privileges and responsibilities of an academic community. 

Why seminars? 

Although lecture courses have an important place in the undergraduate curriculum—and may be the most effective way to teach material in certain subjects—small classes with ample opportunities for discussion provide a valuable complement to lectures, especially in the first year when students often enroll in several introductory lecture courses.

How are students admitted to a seminar?

Students apply for admission to a seminar before each term through an online application process. Because interest is greater than spaces available, students are admitted through a computerized lottery. Faculty receive a roster of admitted students before the first day of class. Inevitably, some admitted students do not decide to enroll; instructors have complete discretion in admitting students off a wait list.

Are funds available for course support?

Yes, funding is available through a designated gift to the program for course enhancements, which can support field trips, guest speakers, course materials, refreshments, etc. We encourage faculty to expose students to Yale’s galleries, museums, libraries, and other collections on campus, and we frequently support field trips to New York and other destinations. 

Proposing a new First-Year Seminar

Faculty who are interested in proposing a first-year seminar should discuss their plans with the appropriate director of undergraduate studies to confirm that the proposed course supports the curricular needs of the department or program. If it does, proposing to offer a first-year seminar is easy and virtually identical to proposing any new course. An instructor should simply complete the standard online course proposal form in the CourseLeaf system by the regular deadlines established by your department or program.