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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 and the FAQs (below) 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 March - 1st week of June.  This process closes at the end of the day on JUNE 1.  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 2022 will be posted at the bottom of this page in early March for students to review all options. If a seminar from the list below does not appear in the Navigator system it means that it has filled to capacity.  Want to learn more?  Info sessions will be offered March - May. 
  • 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.

Current upper-class students who need to take (or re-take) a seminar will register for the course through the process outlined by First Year Experience.  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?
Current 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.  Incoming students can review the "First Year Seminar" link in Navigator after choosing their orientation session to see the available seminars or review the list at the bottom of this page.

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 as the seminar topic may not have anything to do with the major department where it is housed.  The first year seminar is NOT an introduction to your major.  

My best friend is going to another school and is taking a first year seminar.  Is it the same thing?
No, it probably isn't.  Every institution has a different type of seminar - some are optional and some like Salem State's are required as part of the General Education program.  Some are not worth any credit, and some are worth 1-3 credits (Salem State's is worth 3 credits towards graduation.)  Some don't assign a grade, while others like Salem State's assign a letter grade which counts towards your GPA.  Some are only focused on "college 101 skills" like time management.  Salem State's includes that but is focused on learning about an academic topic as well. 

How do I know if the seminar will fit in my schedule?
FYE recommends that students select a first year seminar FIRST and then your fall schedule will be built 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 studMarch - June 1 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, when the seminar on whale ecology was held, it required 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.  Specific book information will be available to view in Navigator in August and/or outlined on the syllabus that you receive on the first day of class (f it relates to specific activities.)

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 first year experience office before being allowed to register. Students in this scenario should submit the permission form to and will then schedule a meeting with the Assistant Dean, Student Success and First Year Experience..  If a student has to repeat the seminar for a fourth time they will need permission from the Provost/Academic Vice President (using the same form).