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First Year Seminar

First year seminars are required 3-credit, academic courses that students take within the General Education program at Salem State University.  These courses are required for all incoming first-year students. New transfer students who have taken fewer than 15 credits at a previous institution are also required to take first year seminar.

First year seminars are academic courses built around a specific academic topic.  The topics represent passion areas for the faculty who teach that particular seminar.  Students are encouraged to review all of the seminar descriptions prior to choosing which seminar they will take.

Students starting classes during the fall semester will register for the first year seminar as follows:

  • First-year students will choose a seminar through a special link in their Navigator account from April 1 - 1st week of June.  This process closes on THURSDAY JUNE 4 so any student who does not select a seminar during this time may be assigned a seminar as part of the class selection process at orientation.  The list of first year seminars offered for fall 2020 can be found at the bottom of this page.
  • Transfer students who are required to take the seminar will receive an email with the process to select a seminar as part of the orientation class selection process.

Students starting classes during the spring semester will register for the first year seminar during January orientation.

Current upper-class students who need to take (or re-take) a seminar will register for one during the normal class registration process either individually or through the first year experience office.  Students will receive an email with instructions prior to the registration period.

Specific questions regarding the first year seminar can be directed to the first year experience office (FYE) at 978.542.2618 or


Who is exempt from taking first year seminar?
The following students are exempt from taking a first year seminar:

  • Transfer students who have taken 15 or more credits at a previous institution.  These credits do not need to transfer to Salem State but the student will need to provide proof of credits to the First Year Experience Office if the credits are not transferring.
  • Students who have taken a 3-credit, academic themed first year seminar at another institution.  The First Year Experience Office reviews the seminars from other institutions to determine if they meet the same requirements as the seminar at Salem State University.
  • Students who are transferring in 15 or more credits of military credit or dual enrollment credits.

How do I see the complete list of first year seminar offerings for each semester?
Students can download the current list of seminar offerings at the link above or can search in Navigator in the class registration section.  In the search area, scroll to the bottom of the page and select "Additional Search Criteria".  At the bottom of that section, next to "Course Attribute" select "General Education" and as "Course Attribute Value" select "First Year Seminar".  As long as you have the current semester and "show open courses only" options selected you will get a list of the seminars that have open seats available.

Which seminar do I choose?  Should I take one in my major?
First year seminars are NOT major specific, in fact they have nothing to do with your major.  You may note that seminars are "housed" in academic departments - this only reflects the professor teaching the course and not the actual content of the course.  For example, a seminar in computer science is actually about knitting and community.  Students should read the course description carefully and pick a seminar topic that they are interested in studying.  The first year seminar is NOT an introduction to your major.

How do I know if the seminar will fit in my schedule?
FYE recommends that students select a first year seminar FIRST and then build their class schedule around that course.  Because the seminar is topic-based, students will want to be in a class that interests them and then select other courses after that.  For students entering in the fall, FYE strongly recommends that you select your seminar during the advance process from April 1 - June 4 as topics fill up quickly.

When do seminars meet?
First year seminars are like any other academic course you take at the university - some seminars meet once a week for 2 hours and 40 minutes (with a break) while other seminars meet twice a week (Monday and Wednesday OR Tuesday and Thursday) for an hour and 15 minutes each.  In addition, some seminars have additional outside of class requirements which are outlined in the syllabus.  This is normal for many courses at Salem State University as you will be required to do homework, projects, or activities in addition to the time you spend in class.  For example, the whale watching class requires students to go on a whale watching excursion on a Saturday.  Other seminars involve field trips, community service projects, and attendance at campus events.  These will be outlined on the syllabus that is handed out on the first day of class.

What if I end up not getting into a seminar for the fall semester?
If there are no seats available for first-year students during the fall semester, students will register for a spring first year seminar as their first course before building the rest of their schedule. The first year experience office will email students in October with the process and spring seminar list.

Is there a book required for the first year seminar?
Each professor assigns specific books related to the class topic.  Some professor have fewer books in exchange for participating in/buying a ticket for a particular activity, event, or field trip.  This will be outlined on the syllabus that you receive on the first day of class.

What if I fail or withdraw from my first year seminar?
The first year seminar is required for all students so you will be required to register for and complete a seminar your next semester. You will not be required to take the same seminar topic.  Students will receive a hold on their account and before registering for classes will need to meet with the FYE office (information will be emailed to students regarding process and timeline).  If a student has to repeat the seminar for a third time they will need to first get permission from the Dean (of their particular college/school - Arts & Sciences, Business, Education, Health and Human Services, or Continuing and Professional Studies) before being allowed to register.  If a student has to repeat the seminar for a fourth time they will need to get permission from the Provost/Academic Vice President.