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Thursday February 2nd

Why your shopping cart should be full of first-year seminars

A look into UNC's most sought after classes

<p>The Old Well is a fixture of McCorkle Place.</p>
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The Old Well is a fixture of McCorkle Place.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected for accuracy. When originally published, the article misstated the name of the course "Philosophy on Bamboo." See below for a further description of the course from the manager of the Department of Asian Studies at UNC.


First-year seminars are a blessing to incoming Tar Heels. 

Classes range across almost every discipline and cover a variety of ideas and issues, from Birth and Death in the United States, to Darwin’s Dangerous Ideas and Time, to A Doorway to Visual Expression. Any of those sound interesting to you? 

First-year seminars are unique because they let you explore topics that are outside of your comfort zone in a fun and engaging way. Explicitly structured for incoming students with no college experience, these courses introduce students to both UNC’s distinguished professors and classroom expectations.

It’s common knowledge that General Education requirements can be the bane of students’ college-life existence. (For more on that, go here.) Luckily, first-year seminars are great for fighting back against Gen Eds. 

Because first-year seminars can deal with extremely niche topics – I’m looking at you, Philosophy on Bamboo – they can knock out up to three Gen Eds in any given class. They can fill up at most one Approach as well as several Connections requirements if you’re lucky.

Perhaps the ultimate pull of first-year seminars is their exam policy. Unlike any other class at Carolina, first-year seminars are not required to have a final exam. Though professors can still incorporate final exams into their curriculum, I know from personal experience that a good portion of professors will not take the time to create and grade a test if they don't have to.

Due to their numerous incentives, first-year seminars are a hot commodity among new students. Most seminars have a maximum enrollment of 24 students; however, a little begging can go a long way, so don’t let that stop you from groveling at the feet of a professor to let you in. Many professors are happy to welcome more students into their seminars, room permitting.

If you forget, or can’t fit in a first-year seminar into your busy schedule of chem labs and calc classes, worry not! UNC implements a “priority registration” window for all the students who did not enroll in a first-year seminar for the fall semester. With this system, UNC gives every first-year student a chance to take at least one seminar.

In the probable case that you do take a first-year seminar over the fall semester and are hungry for another, whether in pursuit of either knowledge or Gen Eds, UNC allows students to take a maximum of two first-year seminars. They can be split up between your fall and spring semesters, or you could max out in one semester. 

For a full list of FYS offered in the fall, go here


Note on the course ASIA 65 from Department Manager Lori Harris: "The title is Philosophy ON Bamboo, not OF. I realize that sounds even stranger, until you know that it refers to manuscripts thousands of years old, written on bamboo, that have been discovered at archaeological sites in China and are providing scholars with new information on and insight into the philosophies of ancient China. Hence the rest of the course title—in full, it’s 'Philosophy on Bamboo: Rethinking Early Chinese Thought.'"

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