Undergraduate Education at Penn State Penn State University Penn State University Office of Undergraduate Education Printer friendly version of the Undergraduate Education at Penn State mark.
Topical Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


The University Faculty Senate passed legislation in December 1997 mandating a first-year seminar requirement for all incoming first-year baccalaureate students admitted to the University after Spring Semester 1999. The legislation was revised in April 2008 for Summer Session 2009 implementation. Currently, baccalaureate degrees offered by University Park colleges through any delivery unit, including World Campus and Continuing Education, must include the graduation requirement of at least one credit of first-year seminar. The Commonwealth Colleges and University College may require the first-year seminar, but are not required to do so.


  1. First-year seminars (FYS) are either identified by the course abbreviation "PSU" or by the suffix "S," indicating that the course is a first-year seminar; "T," indicating that the course is an honors course and a first-year seminar; or "X," indicating that the course is both writing intensive and a first-year seminar.
  2. FYS are normally taught by tenure-line or other regular, full-time faculty members (not staff or graduate students). The dean may grant reasonable exceptions, such as for professional practitioners who teach annually but whose appointments are not full-time.
  3. The FYS is taught in sections of not more than 25 students.
  4. Content and number of credits (between 1 and 4) are at the discretion of colleges. The seminars should engage students in learning and orient them to the scholarly community while facilitating students' adjustment to the high expectations, demanding workload, and other aspects of the transition to college life. These goals may be achieved through:
    • Introducing students to university study;
    • An emphasis on Penn State as an academic community, with many fields of study and areas of interest available to students;
    • The acquisition of learning tools and resources;
    • Opportunities to develop academic relationships with faculty and peers; and
    • The concern for responsibilities that students accrue as members of a community.
  5. First-year baccalaureate degree candidates enrolled in units requiring a first-year seminar are expected to enroll in a first-year seminar as part of their initial 27 credits scheduled at Penn State and are encouraged to do so within their first two periods of enrollment.
  6. The following students are exempt from the FYS requirement:  provisional and nondegree (regular and conditional) students who have completed 18 or more credits in that status, advanced standing admits (18 or more transfer credits), admits with 18 or more credits in another status at Penn State (e.g., associate degree), and associate degree candidates.
  7. Students who do not successfully complete a required FYS must fulfill this component in an alternative activity as directed by the associate dean of their college.
  8. If a student is changing colleges or equivalent units, his/her FYS course or approved alternative activity is wholly portable and must be counted as meeting the FYS requirement in the new college/unit.  However, if a student's college/unit waived the FYS requirement, his/her new college/unit may require an alternative activity.
  9. Each college, including the campuses of University College, that requires the FYS, must provide sufficient FYS seats to meet the enrollment demands of all first-year students and a proportion of Division of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) students. Annually, the executive director of DUS will identify and assign, in consultation with the colleges, the number of FYS seats needed in each college.

Resources for First-Year Engagement Plans

University Advising

Approved: ACUE (9-06-01)
Revised: ACUE (3-14-02)
Revised: ACUE (10-3-11)