Virtually every college asks all first-year students to take a Freshman Seminar. The Freshman Seminar is a small (usually 15 to 20 students) class conducted by senior faculty member in a topic of interest to the students as well as the professor. Incoming freshman are asked to choose one of these classes when they make their course schedule for the very first time. They might also be matched into a seminar based on their interests.
The idea behind a Freshman Seminar is to give every first-year student a taste of what it’s like to be in a small class around a specific subject as if they were a junior or senior. Sometimes a Freshman Seminar class will be taught with the help of a “peer advisor,” a junior or senior who handles the non-teaching work in the class.
The Freshman Seminar has more impact at some schools than it does at others. Depending on the college you choose, it can:
- Determine your housing situation for the first semester. Some schools group students in the same Freshman Seminar together–and it might be taught in their residence hall!
- Determine who will be your advisor until you have declared a major. This is more common at smaller schools where the faculty have more teaching responsibilities and handle academic advising. Larger schools rely more on full-time professional advisors who work under student affairs, among other departments at the university.
- Help you learn your way around your school’s resources. Freshman Seminar assignments require may be intended to encourage students to use the library, archives or cultural attractions on campus, even the school’s writing center.
- Prepare you for career development. At some schools career services staff attend every seminar and work with students on resume writing or finding initial volunteer and part-time opportunities in a field of interest.
- Be a community service opportunity. A school may tie the subjects of a seminar to work to help a local non-profit organization.
- Be tied to a “first-year experience” such as a class book that every incoming student must read before arriving on campus. The Freshman Seminar may touch on the book in different ways, depending on the subject matter.
Depending on the school freshman seminars can be graded or pass-fail, one hour or three or four hours (like any other credit-bearing college class) and may or may not be applied to a major or general education requirement.
The Freshman Seminar is a more relaxed classroom setting than the introductory courses one is more likely to take during the first semester. The right class, if accompanied by field trips, as one example, can be a lot of fun during a stressful time.
The downside is that these courses are not transferable between schools, since they are not identical. Since it possible for a transfer student to be a first-year student at two schools, the one s/he leaves and the one s/he enters, the Freshman Seminar may be a first-year requirement for a transfer student. If the course carries credits in the new school, those are credits to be made up.