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, 3-credit, one-semester courses that delve deeply into almost every topic imaginable and can involve some extracurricular activities.

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First-Year Opportunities are 1-2 credit courses meant to supplement a full courseload by offering extra insights or opportunities around different topics.

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Beyond Boundaries courses are co-taught by faculty across the university to give you a unique insight into different lenses to view, and solve, vexing issues.

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Mojave Desert

Ampersand Programs

BioTech Explorers Pathway

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

Learn More About BEP

Global Citizenship Program

The Global Citizenship Program invites you to explore what it means to be a citizen of the world over two semesters. Aside from what you will learn in the classroom, the weekly workshops will lead you into the communities of Washington University and greater St. Louis. An off-campus trip in the spring semester will provide further opportunities for you to engage with experts and gain new perspectives on the topics discussed in class.

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Medicine & Society

The foundation of this program is medical anthropology–the study of human health and illness across culture, time, and location–and throughout this multi-year program, you will explore wide-ranging issues like the ethics of genetic engineering, social and behavioral factors affecting infectious diseases, and the causes of health disparities. The Medicine & Society program will also give you the opportunity to perform service and research at health-related sites throughout St. Louis.

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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.” As a first-year MBB student, you will take two core courses that provide an introduction to the mind-brain. In the sophomore year, you can undertake research under the supervision of one or more participating faculty members.

Learn More About MBB

Text & Traditions

In the Text & Traditions program, you will explore the fundamental texts and intellectual traditions upon which American and European cultures have been built and continue to develop. The goal of this two-year program is to provide you with a focused grounding in the humanities, major texts, and core analytic practices.

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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. In this multidisciplinary, two-semester seminar, you will study Missouri’s natural heritage from the perspectives of Biology, Environmental Studies, Geology, History, and Archaeology. You will also enjoy the spring-break trip across Missouri and six weekend camping trips to natural areas across the state.

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Phage Hunters

This two-semester program will engage 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 WashU partners with more than 50 other colleges and universities across the nation. The program will provide you with an opportunity to participate in scientific research from your first day on campus.

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Greece: Age of Pericles

This two-semester program offers an intensive and thorough engagement with ancient Greece and its legacy. You 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, you will also develop the skills to read Classical texts in the original. By the time we visit Greece in May, you will be able to read inscriptions and perform scenes from ancient tragedies and comedies in the original!

Learn More About the Greece Program

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-semseter 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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Theater as a Living Art

This program will allow you to become intimately involved in theater at WashU. Covering a range of historical and contemporary performance experiences and techniques, the course will culminate with the “Fragment Project,” in which you combine research and creative skills to recreate a lost ancient Greek play. We will also take a class trip to Chicago to attend performances at the Steppenwolf Theater, the Goodman Theater, and the Chicago Shakespeare Festival.

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Literary Culture of Modern Ireland

In this two-semester program, you will examine the literature of Ireland from 1890 to the present. The close relationship between prominent figures in the literary and artistic world and those in the realm of politics and social change during this period resulted in a rich cross-fertilization of ideas and attitudes that had enormous implications for the future of this embattled island nation. This program also includes a trip to Dublin and the west of Ireland in the Spring. THIS PROGRAM IS NOT RUNNING FOR THE 2018-19 YEAR.

Learn More About the Ireland Program

The History, Memory, and Representation of the Holocaust

In this rigorous academic program, you will go deeper into the subject of the Holocaust by engaging intensively with the history and memory of the Nazi genocide of the European Jews and other groups between 1933 and 1945 and with representations of this experience in literature and film. The two-semester program includes an educational trip in May to important sites in Germany, Poland, and Lithuania. THIS PROGRAM IS NOT RUNNING FOR THE 2018-19 YEAR.

Learn More About the Holocaust Program

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.

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. Browse the available courses to see what piques your interest.


See the full list of First-Year Seminar Topics

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