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.

Jasmina Beširević

Associate Dean for Graduate Education, Yale Graduate School, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Yale College

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 to first-year seminars during registration. Students may enroll in no more than one first-year seminar in a given term, and no more than two first-year seminars in their first year of Yale College. See Yale Course Search for a list of the first-year seminars. Select "First Year Seminar " under Yale College Attributes for a complete list.

Are funds available for course support?

Yes, funding is available through a designated gift allocated to the program, intended to enhance your courses by facilitating activities such as field trips, guest speaker invitations, and other experiential and multidisciplinary endeavors. It’s important to note that this funding does not extend to cover expenses related to snacks, campus meals or books.

The typical budget allocation for each seminar is $1,000. If you plan to utilize these funds, please complete a brief budget request form, outlining your proposed activities and providing an itemized budget prior to the first week of classes.

Proposing a new First-Year Seminar

Faculty members interested in proposing a first-year seminar should discuss their plans with the relevant director of undergraduate studies to confirm that the proposed course supports the curricular needs of the department or program. Additionally, it is essential to consult Jasmina Besirevic, associate dean for undergraduate education who oversees the First-Year Seminar program.

Once consensus is reached with both the director of undergraduate studies and Jasmina Besirevic, the process of proposing a first-year seminar becomes straightforward and closely mirrors that of proposing any new course. Instructors can simply complete the standard online course proposal form in the CourseLeaf system, adhering to the regular deadlines established by their respective department or program.