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The First-Year Experience

UMBC takes a special interest in making students’ first year on campus an academic and personal success.

Collegiate Summer Institute, Summer Bridge Program | New Student Book Experience (NSBE) | First-Year Academic Seminars (FYS) |
Introduction to an Honors University (IHU), First-Year Success Courses | Living Learning Communities (LLC) | Office of Student Life (OSL)

The transition from high school or community college to a research university can be challenging. Classes are filled with other talented students, and instructors have high standards and expectations. This can be both stimulating and overwhelming. UMBC takes a special interest in supporting students so their first year on campus is an academic and personal success. Students are welcomed into a diverse community where individuals demonstrate a strong sense of respect for one another. In addition, students are expected to uphold the highest ethical standards in their work and to respect and value the work of others through a commitment to academic integrity.

Although we expect students to strive to do excellent work, we know that success is not a goal attained solely through strong academic work. Other factors that have a profound impact on student success include the kinds of personal connections students make to the campus and the level of engagement each student has with his or her own educational experience. The offerings described below are open to all students at UMBC during their first year on campus, including students just beginning their higher education and those transferring to UMBC from another institution. They are designed to help students find an intellectual and social home. Becoming involved in these activities during the first year will help facilitate the transition to college life and prepare students for a successful outcome to their undergraduate experience.

  • Collegiate Summer Institute (CSI), Summer Bridge Program
  • New Student Book Experience (Orientation/Welcome Week)
  • First-Year Academic Seminars (FYS)
  • Introduction to an Honors University (IHU), First-Year Success Courses
  • Living Learning Communities (LLCs)
  • Student organizations and activities (through the Office of Student Life)

Collegiate Summer Institute, Summer Bridge Program

CSI@UMBC is a summer bridge program designed for students interested in getting a head start. Incoming students select one of two core courses offered during the summer session. Each course includes an Introduction to an Honors University seminar, designed to address transition issues. During the IHU portion of the class, students become familiar with the many resources and opportunities that UMBC offers.  Students may also elect to take a second course, which is typically an academic First-Year Seminar, to have the option of completing up to seven credits during the summer program. Although the program has an academic focus, it also includes opportunities beyond those experienced in the classroom in which new students will engage with faculty, staff, peer mentors, and other new students.

New Student Book Experience (NSBE)

Each year current students and faculty select a book for new student summer reading. All new students read the same book and join in a campus-wide conversation about the book before classes start in August. Small-group discussions for all entering students are facilitated by UMBC faculty and staff. These discussions allow everyone to come together to get a taste of the kind of discussion that is typical of university courses. The program connects new freshmen and transfer students with each other and with faculty and staff members at the start of the academic year. The New Student Book Experience provides an intellectually stimulating interaction that welcomes new students into the UMBC community. This shared experience provides new students with an opportunity to discuss ideas that relate to a common text in an environment where different interpretations are thoroughly examined and discussed.

First-Year Academic Seminars (FYS)

First-Year Seminars provide new students with the opportunity to get to know a faculty member well and connect with peers through small seminar classes. Faculty, with deep commitments to undergraduate education and special interests they want to share with students, offer customized first-year academic seminars designed to introduce students to the academic excitement and rigor of a top-tier research university. First-Year Seminars are limited to 20 students each, so participants have direct access to a full-time faculty member with whom they can engage and get to know well. In this way, new students face the challenges of an academically rigorous course with the support of a faculty member committed to their success. In this active learning environment, faculty partner with students in the exploration of course material. The courses incorporate creative and critical thinking, a focus on written and oral communication skills and significant opportunities for discussion and faculty/peer critiques of assignments.
FYS courses may be used to meet a general education program requirement, provided the course carries this type of designation. If in the arts/humanities (AH) or social sciences (SS) areas, the two remaining courses must come from two different disciplines. In addition, many FYS courses also meet the mathematics (M), sciences (S) and culture (C) requirements.

Examples of Past FYS Offerings:

  • Images of Madness (SS)
  • Contrasting Visions of Society (SS)
  • Intercultural Exploration through Film (C)
  • Science versus Religion: The Battlefield of Evolution (AH)
  • Dynamics of Problem Solving (M)

For a current list of first-year seminars, visit ed/fys

Introduction to an Honors University (IHU), First-Year Success Courses

IHU courses provide an introduction to the higher education experience in a personalized setting and are open to all new students at UMBC. These one-credit experiences are often attached to introductory courses in the major and/or to courses that meet a core general education requirement. Participation in an IHU helps set the stage for academic success at UMBC. They are designed to help new students:

  • Clarify academic expectations and develop essential academic skills. In these courses students have an opportunity to develop and improve their academic skills in relationship to specific course content.
  • Improve study skills and the ability to manage time, and strengthen written and oral communication skills. Students discuss strategies for academic success that apply directly to the academic content of the core course. Students who participate in an IHU experience have a higher level of early success at UMBC than those who do not participate and the skills acquired contribute to their success throughout their academic career.
  • Facilitate involvement by first-year students as active members of the UMBC community. Complementing the work done in the classroom are the many out of class activities that broaden a student’s UMBC experience. These opportunities include participation in clubs and organizations, leadership development, internships, athletics, intramurals and a variety of other activities that can enhance personal development and students’ future success. The IHU courses assist students in learning about these campus opportunities and how to get involved.
  • • Maximize personal development and self-awareness. Students will develop connections with other students with whom they will interact as they participate in campus activities, form study groups and learn about resources that are available for personal and academic support. In addition, students have an opportunity to get to know faculty and staff who have an interest in helping them to identify their goals and develop strategies for reaching those goals.

To participate in one of the “Introduction to an Honors University” seminars, look for courses that carry the letter “Y” after the course number in the Schedule of Classes.

As of academic year 2010- 2011 courses that have a “Y” seminar (IHU) attached include:

  • Aging 100Y, So you say you want a Revolution: How Boomers are Revolutionizing Aging
  • Aging 200Y, Aging People, Policy and Management
  • Anthropology 211Y, Cultural Anthropology
  • English 100Y, Composition
  • Engineering 101Y, Introduction to Engineering Science
  • American Studies 100Y, Ideas and Images in American Culture
  • Science 100Y, Water: An Interdisciplinary Study
  • Math 106Y, Algebra and Elementary Functions
  • Information Systems 101Y, Introduction to Computer-Based Systems
  • Physics 100Y, Ideas in Physics
  • Physical Education 202, Introduction to Health Behaviors (Required for athletes)
  • Philosophy 100Y, Introduction to Philosophy
  • Philosophy 152Y, Introduction to Moral Theory
  • Philosophy 150Y, Contemporary Moral Issues
  • Biology 100L, Concepts of Experimental Biology
  • Sociology 101Y, Basic Concepts in Sociology
  • History 111Y, Western Civilization 1700 to the Present
  • History 200Y, Themes in World History
  • Political Science 100Y, American Government and Politics
  • Geography 102Y, Human Geography
  • Geography 110Y, Physical Geography
  • Geography 120Y, Environmental Science and Conservation

Living Learning Communities (LLC)

Living Learning Communities provide an opportunity to live with students who are interested in being a part of a peer learning community. These residential communities allow students to connect informally with faculty, staff and students who share common academic interests. Current communities include Aspiring Teachers, Center for Women and Information Technology, Honors College (restricted to members of the Honors College), Humanities, Intercultural Living Exchange, Exploratory Majors, WILL (Women Involved in Leadership and Learning); Visual and Performing Arts; and the Shriver Living Learning Center (service learning). Typically students are not required to major in the area of their living learning community, only to have the desire to explore the field informally during non-class hours.

For more information about living learning communities visit

Office of Student Life (OSL)

Campus life at UMBC is all about the student: a person with talents, knowledge, aspirations, fears, hopes and dreams. A student’s time at UMBC can be an amazing journey, in which he or she becomes a little wiser, clearer about his or her own values, more active and comfortable as part of the UMBC community, and better prepared to make a difference in the world. The more a student puts in, the more fulfilling the experience will be.  Research shows that students who are active in campus life develop valuable skills, feel a stronger sense of community, are more likely to achieve academic success, and are generally more satisfied with their college experience than those who are not involved.

There are well over 200 active clubs and student organizations at UMBC focused on sports, academics, service and social action, culture, religion and spirituality and much more. An important part of connecting to the campus community is finding organizations and programs that spark your curiosity and help you feel at home. We encourage all first year students to make such connections.

One special resource for students new to UMBC is the First Year Council, composed entirely of first year students.  The First Year Council helps members build connections and leadership skills, and develops initiatives to serve and support the entire first year class.  Look for more information about the First Year Council when you arrive on campus.

There is something for every student at UMBC, and activities on campus every day and night of the week. Think of the Office of Student Life as your helper in finding the groups and programs that are right for you, and in supporting your learning and development outside the classroom. To learn more, visit the Student Involvement Center (SIC) in Commons 2B24 or, or attend the Involvement Fest held each fall and spring.