Information For Faculty

What is a Freshman Seminar?

What is a Freshman Seminar?
A Freshman Seminar is a small-group, discussion-based course open to freshmen only. It is designed to intensify the intellectual experience of first-year students by allowing freshmen to work closely with one faculty member on a topic of mutual interest. The seminar format frees both instructor and students from the usual constraints of a lecture course, such as exams and letter grades.

Proposals & Eligibility

Who is eligible to teach a Freshman Seminar?
All Freshman Seminar instructors must hold an active Harvard University teaching appointment. Instructors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences must hold a teaching appointment at the rank of Lecturer or above. Faculty from other Harvard schools must hold an appointment of Assistant Professor or above, including Clinical Professor. Emeriti Faculty and FAS Visiting Professors are also eligible to teach seminars. At this time, Preceptors, Post-Doctoral Fellows, Visiting Fellows, Adjunct Faculty and other research (non-teaching) appointments or supervised (non-faculty) appointments are not eligible.

How do I propose a Freshman Seminar?
Please go to "For Faculty" > "Propose a Seminar" section in the navigation for information and submission deadlines. Committee meetings are held during the spring term to review proposals for the following academic year. 

Do you offer suggestions/feedback for faculty about teaching freshmen?
Absolutely. Please feel free to contact our Director, Ofrit Liviatan with any queries. The Bok Center for Teaching and Learning also offers opportunities for current and prospective instructors to learn more about teaching in the Freshman Seminar Program. Finally, we will be inviting instructors to get together for feedback sessions to discuss questions and observations about the Program and about teaching freshmen.

Who reviews my proposal?
The Faculty of the Committee on Freshman Seminars meets throughout the spring to review all proposals. 

How many seminars should I propose?
The Committee prefers to review one proposal from each instructor and provide useful feedback.

How many seminars may I teach?
An instructor is limited to teaching one Freshman Seminar per academic year.

May I set a prerequisite?
Some seminars, because of their specialized nature, require particular qualifications or appropriate academic background, and this fact should be specified in the course description. However, most instructors set no prerequisites other than an interest in the subject. 

May I hire a CA or a TF to assist me?
Because the instructor plays an important mentoring role in small-group instruction, a freshman seminar is not provided with additional teaching staff. However, seminars with significant hours of science lab or studio art may request the hire of an Undergraduate Course Assistant or a Graduate Teaching Fellow to assist with course preparation. Please contact Toni Trainor at 617-496-3993 or for advice on your request.

What is the FTE or compensation rate?
A Freshman Seminar is ordinarily part of the annual 1.0 FTE limit of FAS instructors. This 1.0 FTE limit does not apply to non-FAS Faculty, who receive compensation for their seminar. Please contact Toni Trainor at 617-496-3993 or for information on compensation rate.

Seminar Logistics

What is my seminar budget? What expenses are eligible?
We offer up to $300 for all course-related expenses, including classroom supplies, food and nonalcoholic beverages, field trips, and guest speakers. We regret that additional funding for special expenses is very limited. Funding for “reunion meals” is also available. Please see the answer to the following question.

What is a “reunion meal”?
The Dean of Harvard College generously offers $30 per student and instructor for reunion meals to which you may invite all your seminar alumni from upper classes.

When, where, and how often do freshman seminars meet?
Freshman Seminars meet once a week for 2-3 hours. Ladder and tenured FAS faculty may not schedule a course meeting on Tuesday afternoons between 4-5:30 PM, the time designated for faculty meetings. Seminars may meet in department rooms by agreement or our office will request a room from the Harvard Classrooms Office.

According to FAS schedule change legislation, these guidelines must be followed when choosing a meeting time: officially seminars must begin on the hour (or may start 45 mins past the hour) and must finish by 15 minutes before the start of the next time block for transferring between classes. For example, a seminar could be scheduled at 12:00-2:00 for only a 2-hour meeting time within the 12:00-2:45 time slot, but a class may meet longer than 2 hours within the time block. Instructors may arrange with students for a compatible meeting time within the time block.

9:00-11:45 or if you prefer to start a bit later, 9:45-11:45
12:00-2:45 or 12:45-2:45
3:00-5:45 or 3:45-5:45

How do I submit my book orders?
The Textbook Department of the Harvard Coop contacts each instructor prior to the start of term in order to coordinate textbook orders. You may contact the Textbook Manager at 617-499-2223 or

How do I reserve library books or post online course packs?
Requests for reserves should be done through the Canvas course website. Lamont Library is the undergraduate library where books for seminars may be put on reserve. Harvard College Library Research Services also provides customized library classes and/or web-based library research guides developed in collaboration with freshman seminar faculty. Please contact Sarah DeMott, Research Librarian, Harvard College Library ( or 617-496-4226) with any questions about library services for freshman seminars.

Who do I ask about copyright issues?
If faculty have any copyright questions in relation to their Freshman Seminar, there is a program in the library especially designed to help with those questions: the Copyright First Responders. Emily Bell, Research Librarian in Lamont Library, can be reached through or phone, 617-496-9988. The Copyright First Responders have received in-depth training to be able to answer exactly these kind of questions.

Do freshman seminars meet during Reading Period?
Classes may not be held during Reading Period unless the make-up class is due to weather or other emergencies. But Sections and review sessions may take place during Reading Period as long as there is no new material presented.

How late may I set the due date for the final assignment? May I grant a freshman an extension?
All assignments must be scheduled with due dates prior to the start of the Final Examination period. Final papers, take-home exams, projects, presentations, and other culminating course assignments may be due after the end of regular classes on or before the day of each seminar’s assigned Exam/Final Deadline Group. This date can be found in the seminar listing in the online My.Harvard course catalog.

Final projects that include individual or group presentations may be scheduled only after the fourth day of Reading Period and may extend through the Final Examination Period, but the project deadline must be the day of the seminar’s assigned Exam/Final Deadline Group. Beyond this date, the student must petition the Administrative Board of Harvard College.

How do I grade my seminar? When is my grade sheet due?
A freshman seminar is always graded SAT/UNS only. It may not be audited. The grade of Satisfactory includes letter grades from A to C-. The grade of Unsatisfactory represents work below C- and is considered a failing grade. Students who neglect the work of the seminar or who do not perform satisfactorily will be excluded from the seminar and/or denied credit. We also ask that you submit midterm grades when you receive a prompt to do so from the Registrar's Office, about six weeks into the term. The final grade sheet is always due via the online grading portal on the date specified by the FAS Registrar for courses without final examinations. Please consult the FAS Faculty Handbook for more information.

Do freshmen evaluate my seminar?
We invite all instructors to participate in FAS Course Evaluations regardless of class size, including seminars with enrollments of five or fewer students.

Academic Integrity & Honor Code

Please add guidelines to your syllabus. For examples and further explanation, please go to this website page,

The Harvard College Honor Code
(website linkadopted May 6, 2014 by the vote of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences)

"Members of the Harvard College community commit themselves to producing academic work of integrity – that is, work that adheres to the scholarly and intellectual standards of accurate attribution of sources, appropriate collection and use of data, and transparent acknowledgement of the contribution of others to their ideas, discoveries, interpretations, and conclusions. Cheating on exams or problem sets, plagiarizing or misrepresenting the ideas or language of someone else as one’s own, falsifying data, or any other instance of academic dishonesty violates the standards of our community, as well as the standards of the wider world of learning and affairs."

From: Office of Undergraduate Education <>
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Subject: Info for Faculty about Honor Code from Jay Harris and Rakesh Khurana

Dear Colleagues,

We write today with information about the roll-out of the Honor Code within the Harvard College community this fall. 

The actual implementation will require little from you on a practical level.  The main changes that you will see will be procedural:

  • Cases of suspected academic dishonesty will now be referred to the Honor Council, rather than to the Ad Board. 
  • Students will occasionally be asked to affirm their awareness of the Honor Code by signing statements during the registration process and at seated final exams and culminating assignments.
  • Freshmen will be asked to write a brief reflection on the Honor Code and its impact on their membership in the Harvard community. 

Information about the Honor Code, Honor Council and an outline of what is being asked of students, and of faculty and instructional support staff can be found on the Honor Code website.

We encourage you to take a moment during your first class meetings to discuss the Honor Code and what academic integrity means in your field with your students.  Should you want it, you may find some guidance on the Honor Code website, under Resources for Faculty. In addition, the staff of the Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct would be happy to consult further with you.  You can contact them at

Finally, the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct (OAISC) will host two conversations for faculty and instructional support staff about the Honor Code and how it is being implemented this year.  We hope you will come to learn more about how the Honor Code will support academic integrity at the College.  These events will take place on September 1, at 12:30 p.m. in the Fong Auditorium of Boylston Hall and September 8, at 4 p.m. in Fong Auditorium of Boylston Hall.  The sessions will last no more than one hour.  You do not need to attend more than once, although you are welcome to join for both.

Please feel free to contact us as well should you have any questions.

Rakesh Khurana
Danoff Dean of Harvard College

Jay Harris
Dean of Undergraduate Education

Student Application and Enrollment

How is admission to a Freshman Seminar determined? 
All freshmen may apply to as many seminars as they wish, although they may enroll in only one seminar per semester. Seminar placement is ultimately done by a matching algorithm that is run after all applications have been submitted. However, different factors influence the algorithm’s outcome: instructors can select or deny students based on their essays and other relevant information; and student rankings and preferences are also taken into consideration.

Are there waiting lists for seminars?
No. All seminars with openings are posted on our website after the algorithm is run, and we encourage freshmen to email you directly for placement in your seminar. You may accept or decline additional students at your discretion until the Course Registration Deadline.

How do I approve a student's enrollment?
Yes,  please go to the website,, for instructions about the process. You will need to approve the enrollment online in the system for each student you have accepted by email. Students who have already been accepted by you through our application system will be enrolled automatically by the registrar. You need only approve those students that you add to your class after our initial application period. Your official class roster will be posted by the registrar on your seminar Canvas website.

May I take auditors?
No, a freshman seminar is a small, limited enrollment course that may not be audited.