The University of Iowa

First-Year Seminar Policies

First-Year Seminar Policies and Procedures


Required Instructor Attendance at Informational & Enrichment Sessions

Effective for the Fall 2020 semester, all First-Year Seminar instructors are expected to attend an informational session during each spring semester (after proposals have been approved) as well as an enrichment session at the start of each fall semester. These sessions create opportunities to share relevant information with and among all instructors and contribute to a more meaningful and consistent First-Year Seminar experience.


Authorized Instructors

Only instructors who have submitted a proposal will be approved to offer a First-Year Seminar. A proposal must be submitted every year- even if you have taught or are currently teaching a seminar that has been previously approved. Instructors must receive approval from their DEO or direct supervisor prior to submitting a proposal; final approval will be granted via approval of the form in workflow.

In addition to faculty, executive and instructional staff may submit a proposal for consideration. Merit staff and graduate/teaching assistants are not eligible to teach a First-Year Seminar. Some colleges and departments may have additional requirements. 



We coordinate enrollment efforts with the Academic Advising Center and other campus partners so that students are aware of First-Year Seminars and given an opportunity to enroll in one. However, when enrollment is too low in a seminar, we must make the difficult decision to cancel it. Students begin registering in late May/early June for their fall classes when they attend summer orientation, which usually ends by the first week of July. Because of this, we monitor enrollment closely throughout June and may begin cancelling seminars when we are nearing the end of summer orientation. Cancellation decisions, which are made based on orientation data, are final. We will not keep a seminar with low enrollment scheduled until August orientation programs as these fall just days before the start of the fall semester.


Instructor Compensation

Each First-Year Seminar is compensated at $2,500 per course (compensation for co-instructors is split accordingly). Compensation is distributed as either professional development or teaching stipends per each college's allocation policy. All purchases are subject to University of Iowa purchasing policies. Items purchased with FYS funds become property of the University. More information can be found in the UI Operations Manual or by calling the Accounts Payable, Purchasing, and Travel Department at (319) 335-0115. 

Funding is allocated to each college by the Office of the Provost after the start of the fall semester. Colleges then distribute funds to departments. Questions should be directed to either your collegiate accounting staff or departmental budget officer. 


University College Compensation Policy

Please Note: The following policy pertains only to First-Year Seminars that are offered through University College in College Success Initiatives (CSI). All other instructors should refer to their collegiate policy on FYS instructor compensation.

Instructors teaching a First-Year Seminar in University College who are permanent, full-time tenure-track faculty will receive $2,500 in professional development or research funds for their teaching efforts directly from University College. Instructors whose primary appointment is either as an adjunct faculty member or P&S employee will receive a salary payment in the form of a teaching stipend, and will be paid via an adjunct faculty appointment in University College. Because the total allocation for each First-Year Seminar cannot exceed $2,500, salary payments will be $2,500 less fringe expenses. Graduate students and merit staff are not eligible to teach a First-Year Seminar. Instructors who teach an Honors seminars should follow their respective college’s allocation policy; funds will be distributed to their college and department for said allocation.


Honors First-Year Seminars and Research-Focused Seminars

During the annual FYS proposal process, instructors may indicate interest in teaching their seminar as an Honors First-Year Seminar and/or a Research-Focused Seminar. Prior acceptance into either category does not guarantee acceptance again in the future. All Honors First-Year Seminars are scheduled by and offered through University College in the UI Honors Program academic unit of HONR. Compensation for Honors instructors is allocated to colleges/departments for further distribution.

For more information about research-focused First-Year Seminars, please visit the ICRU website at:


Scheduling a First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminars are limited to 16-20 students, cannot be offered through distance education or online (must be taught face-to-face), may be team-taught, and meet for a total of at least 750 minutes over the course of the semester.
     15 50-minute sessions:
     One per week for 15 weeks or
     Twice per week for 7.5 weeks

     10 75-minute sessions:
     One per week for 10 weeks or
     Twice per week for 5 weeks

Seminars may meet for the entire semester, or may be offered off-cycle. For example, a seminar may be offered for 75 minutes per week for the first 10 weeks of the semester. Off-cycle courses must start during the first week that undergraduate classes are in session. Seminars that meet on Mondays must be scheduled for an additional 5 minutes to make up for missed class time due to the Labor Day holiday.

All first-year seminars are required to begin during the first week of undergraduate classes; exceptions to this policy must receive prior approval by contacting



To encourage students' active participation, instructors rely on classroom participation, papers, projects, and other interactive assignments, and, consequently, instructors agree not to use quizzes or exams as part of the evaluation of student work. Quizzes or exams cannot be part of the evaluation of student work in a First-Year Seminar. FYS courses provide students an opportunity to explore subjects new to them. The no-exam policy encourages students to move beyond their comfort zones to tackle new academic challenges. Student learning in First-Year Seminars can take place through active classroom participation, well-crafted papers, thoughtful discussion, and well-planned and executed projects.

Courses must be offered for graded (A-F) credit. Instructors should decide whether or not to use plus and minus grades; however, the syllabus should tell students clearly whether plus or minus grades will be used.

For grade approval, instructors should follow the usual practices of their departments, and submit course grades as they would for any other course, but no later than the registrar's deadline for undergraduate course grades. For more information, visit the Office of the Registrar's website on Final Grade Reporting

Specific and detailed suggestions on how to draft an effective grading rubric can be found on the ITS-Teaching, Learning & Technology website.

Please remember that for one hour of credit, students should be asked to do around two hours of work outside of the classroom each week. One of the most frequent topics of discussion among instructors has been about grades and grading. Given the nature and size of the class, the course grade distribution will probably not correspond to a standard distribution; as always, grades should be based on the quality of student work, not on a pre-determined expectation about the percentage awarded of any particular grade.


Course Evaluations

End-of-semester course evaluations are required for First-Year Seminars. Instructors should use the course evaluations, and follow all associated policies developed by their department (just as they would for any other course). Course evaluation results are not available until after final grades have been submitted. For more information, instructors should visit the ITS webpage on ACE Online Course Evaluations. Instructors who offer their course through University College can contact with additional questions about course evaluations.