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 opportunities and support to make the most of your first year and beyond. 

The College offers four types of programs. You can choose an Ampersand 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 requirements, and are a unique opportunity to make the most of your first year at WashU. 

View our Getting Started guide to First-Year Programs and Registration Information here.

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.

Learn More

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

Learn More

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.

Learn More

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

Learn More

Ampersand 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.

Explore the Programs Here

how to apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Thursday, May 13, at noon (CT) and closes on Monday, May 17, at noon (CT). You will need your WUSTL Key to apply, so please be sure to sign up for your WUSTL Key by Tuesday, May 11 to give it 24 hours to activate.

Apply Here

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. Enrollment in these seminars is first come first served and limited. 

Find of a list of this year's First-Year Seminars here

Beyond Boundaries 

The one-semester Beyond Boundaries interdisciplinary courses 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. 

Find Out More

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. Here are the First-Year Opportunity courses to be taught this year:

  • Applications in Chemistry
    Chemistry; L61 FYP 1810
    A weekly lecture by a chemistry faculty member, or other scientist from academia or industry, on their current research activities. The goal is to provide students with a sampling of current research activities dealing with fundamental an applied problems in science and society that are being approached from a chemical point of view.

  • Chemistry and Energy
    Chemistry; L61 FYP 183
    This seminar is intended for first year undergraduates to learn about the role that chemistry can play in addressing one of the greatest challenges we face: climate change. Chemistry has played a vital role in providing the energy needs of society, and advances in chemistry can help to develop abundant and economically viable energy technologies that do not have adverse consequences on the environment. 

  • Introduction to Cutting-Edge Research in Biology
    Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 FYP 181
    A lecture course intended for first-year students that focuses on the practice and culture of biological research. Active researchers describe the biological context of their research, the specific questions they have formulated, the means by which they pursue the answers, and their data and conclusions.

  • Molecular Biology of Genetic Disease
    Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 FYP 1500
    Students gain a fluency in biological language, methods, and reasoning as applied to human health. We study the molecular, cellular, and physiological perspectives for each health-related topic, and examine data and methods that support this knowledge. We emphasize problem-solving and reasoning as it applies to understanding biological processes. The content and problem-solving work are designed to help students prepare for Biology 2960, which is offered each spring semester.

  • Neuroscience Futures 1: How do we learn about the brain?
    Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 FYP 1710
    In this seminar course for first-year students, students learn about how neurobiologists conduct and communicate research. We focus our discussion on primary research papers written by WUSTL neurobiologists, who visit the class to present their work. 

  • Research and Conservation in Zoos and Botanical Garden
    Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 FYP 1811
    An introduction to the world of zoos and botanical gardens. Students will learn of the diverse and cutting-edge ways in which scientists and conservationists study the world's biological diversity and work to conserve it. Taking advantage of two world-class institutions a short distance from the Danforth campus, the class will meet every week at an off-campus site (primarily the Saint Louis Zoo and Missouri Botanical Garden, but also several other institutions) to hear lectures from leading authorities at these institutions, as well touring facilities to see first-hand how research is conducted and how these institutions work to preserve endangered species.

  • Contemporary Issues in Psychology
    Psychological and Brain Sciences; L61 FYP 102
    This seminar enables students to explore several of the ideas and issues in contemporary psychology. Each week a different issue is discussed, and students familiarize themselves with critical aspects of the issue and discuss and critically evaluate the pros and cons of each side.

  • The Meaningful Life
    General Studies; L61 FYP 225A
    Who am I? Where am I going? How can I lead a meaningful life? This course creates an opportunity for students to reflect on and engage more deeply with the narratives they share with others and tell themselves. Social media demands that we put our stories out into the world, but how are we shaping our lives by the stories we tell?