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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 - end of May.  This process for 2024 closes at NOON on May 28.  Any student who does not select a seminar during this time will select a seminar (from what is left available) as part of the class selection process at orientation.  The list of first year seminars offered for fall 2024 is available in Navigator and also as a single word document on the university website for students to review all options. If a seminar from the list does not appear in the Navigator system it means that it has filled to capacity.  There is no waiting list for seminars.  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

General Questions Regarding First Year Seminar

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 college or university.  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.
    • Receiving credit for Avanced Placement (AP) scores, which are the result of a student taking an AP level course in high school and achieving a certain score on the exam, do not count towards first year seminar exemption.
  • 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 first-year students can review the list of seminars available during the March - May selection process and select one after choosing their orientation session.
  • Incoming transfer students who are required to complete the first years seminar will select a seminar at their orientation session.

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 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. 

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 (Wednesdays & Fridays OR Tuesdays & Thursdays) 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 for some reason 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. If this does happen, the first year experience office will email students in October with the process and spring seminar list. This rarely happens however as the university offers enough seats for students to select from. It should be noted that students will want to select their seminar early to have the best possible range of options (topics to choose from).  Students who wait until orientation often find that their choices are limited.

What if the seminar I wanted is full/not available?

If a student's first choice seminar is full, they will need to select another seminar from the options available at the time.  FYE does not maintain a waiting list and professors are not able to add students to the seminar beyond the course capacity.  This is why it is important that students select their seminar early.

Is there a book required for the first year seminar?

Each professor assigns specific books related to the class topic.  Some professors 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 (if it relates to specific activities.)  Some seminars have required field trips in place of books and students are required to purchase a ticket for a minimal cost in place of buying a book.

Do I have to attend all the classes throughout the semester?

Yes, unlike some students' high school experience, classes in college have attendance requirements.  Students who regularly do not attend class will find that their grade is impacted by every absence past a certain number as outlined in the syllabus for the class.  Students are encouraged to review their syllabus at the student of the semester (when they receive it on the first day of class) so they understand the attendance policy for that 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 a seminar for the third time, they must get permission from FYE 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).

I still have questions, who can I talk to?

All questions regarding first year seminars should be directed to First Year Experience.  You can contact the office by calling 978.542.2618, emailing or stopping by in person.  The office is located in 101A Dining Commons, the 2nd floor of the North Campus Cafe.

Do You Need More Help?

First Year Experience Office
Walk-In Service: 101A North Campus Dining Commons