National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2016).


Copyright © 2016 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


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.