Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2016).
The transition into college remains one of the most formative and complex phases in an individual’s life. Institutions of higher learning have responded to the challenges facing first-year students in myriad ways, most often by offering summer orientation programs, dynamic living-learning environments, tailored academic and psychological support services, and dedicated first-year seminars (FYSs) that seek to engage students in a range of curricular and co-curricular experiences. FYSs—courses intended to enhance the academic skills and/or social development of first-year college students—have become the curricular anchors grounding this broad array of programming. While addressing the developmental needs of first-year students is the key driver of such seminars, they can also enhance student connection to the institution and have positive effects on retention, especially persistence to the sophomore year.
A deep body of research exists on campus-wide FYS programs, and evidence suggests that the FYS is a recurring interest in honors communities as well. However, the honors community lacks a comprehensive analytical framework that might provide an informed approach to the honors FYS. Important topics related to honors FYSs include how prevalent they are on campuses across the U.S.; what distinguishes them from other FYS offerings on campus; what kinds of resources they share with broader-campus programs; what curricular structures and learning outcomes characterize them; and what types of considerations motivate the creation of distinct seminars for first-year honors students. The overview of the honors FYS that follows, based on a national survey of honors programs and colleges conducted in 2014, addresses these topics.