10 Tips for Taking a First Year Seminar

U.S. News & World Report has lauded UNC’s “imaginative” first-year seminars in a story on how college campuses are changing. At Carolina, some of the best teachers and scholars volunteer eagerly to teach small groups of first-year students for a full semester, using the opportunity to delve into complex issues across disciplines. And more than 60 percent of the newbie students get exposed to intellectually demanding work with a top professor in their first or second semester.

Steve Reznick, UNC professor of psychology and associate dean for first-year seminars and academic experiences, offered his best insider tips on how students can get the most out of such seminars in a US News Professors Guide Blog. These are brief excerpts:

!. Explore new territory. You may not get your top choice… so be strategic.

2. Play to your strengths. Pick a class that is built upon a type of activity that you enjoy.

3. Avoid your “major.” This is an opportunity to try something new.

4. Speak up. If speaking in class makes you uncomfortable, that’s all the more reason to do it.. find your college voice.

5. Add some spice to the stew. If your seminar doesn’t seem interesting, do something to make it more engaging.

6. Show up. In a class with only 15 to 25 students, your absence will be very noticeable… If you aren’t in class, you aren’t in the dialogue.

7. Experience courses are courses. Have fun, but don’t forget to get the job done.

8. Make friends. “Make” is an active verb. Start conversations, issue invitations and organize events.

9. Establish a relationship with your instructor. This can be helpful in many ways: picking future courses, getting academic advice, and ultimately obtaining a letter of recommendation.

10. Spread the words. You’ll learn more deeply about the focal topic by describing your seminar to others and by processing their questions and observations.

— UNC’s First Year Seminars Program is now in its 10th year.

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