Academic Options

Academics in the first year at Wellesley bring you much more than intro classes.

Many courses in the first year focus on exploration and skill development: 

Wellesley's First-Year Seminar Program

First-Year Seminars offers provide you with an introduction to less familiar courses and a wide range of disciplines and topics. The following is just a sampling—probably a bit more expansive than your typical high school curriculum! See the video First-Year Seminars.

Goals for the first-year seminar program

  1. Shape student expectations of the values, rigor, aspirations and rewards of the intellectual enterprise practiced in a vibrant and supportive academic community. 
  2. Foster skills and habits of mind essential for intellectual inquiry.
  3. Build a sense of intellectual and social community among students from diverse backgrounds in a cooperative and collaborative learning environment.
  4. Create opportunities early in a student’s college career for close interaction with faculty and for the individualized instruction typical of a liberal arts education.
  5. Demonstrate how knowledge is constructed in a particular field.

First-Year Seminar course offerings

See a sampling of First-Year Seminars and which professors teach them; note their diverse and fascinating areas of expertise.

Glimpses into the first-year seminar program

First Year SeminarVideo: First-Year Seminar: It's different in College

From water elevators to Alexis de Toqueville, first-year seminars offer a range of fascinating topics. This video provides a glimpse into two first-year seminars: Product Creation with Engineering Professor Amy Banzaert and Democracy in America with Political Science Professor Tom Burke.
Video: Welcome to First-Year Seminars 

Tom Burke, director of the First-Year Seminar Program, Professor of Political Science, Co-Director of the Washington Internship Program, and Faculty Coordinator for the Washington Wintersession Program, provides a brief introduction to the First-Year Seminars.

Video: Exploration of Organismal Biology with Lab 

Heather Mattila, Knafel Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences; Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences. Also see Professor Mattila in the video: Office Hours: Six professors walk into a tiny video...


Nancy Kolodny, Nellie Zuckerman Cohen and Anne Cohen Heller Professor of Health Sciences; Professor of Chemistry (Faculty emerita)


Quantitative Reasoning

At Wellesley, liberal arts ideals become real-world skills. Mastery of a broad range of intellectual and cultural content lends crucial perspective to any decision-making. In addition, proficiency in the use of mathematical, logical, and statistical problem-solving tools are increasingly essential in today's world. Wellesley's Quantitative Reasoning Program ensures that Wellesley students graduate with proficiency in these skills. Read about the "basic skills" requirement and QR course and Overlay component requirement.

Wellesley's First-Year Writing Program

The College views writing as central to academic inquiry, and people in the outside world know and expect Wellesley graduates to use writing as a powerful tool of thought and expression, no matter what their field of study. Consequently, all Wellesley students are required take a one-semester First-Year Writing (FYW) course, which serves as the basis for writing assigned in later courses. Really, there are no exceptions—even if you scored a 5 on your AP Writing Test. This renowned 30-year-old course requirement has withstood the test of time.  

Associate Professor of Economics and Dean of Academic Affairs Ann Velenchik has also served as Director of the Writing Program. She says, "The night before I took over as director of the Writing Program, the slip of paper inside my fortune cookie said 'Good writing is clear thinking made visible.' I took that as a sign! The relationship between thinking and writing is at the core of what we do in first-year writing, where the courses ask students to think deeply about interesting and provocative subjects as they work to produce sophisticated college-level writing."

Writing Across the Curriculum

At Wellesley we further engage first-year students and strengthen their writing skills by making the subject matter relevant through “writing across the curriculum.” Professors across all disciplines teach FYW courses. A student with more of a passion for chemistry than Jane Austen might choose to take Chemistry in the News or The Human Brain: A Case-Study Approach. In addition, some FYW courses, like Wellesley and the World, are available to students who need extra support, including international students. Additional courses, like Do French Women Really…? have an intensive public-speaking focus. 

See also The Writing RequirementFYW Faculty and Staff, and  FYW Courses for more information and a full listing of courses.