The First-Year Experience

We are excited to welcome you to St. Olaf, and to support you in taking ownership of your education!

While at college you’ll explore how you can understand the world and your role in it. To begin this investigation, you will complete the First-Year Experience program which will set you up for success at St. Olaf.
All students take a First-Year Seminar course and a Writing and Rhetoric course —  one course each semester. You can choose to enroll in Individual Courses  OR enroll in a Conversation Program. What interests you? Explore your two option paths below.


You can choose to complete the First-Year Experience by selecting from a variety of different courses. You will be with a different group of students each term.

Click below to take a glimpse of a few past and current courses, a sample of the more than 80+ courses offered this upcoming year.



You can choose to complete the First-Year Experience by selecting to be in a Conversation program. You will be with the same group of students throughout the year.  Some of the Conversations programs are one year, some are two years. One has a residential component.

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What is the First-Year Experience?

The First-Year Experience at St Olaf provides you with a foundation for college success. The two courses that make up the First-Year Experience focus on critical thinking, discussion, research and writing skills to prepare you for your college experience. All incoming and transfer students complete at least one course of the First-Year Experience, with most students taking both courses. The one course that all students must take is First-Year Seminar 120, which is offered in both the fall and spring and has dozens of different topics to choose from.

You may complete your First-Year Experience on one of two paths. You may take First-Year Seminar 120 and Writing 120 as individual courses, one in the fall and the other in the spring, OR you may enroll in a Conversations program. The Conversations programs focus courses around a theme that students engage with in multiple courses during one or two years, and through the Conversations, students fulfill additional Core requirements beyond the First-Year Seminar 120 and Writing 120. You do not have to participate in a Conversations program; in fact, only 30% of incoming students do.

Students who opt for the First-Year Seminar 120 and Writing 120 are split into two groups. One group takes First-Year Seminar 120 in the Fall and one group takes Writing 120 in the Fall. In the spring, students who completed First-Year Seminar 120 then take Writing 120, and students who completed Writing 120 take First-Year Seminar 120.

Do you have questions?

Someone else might be wondering the same too!
Visit our FAQ page about St. Olaf’s first year experience.

FRequently asked Questions