Freshman Seminars

Introduction

The Freshman Seminar program was created following one of the recommendations from the Report on Yale College Education (2003) to “strengthen a culture of close intellectual contact between teachers and students” in the pre-major years. The program now includes over fifty seminars annually from a wide range of departments and programs. Students have eagerly pursued the opportunity to take introductory courses in small settings, faculty have found the dynamics of a freshman-only seminar uniquely rewarding, and many departments and programs have discovered that freshman seminars are very 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 Dean George Levesque, Director of the Freshman Seminar Program, at george.levesque@yale.edu or 432-2920.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are freshman seminars different from other courses?
For the most part, freshman seminars are just like other courses in Yale College. They are full-credit courses, sponsored by departments or programs, and taught by regular Yale faculty. They may be offered in any subject, in either the fall or spring term, and they may count towards the fulfillment of distributional and major requirements as appropriate.  The primary distinctive features of freshman seminars are that enrollment is limited to 18 freshmen who are admitted through a centralized online application process, and that all seminars meet for two 75-minute sessions each week.

Why freshmen?
Freshman year is a time of profound transition. During this period of adjustment and initiation, freshman seminars provide a welcoming environment in which students may get to know other freshmen, engage with faculty members in a small setting, and become introduced to the privileges and responsibilities of an academic community. 
 
Why seminars? 
Although lecture courses have an important place in the undergraduate curriculum—and can indeed be the most effective way to teach material in some subjects—small classes with ample opportunities for discussion provide a valuable complement to lectures, especially in the freshman year when students often enroll in several introductory lecture courses. 
 
How are students admitted to a seminar?
Students pre-register for a seminar before each term through an online application process. Because interest is greater than the number of spaces available, students are admitted through a computerized lottery. Faculty receive a roster of admitted students before the first day of class.
 
Are funds available for course support?
Yes, funding is available through a designated gift to the program for course development and 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, and we regularly support field trips to New York and other destinations. 

Proposing a new Freshman Seminar

Faculty who are interested in proposing a freshman 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 freshman 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.