The First-Year Seminar is a graduation requirement for all students who enter the College of Arts and Science as freshmen; these courses are not open to transfer students or to students in other divisions of the University. They are part of the College Core Curriculum, but the program is administered by the CAS Office of Academic Affairs, under the auspices of the CAS Vice Dean for General Education.
The First-Year Seminar was originally established in 1992 as the Freshman Honors Seminar; a parallel program for upperclassmen, the Advanced Honors Seminar, was proving popular, and a committee of distinguished faculty members from several schools in the University suggested the creation of a similar opportunity for new students. From the beginning, the program proved to be highly popular with students and instructors alike. The number of seminars has grown from seven in the fall of 1992 to over ninety in recent years (now offered in both fall and spring). The instructors are drawn not only from the College’s faculty but also from NYU’s professional schools and from among New York’s professional, cultural, and governmental leaders.
With the launching of the College Cohort Program in Fall 2012, every CAS first-year student was required to take a First-Year Seminar. Seminars were linked to the required advising Cohorts: the College took the students from two seminars--approximately 32 to 36 students--and combined them to form a co-curricular advising cohort that meets every other week during the academic year. Seminars were paired based on academic theme, with the goal being to provide students with a community of like-minded peers in both their seminar and Cohort. The link between the First-Year Seminar and the College Cohort was removed in 2023-24, and students are now free to enroll in whatever semianr they like, but both elements remain cornerstones of your first year experience.
The Freshman Honor Seminars were renamed First-Year Seminars for the 2017-2018 academic year and thereafter. The First-Year Seminars have as their goals to put new students into contact with leading thinkers, to introduce them to important subjects, to challenge them intellectually through rigorous standards of analysis and oral and written argumentation, and to prepare them to conduct their own research. To that end, they stress demanding reading and writing assignments that introduce students to essential research skills, such as a literature review, quantitative reasoning, critical use of primary sources, the identification of a research problem, critical analysis of texts, or encounters with works of art. In addition to participating actively in class discussions, students are expected to give oral presentations in class.
Along with the Expository Writing requirement and the advising Cohort meetings, the First-Year Seminars represent a common educational experience in the freshman year. The Office of Academic Affairs likes to think of them as “laboratories for/gateways to the liberal arts” that emphasize close reading, frequent writing, research experience, and informed participation in the give-and-take of classroom discussion.