Northern’s First-Year Seminar is a key component of your success

The program aims to make sure first-year students at Northern transition to college smoothly and develop the skills they need

About First-Year Seminar

Northern's First-Year Seminar (FYS) offers courses in an array of academic disciplines, and is designed to help you acquire the skills necessary for college success. FYS is a springboard that gives you the momentum to succeed academically and personally during your time here, and helps ensure that all students have access to Northern's culture, information, and resources. 


Learning Objectives 

In FYS courses, you will: 

  1. Use critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills to support a position on a particular topic reflecting diversity of thought.
  2. Infuse credible, well-researched evidence and appropriate personal narrative into theme-specific assignments.
  3. Demonstrate strong reading and communication skills for living and working in an ever-changing world.
  4. Carry out effective group collaboration.


These FYS tasks help ensure a foundational understanding of what is needed to succeed in college:

  • A minimum of 250 pages of reading (this may include the Common Read, any assorted welcome-to-college materials, or books and articles pertaining to the seminar topic)
  • A minimum of 12 pages of writing (at least five of these pages will be in the form of a brief research paper with a citations page, which will be critiqued by the instructor and revised by the student)
  • At least two five-minute oral presentations (individual or group)
  • One group project or activity



Learn More

For more information about First-Year Seminar courses, themes, and requirements, contact:


Dr. Ginny Lewis, First-Year Seminar coordinator 



New students coming to college for the first time are looking for connections – for some, those connections can mean the difference between staying and leaving. 


That’s where Northern State University’s First-Year Seminar Program plays a crucial role. 


The program strives to provide classroom connections for new students and contribute toward making them feel at home so that they want to stay and learn. While learning is the ultimate outcome, community facilitates learning by providing context and a sense of belonging. 


“Northern’s first-year seminar is a key component for student success,” says NSU Provost Dr. Michael Wanous. “In addition to all of the FYS courses being on a variety of interesting topics, they all share common learning outcomes to develop critical thinking, effective writing and speaking, and group collaboration. These capacities prepare students to be successful in college and life after college.” 


The overall objective is to make sure Northern first-year students transition into college smoothly and develop the skills they require to thrive academically and succeed. The goal with the FYS program is to prioritize students’ needs and make sure that Northern State University is providing our first-year students with what they need as citizens and professionals in the 2020s. 


The program includes required courses for all first-year students. Professors who want to teach a First-Year Seminar course must submit a proposal on their topic. The First-Year Seminar Committee, consisting of a mix of faculty and staff and including a representative from Northern’s student body, makes those selections, ensuring that a wide variety of topics and disciplines are represented. 


But FYS instructors do more than teach in the classroom – they serve as mentors on their students’ path to college success. In this way, the program aids with increased student retention by decreasing confusion in the transition to college, particularly among first-generation or nontraditional students. 


It is hoped that all students will walk out of their first year at Northern understanding what’s important about college. That includes critical thinking, discussion, reading, and self-initiative. 


A lot of students come to college thinking that it’s all about the piece of paper you get at the end. But while the diploma is a great asset once you earn it, figuring out how to earn it is just as much the point.