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Northwestern University

The First-Year Seminar Requirement

You must complete two seminars in your first year.

The first is completed in the fall, and the second is completed in either the winter or spring quarter as assigned by the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising.

About the first-year seminar

First-year seminars are the key component of your first-year experience as a Weinberg student. Seminars are small, writing- and discussion-oriented courses geared to the investigation of a specific theme or issue and intended to hone your abilities as a critical thinker and effective writer. Successful completion of the first-year seminars, in fact, is the primary way for Weinberg students to satisfy the College’s writing requirement. All first-year students are expected to take two first-year seminars, except in unusual circumstances (see exceptions below).

First-year seminars do not count toward Weinberg College’s distribution requirements, and most departments and programs exclude them from counting toward major and minor requirements. They do not have prerequisites and do not provide a general survey of a discipline; instead they focus on a narrow but exciting aspect of a field. At the same time, they foster a more personal relationship with faculty members than is possible in larger courses. Your fall seminar instructor will be your adviser for your first quarter.

Rules for fulfilling the requirement


You must earn a grade of at least D in your first-year seminars in order to count them toward the seminar requirement. If you are not able to complete two seminars with at least Ds during your first year, meet with your Weinberg College Adviser to discuss how to fulfill this requirement. If you are enrolled for the entire first year as a Weinberg student and fail to complete the seminar requirement, you will be required to fulfill it in other ways in your remaining time at Northwestern. If you interschool transfer out of Weinberg in your first year without completing both seminars and then return to Weinberg, you will need a substitute for the missing seminar(s). You will NOT, however, be permitted to register for a seminar after your first year.

Exceptions for some students

Incoming students in HPME, ISP, MMSS, and the dual degree program with the Bienen School of Music should consult with their program advisers prior to selecting first-year seminars.  If you have been admitted to one of these programs, please note that:

Students who transfer into Weinberg College from another school at Northwestern or from another institution have different ways of satisfying the seminar requirement. If you fall into this category, learn about how to fulfill your first-year seminar requirement after transferring into Weinberg.

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