First-Year Programs

WashU students are fearless. Dive into your first year and make the most of every opportunity.

In the College of Arts & Sciences, you can find the opportunities and support to make the most of your first year and beyond. 

The College offers special courses specifically designed just for first-year students. You can choose between:  

  • Ampersand Programs: interdisciplinary, small classes that span two or more semesters. These classes give you a chance to immediately jump into sustained academic inquiry into a particular topic and can involve fieldwork, research, or international or domestic study travel.
  • First-Year Seminars and First-Year Opportunities: one semester classes reserved for first-year students. These topic-based courses give you the opportunity to explore a new idea in depth in your first or second semester.
  • Beyond Boundaries Courses: mid-sized, interdisciplinary courses team-taught by faculty from across the university.

The next four years will take you down pathways of academic inquiry to encounter new concepts, compelling ideas, and experiences that will surprise you. You are encouraged to embrace your own unique intellectual trajectory, knowing there is no prescribed path towards an enriching Arts & Sciences education. Explore the courses below and start your Arts & Sciences journey by further exploring a topic you've studied or choosing to dive into something new. Still have questions? Check out our First-Year Programs FAQ.

How to Sign Up

The sign-up process with priority review for first-year programs and seminars begins on Thursday, May 16, 2024, at 4 p.m. (CT). To participate in priority review, please submit your application in the first 24 hours after applications open or by Friday, May 17, 2024, at 4 p.m. (CT). You will need your WUSTL Key to apply. As part of the application you will need to rank your top four program choices, and can include Ampersand Programs and First-Year Seminars. Our goal in this sign-up process is to match you with a program you are excited about. Because these classes are unique and tailored for smaller groups, many will fill during the priority review period. Ampersand Programs will include a unique application question, available on the Ampersand course sites linked below, so make sure you review and explore the program pages for the courses you are interested in before the sign-up process starts. When sign-up is open there will be a link to the application on the right hand side of this webpage. The first-round of sign-up will close Monday, May 20, 2024, at 12 p.m. (CT). 

A second round of sign-up for those who were not able to participate in the first round will be open from Friday, May 24, 2024, at 12 p.m. (CT) to Tuesday, May 28, 2024, at 9 a.m. (CT)

types of first-year programs

Ampersand Programs are interdisciplinary, small classes that span two or more semesters. These classes give you a chance to immediately jump into sustained academic inquiry into a particular topic and can involve fieldwork, research, or international or domestic study travel.

Learn More

First-Year Seminars are one semester classes reserved for first-year students. These topic-based courses give you the opportunity to explore a new idea in depth in your first or second semester.

Learn More

First-Year Opportunities are one semester classes reserved for first-year students. These topic-based courses give you the opportunity to explore a new idea in depth in your first or second semester.

Learn More

These are mid-sized, interdisciplinary courses team-taught by faculty from across the university.

Learn More

First-Year Programs Informational Webinar

Have questions about First-Year Programs? The College of Arts & Sciences held an informational webinar for incoming students in the class of 2028 to answer common questions about first-year programs and the sign-up process on Monday, May 13 at 7 p.m. (Central).

View the Recording of the First-Year Programs Webinar

Ampersand Programs

Ampersand Programs are interdisciplinary, small classes that span two or more semesters. These classes give you a chance to immediately jump into sustained academic inquiry into a particular topic and can involve fieldwork, research, or international or domestic study travel. For each Ampersand Program that you rank as one of your top four choices, you will need to answer a unique application question. The questions are available on the individual program websites linked below. 

 

Explore all Ampersand Programs

 

Or browse through Ampersand Programs based on a specific focus: 

Read more about student experiences in some of our Ampersand Programs: 

  • Biotech and Beyond: The Biotech Explorers Pathway (BEP), an Ampersand first-year program, engages students with the science of biotechnology and the process of moving discoveries from the lab into the real world. Senior biochemistry major Gaby Smith describes how BEP’s hands-on, multidisciplinary approach shaped her time as an undergraduate and her career aspirations.
  • A Year in the Life of a Pathfinder Fellow: Elizabeth Swords’ first year in the Pathfinder Fellows Ampersand Program had her camping under the stars, exploring the built environment of St. Louis, and building a family with her cohort.
  • The Art and Science of Cancer Care: A popular Ampersand program is preparing the physicians of the future to understand the scientific and social aspects of cancer.
  • Digging Into the American Dream: The Ampersand program “Examining America” helps first-year students understand the nuanced history of St. Louis and the United States. 
  • We Are All Migrants to WashU: The “Safe Asylum” Ampersand program gave first-year student Gené Nieuwoudt a new perspective on issues of global migration.

A&S Classes Reserved for First-Year Students

First-Year Seminars 

Feeling curious and ready for adventure, but not sure you want to spend multiple semesters on any one topic? There are dozens of one-semester seminars that cover just about any topic you can imagine from across Arts & Sciences. Enrollment in these seminars is first come first served and limited. You can rank both Ampersand Programs and First-Year Seminars during the sign-up process. 

Explore the list of this year's First-Year Seminars.

First-Year Opportunities

Don't have much time in your schedule, but want to take advantage of these unique opportunities? We also have one- or two-credit courses that supplement other classes and add a little bit more breadth or depth to your first-year studies. Here are some of the First-Year Opportunity courses that will be offered this year: 

  • Contemporary Issues in Psychology
    Psychological and Brain Sciences; L61 FYP 102
    This seminar enables students to explore several of the ideas and issues in contemporary psychology. Each week a different issue is discussed, and students familiarize themselves with critical aspects of the issue and discuss and critically evaluate the pros and cons of each side.

  • Introduction to Cutting-Edge Research in Biology
    Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 FYP 181
    A lecture course intended for first-year students that focuses on the practice and culture of biological research. Active researchers describe the biological context of their research, the specific questions they have formulated, the means by which they pursue the answers, and their data and conclusions. The focus is on process: how biologists pursue their profession, what goes on in a research setting. Additional topics of clinical and contemporary interest are often included.

  • Molecular Biology of Genetic Disease
    Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 FYP 1500
    Students gain a fluency in biological language, methods, and reasoning as applied to human health. We study the molecular, cellular, and physiological perspectives for each health-related topic, and examine data and methods that support this knowledge. We emphasize problem-solving and reasoning as it applies to understanding biological processes. The content and problem-solving work are designed to help students prepare for Biology 2960, which is offered each spring semester. Intended for students without strong AP Biology preparation, which is helpful for success in Biology 2960.

  • Neuroscience Futures 1: How Do We Learn About the Brain?
    Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 FYP 1710
    In this seminar course for first-year students, students learn about how neurobiologists conduct and communicate research. We focus our discussion on primary research papers written by neurobiologists. Discussion then focuses on the formulation of scientific questions, evaluation of evidence, and interpreting data within the context of a broader field.

  • Research and Conservation in Zoos and Botanical Garden
    Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 FYP 1811
    An introduction to the world of zoos and botanical gardens. Students will learn of the diverse and cutting-edge ways in which scientists and conservationists study the world's biological diversity and work to conserve it. Taking advantage of two world-class institutions a short distance from the Danforth campus, the class will meet every week at an off-campus site (primarily the Saint Louis Zoo and Missouri Botanical Garden, but also several other institutions) to hear lectures from leading authorities at these institutions, as well touring facilities to see first-hand how research is conducted and how these institutions work to preserve endangered species. Students will write three short papers; each paper will be based upon a class lecture and its associated readings.

Beyond Boundaries Courses

The one-semester Beyond Boundaries interdisciplinary courses cross not just departments in Arts & Sciences, but the entire university. They break down barries between disciplines for a more holistic experience, while still offering what all our First-Year Programs provide: exposure to new concepts and people; opportunities to learn from some of the world's leading scholars across a spectrum of disciplines; and, well, fun.