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Each FYS should fulfill the following five criteria:

  1. FYS should be issue-oriented and advanced, covering a wide range of knowledge, and/or engaging specific issues or advanced, cutting-edge topics. However, FYS are not introductory surveys, and they cannot stipulate a prerequisite skill or course as a condition for enrollment.
  2. FYS should be methodologically self-conscious, in the sense of focusing on how scholars pose problems, discover solutions, resolve controversies, and evaluate knowledge.
  3. FYS should involve active learning, encourage self-directed inquiry, and enable students to take responsibility for producing knowledge.
  4. FYS should attempt to refine students’ communication skills.
  5. FYS do not require final exams, and instructors are encouraged to use multiple testing strategies to accommodate students’ diverse learning styles and varied cognitive stages. For example, this might mean more frequent but shorter written assignments, as well as a variety in the types of verbal and non-verbal assessment. To encourage flexibility in modes of assessment, final exams are not required in FYS.


The FYS Program uses an email listserv as the primary form of communication with instructors. Messages sent are about timely information that is relevant for the success of the FYS Program and our first-year students, so please plan accordingly.


Each FYS counts as 3 hours credit toward graduation, and may or may not count as credit toward a particular major. Like other courses, FYS may fulfill at most one Approach and possibly several Connections requirements. Approaches and Connections are assigned to new courses by the Administrative Board, and instructors facilitate the process by providing the relevant information in their course syllabus. The FYS Prospectus Form addresses specific information that is relevant for assigning Approaches and Connections, so it should be completed and attached to all new FYS submissions. For additional, definitive information about Approaches and Connections, see the Criteria for General Education Requirements: Guidelines for the Submission and Review of Course Proposals.


FYS content is expected to focus on advanced, emergent, and stimulating topics; the FYS format is designed to allow students to work together with their instructor and their classmates to attain a shared intellectual adventure; and FYS goals include not only imparting knowledge but also helping students refine their ability to speak clearly and to write persuasively. Given this complex mission, FYS instructors attempt to find a balanced work load that enables students to enjoy and to learn from their participation in the active process of intellectual discovery and creative accomplishment. From this perspective, the FYS work load can be somewhat more intense than traditional courses, but students often lose track of their extra effort because the opportunity to participate in a genuine intellectual, scientific, or creative experience in the context of a small group of highly motivated peers can provide an invigorating breath of fresh air, presaging the scholarly excitement of upper-division courses for advanced majors.

Students in an FYS are new (or recently new) to college, they have not taken any pre-requisites, and they are unlikely to have the writing and research skills that we expect from our more advanced students. Given these constraints, it is important to make adjustments in the assignments that would be appropriate for more advanced students. For example, most peer-reviewed journal articles are written for sophisticated scholars and not for first-year students. And, for a slow reader, a reading assignment that includes several novels could be virtually impossible to complete amidst the various expectations confronting a first-year student.

In recognition of the uniqueness of the FYS format, FYS are exempted from requiring a mandatory final exam. This exemption, approved in December 2006, is described in the Criteria for General Education Requirements:  Guidelines for the Submission and Review of Course Proposals.  Many FYS have a considerable amount of instruction that takes place outside of the classroom, so an in-class final exam is not needed to meet the SACS/Carnegie contact-hour minimum.  Moreover, depending upon the activities and goals that characterize a particular FYS, an FYS instructor might identify some alternative form of final project as more appropriate for evaluation of student performance in lieu of a traditional final exam.  The bottom line is that the FYS format does not prevent instructors from administering a traditional in-class final exam, but other options are permissible.


  • Discuss the idea for the FYS with the Departmental Chair or Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  • Submit an FYS Prospectus Form. The Prospectus Form is required for all new FYS. The form is due by March 1 for the immediately following fall semester and by October 1 for the immediately following spring semester.
  • Ask your department’s student services manager to schedule the FYS using the “First Year Seminar: Special Topics” course number, XXXX 89. More information can be found here.

Additional information:

  • The FYS Office will provide confirmation regarding General Education credit shortly after each deadline (i.e., March 1 and October 1). The Gen Ed attributes will be added in Connect Carolina and the FYS online brochure.
  • If you plan to teach the FYS a second time, you may offer it under the Special Topics course number (XXXX 89). You do not need to submit a new Prospectus Form. You also have the option to submit a request for a permanent course number using the Curriculum Inventory Management System (CIM).
  • If you plan to teach the FYS a third time, you must submit a request for a permanent course number using the Curriculum Inventory Management System (CIM). You may not offer an FYS more than two times using a special topics number.


If the instructor makes significant changes to the syllabus, and particularly any changes that alter fulfillment of the FYS criteria stated above or that would have implications for the General Education Requirement course attributes that have been assigned, the course will be considered new and the approval process must be repeated. (See Option 1 above)


FYS should be scheduled with a cap of 24 unless the scheduling officer has been unable to find a classroom with that capacity or the instructor has requested and been granted permission to set a lower cap. Instructors who teach their FYS in a format that works best with fewer than 24 students should send a request and explanation to the Associate Dean (

FYS should be scheduled in a standard time slot and meet at least twice a week. Some instructors prefer to hold one long seminar per week and/or to meet at a non-standard time, but this makes it difficult for students to schedule other courses. FYS instructors who seek an exception to this policy should send a request and explanation to the Associate Dean ( FYS are not required to have a mandatory final exam, but instructors may administer a final exam in its official time slot if they chose to do so.

To list an FYS as Honors, instructors must apply directly to the Honors Program and receive permission from the Honors Program to offer an Honors course.


Incoming first-year students register for fall FYS during New Student Orientation (NSO). Due to the complex schedule that we use to insure equal access to FYS seats across the NSO dates, all FYS registration during NSO is under the control of the FYS office. After the last NSO date, we remove controlled enrollment from all FYS, and first-year students can drop and add FYS via ConnectCarolina. First-year students who do not enroll in a FYS during the fall are offered an opportunity to pre-register for a spring FYS via a pre-registration process. Controlled enrollment is removed from all spring FYS at the end of the pre-registration process so that all first-year students can drop and add FYS via Connect Carolina.

On the morning of the first day of class, scheduling officers can add “instructor consent” to FYS in ConnectCarolina if the instructor would like to exercise more control over enrollment in his or her FYS. Some instructors take control of their FYS so that they can increase enrollment in response to requests from students who are eager to enroll. Other instructors take control because their FYS progresses too quickly to incorporate students who miss the first few sessions. We apprise all FYS instructors of this policy and ask them to notify their department’s course scheduling officer if they want instructor consent put on their course when classes begin.  Please be aware, instructors do not have access to enroll students directly into FYS.  They must get in touch with their course scheduling officers to do so.  Course scheduling officers have found it helpful to communicate with their FYS instructors before classes begin to verify that instructors are aware of and understand this opportunity.


End of semester course evaluations for all FYS are conducted using an FYS Evaluation form administered through the new UNC Course Response system, which allows students to complete course evaluations through a link on Student Central. The Associate Dean eventually receives a summary of the course evaluations for each FYS, and if the student evaluations for a FYS are outside of the expected range, communicates with the instructor to discuss strategies for making optimal use of student feedback.  To encourage maximum participation in course evaluation, please schedule a block of time in class, ask your students to bring a laptop computer, and allow them to complete the form in class.


Connect Carolina does not notify us when the status of a FYS changes. If any aspect of a FYS (e.g., time, location, maximum seats, or instructor) is changed after March for a fall FYS or after October for a spring, inform Ben Haven ( so that we can update our brochure. Please note that it is very inconvenient to cancel an FYS that has student enrollment, and we strongly discourage this occurrence unless it is due to an unavoidable conflict. In that case, the department that is canceling the FYS will be expected to notify the enrolled students, and we will help students find a seat in an alternative FYS.


The primary resource for FYS instructors is the Center for Faculty Excellence: