The First Year:
Learning at Wesleyan

Intellectual independence, critical thinking, and exploration of a wide range of traditional and interdisciplinary fields of study are the hallmarks of a Wesleyan liberal arts education.

At Wesleyan, you will work under the guidance of scholars, scientists, and artists who care deeply about teaching and advising. Upon your acceptance of Wesleyan’s offer of admission, we will provide you with academic and advising resources that contain detailed information. In the meantime, we hope the following summary of the first-year academic experience will be helpful to you.

Educational Goals for the First Year

During your first year, you should strive to build a program of study that balances intellectual breadth and depth. This will mean exploring fields of study that are new or unfamiliar to you while at the same time sharpening your knowledge and interest in those areas of the curriculum that you expect to focus on later. Every student finds this balance in their own way. This could mean taking courses in physics or sociology if you plan on majoring in music, or taking courses in film or anthropology if you plan on majoring in biology. Your faculty advisor and advising resources will guide you through this process.

Academic Advising and the Academic Relationship

Developing a strong relationship with your faculty advisor is key to taking full advantage of your Wesleyan educational experience. Your advisor, who will be assigned to you over the summer, will serve as your intellectual guide, answering questions about how to best navigate the curriculum. You will be challenged to undertake coursework in disciplines outside your comfort zone so that you may broaden your understanding of yourself and the world. After you arrive on campus, your advisor will point you to additional resources needed to develop your academic plan for the next two years. When you declare your major in the spring of your sophomore year, you will be assigned a new faculty advisor in your major department. Your class dean is another source of academic guidance and support during your time at Wesleyan.

Academic Resources

Among the many resources that Wesleyan provides to assist with academic planning, WesMaps (, WesPortal (, and the Wesleyan University Course Catalog ( are the most important. WesMaps provides complete curricular information for every course taught at the University, including course description, important readings, scheduling information, General Education designations, prerequisites, grading mode, and course format. As a new student, you will utilize WesMaps, Wesvising, the Advising Guidelines, and other resources as you participate in course registration over the summer and craft a tentative plan of study to be discussed and approved by your faculty advisor at your orientation meeting. WesPortal is your online gateway to the University, with important academic processes, including course registration, drop/add, and declaration of your major.

WesPortal also helps you monitor progress towards graduation by providing access to your academic history, General Education Report, credit analysis, and major certification form. Beyond these core academic functions, your WesPortal also provides access to your Wesleyan email and Google Docs accounts, class blogs, enrollment and personal data information, and student account balance and payment tools.

The Gordon Career Center (GCC) is also a good resource for accessing internship, work study, and summer grant opportunities. The GCC works with students of all class years to translate their liberal education into a lifetime of meaningful work.

First-Year Seminars

First-Year Seminars provide students with the intellectual challenge of a small discussion group. These seminars are limited to first-year students and emphasize writing, research, analysis, discussion, and critical thinking skills. Some are special “learning and living” seminars in which students enrolled in the course live in the same residence hall. You will have the opportunity to enroll in a First-Year Seminar during course registration over the summer.

Previous First-Year Seminars Include:

  • American Political Novel
  • Computing, Privacy, and Security
  • Contemporary Issues in Physics
  • The Economics of Climate Change
  • Empire, Nationhood, and the Quest for Unity, 1815–1990
  • Forensics: The Science Behind CSI
  • Haiti: Myths and Realities
  • Henry David Thoreau: His Art and Thought in Relation to His Times
  • Judaism and Story
  • Logistics of Climate Change
  • Mathematical Views: A Cultural Sampler
  • Music and Downtown New York, 1950–1970
  • Past and Present of American Journalism
  • Personal Identity and Choice
  • Perspectives in Genetics
  • Philosophy of Love
  • Poverty in the United States
  • Schooling and Scarcity
  • Thinking Animals
  • Travel Narratives and African History
  • Uncertainty and the Future