First-Year Programs

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

At WashU, you can find the oppertunities and support to make the most of your first year and beyond. 

The College offers four types of programs. You can choose an Amperson Program that spans two or more semesters, or one of the three other programs that last for just one semester, including First-Year Seminars, First-Year Opportunities, and Beyond Boundaries courses. 

With so many options, you can study something you're already excited about or try something totally new. Delve into a topic for several semesters or dive into one just for the fall. 

All of these programs are optional, fulfill degree requirments, and and are a unique opportunity to make the most of your first year at WashU. 

types of first-year programs

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Ampersand Programs are small, multi-semester programs that can involve fieldwork, research, or international travel in order to give you a once-in-a-lifetime experience to explore a topic you are passionate about.

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First-Year Seminars are small, one-semester seminars that cover just about any topic you can imagine.

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First-Year Opportunities are 1 to 2 credit courses that supplement other classes and add a little bit more breadth or depth to your first-year studies.

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The one-semester Beyond Boundaries interdisciplinary programs cross not just departments in Arts & Sciences, but the entire university.

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Ampersand Programs

BioTech Explorers Pathway

This two-year program explores the science of biotechnology and how discoveries move from the lab into the real world. The Biotech Explorers Pathway (BEP) aims to build connections between science, business, technology, and engineering at the start of undergraduate studies; to highlight how scientific discoveries lead to useful applications; and to guide students from examples toward idea generation and project development.

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Global Citizenship Program

This unique, yearlong opportunity led by four instructors from different disciplines brings together a community of engaged students interested in understanding global affairs. Through thoughtful class discussion and weekly collaboration, participants will develop skills for effective group work and a critical consciousness that will serve them throughout college and their future career. A trip to Costa Rica will involve immersive excursions and engagement with refugees from Nicaragua who work on deforestation and other environmental projects.

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Medicine and Society

The foundation of this multi-year program is medical anthropology—the study of human health and illness across culture, time, and location—and we tackle wide-ranging issues like the ethics of genetic engineering, social and behavioral factors affecting infectious diseases, and the causes of health disparities. The program also emphasizes service and research at health-related sites throughout St. Louis, and the curriculum is fully coordinated with pre-medical course requirements.

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Mind, Brain, Behavior

How do we think? What is human consciousness? In this two-year program, you will investigate exciting new theories and problems emerging from the “cognitivist revolution.” First-year MBB students take two core courses that provide an introduction to the mind-brain. In the sophomore year, interested students can undertake research under the supervision of one or more participating faculty members.

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Text and Traditions

There are many ways for you to begin a serious engagement with literature, philosophy, history, art, and critical thinking at WashU. One of the best is to enroll in the Text and Traditions program. In “T&T,” students explore the texts and intellectual traditions upon which modern culture has been built—from ancient Mediterranean thought to the modern novel. The goal of the program is to provide a serious foundation in the humanities, a foundation in content and in methods of inquiry. Each fall, the program accepts 50 first-year students to embark together on a semester-long journey through the classics.

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Theater as a Living Art

This program allows you to become intimately involved in theater at WashU. Covering a range of historical and contemporary performance experiences and techniques, the two-course program culminates with a class trip to Chicago to attend performances at the Steppenwolf Theater, the Goodman Theater, and the Chicago Shakespeare Festival.

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Phage Hunters and Bioinformatics

This two-semester program engages you in a national research project to isolate and analyze bacteriophage (bacterial viruses) that infect mycobacteria. The course is part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) initiative, in which we partner with more than 50 other colleges and universities across the nation. The program is designed to provide first-year students with an opportunity to participate in scientific research from their first day on campus.

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Literary Culture of Modern Ireland

Spanning two semesters and led by three dedicated faculty, the Literary Culture of Modern Ireland program explores Irish identities and the development of those identities through the island's rich literary history. Much as a spirit of communal living provides the foundation for Irish culture, a culture woven from an oral tradition of wit, satire, and storytelling, of hosting and hospitality, of convivial sessiúns of improvised traditional music, of racy jokes and passionate lament, so the success of this program depends on the community, wit, and passion that each student brings to the group.

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Pathfinder: A Sense of Place: Discovering Missouri's Natural Heritage

Each year, a willing group of WashU students forms the "Missouri's Natural Heritage" Ampersand Program class. As a class, we experience Missouri's habitats and wildlife firsthand. We study Missouri’s natural heritage from the perspectives of biology, environmental studies, geology, history, and archaeology. Additionally, we visit diverse habitats (prairies, forests, glades, and streams) and study the plants and animals we observe (from arthropods, mollusks, and fish, to salamanders, lizards, birds, and mammals).

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how to apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Tuesday, May 14, at noon (CT) and closes on Thursday, May 16, at noon (CT). You will need your WUSTL Key to apply, so please be sure to sign up for your WUSTL Key by Monday, May 13 to give it 24 hours to activate.

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. Enrollmet in these seminars is first come first served and limited. Some of the First-Year Seminars to be taught thus year: 

- Introduction to Urban Studies 

- Habitable Planets

- International Public Affairs

- Law and Society

-Literature, Spirituality, and Religion

-Past Tense, Future Imperfect: The Rise and Fall of
Societies & Global Civilization

-Medieval and Renaissance Venice

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Beyond Bounderies 

The one-semester Beyond Bounderies interdisciplinary programs 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. 

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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.