First-Year Programs

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

It's your first year. What will you explore? 

Find your people, discover your passions, and lay the groundwork for your future success. In Arts & Sciences, some of our most renowned faculty have created innovative First-Year Programs—interdisciplinary courses that allow you to work closely with a professor and a small group of your peers. These classes delve into some of the most vexing questions of our day and offer the chance to participate in fieldwork, independent research, or international travel. 

Explore a topic you're already excited about or try something totally new. 

types of first-year programs

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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Greece: The Age of Pericles

This two-semester program offers an intensive and thorough engagement with ancient Greece and its legacy. Students will gain a profound understanding of ancient Greek culture and literature with a particular focus on fifth-century Athens. At the same time, through the language requirement of this program, students will also develop the skills to read Classical texts in the original. By the time we will visit Greece in May, students enrolled in introductory Greek will be able to read inscriptions and perform scenes from ancient tragedies and comedies in the original!

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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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Missouri’s Natural Heritage

Missouri is home to 1.5 million acres of national forest, 49 state parks, and two of the nation’s great rivers. Students in this multidisciplinary, two-semester seminar will study Missouri’s natural heritage from the perspectives of Biology, Environmental Studies, Geology, History, and Archaeology. The highlight of this course will be our spring break trip across Missouri and six weekend camping trips throughout the year to natural areas across the state.

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Women in Science

Interested in a career in STEM? Whether you think you want to be a physician, a university chemistry professor, a researcher in the medical field, or a scientist working in industry, the Women in Science (WIS) two-semester program will allow you to explore a variety of options in the sciences and learn about the role of women in science, both past and present. In addition to meeting WashU women scientists who will come and speak about their scientific research and careers, you will have the opportunity to shadow and interview women scientists to learn firsthand about the joys, successes, and frustrations of these accomplished scientists.

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how to apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Tuesday, May 15, at noon (CT) and closes on Tuesday, May 21, 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 14 to give it 24 hours to activate. Check back here at that time period for a quick link to the application webform.

Beyond Boundaries

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

The Art of Medicine

This course sits at the intersection of history, medicine, and the visual arts. It examines western medicine from ancient times to the present day. In tandem with the history of medicine, the course considers the capacity of the arts to frame medical practice, raise questions, and influence perceptions–both positively and negatively–of medical advancements.
 

Designing Creativity

Designing Creativity explores the study and practice of the creative process. From “Ah-ha” epiphanies to slow-developing discoveries, innovators and artists across the globe have relied on the creative process for centuries. We will study the different processes of creatives in many fields, including medicine, law, engineering, architecture, business, and the performing arts.
 

Earth’s Future: Causes and Consequences of Climate Change

Earth’s Future is a broad, introductory course for first-year students that is co-taught by scholars across the university. Together we examine 1) the physical basis for climate change; 2) how climates are changing and how we know and assess that climates are changing; and 3) the effects of climate change on natural and human systems.
 

Gender, Youth, and Global Health

This course provides an introduction to gender-specific issues in the context of childhood and adolescence, poverty, and global health. By analyzing health conditions and disparities in local and global communities, students will examine the current challenges that health practitioners face in achieving gender equity and the current efforts towards closing the gap.
 

When I'm Sixty-Four: Transforming Your Future

This class explores the many issues related to aging in our society. You'll interact with researchers from many fields, including medicine, engineering, architecture, public health, social work, law, business, art, psychology, and anthropology. We will also look around St. Louis to consider how ready our community is for the aging of society, and you'll gain practical information to maximize your own life.

Additional First-Year Opportunities