Bates College First-Year Experience

The First-Year Experience at Bates is an award-winning collection of linked programs and resources intended to support students as they transition to college. Rather than think of this transition simply as a 6-day “orientation” in late August, the First-Year Experience enables students to utilize their entire first year as an opportunity to explore academic interests, to build community, to gain a sense of place, to engage with the values of equity, inclusion, and access that are at the core of the Bates mission, and to do so while maintaining their health and wellness and defining their own individual sense of purpose and identity.

The First-Year Experience (FYE) is grounded in a set of clear values developed in community with students, faculty, and staff, and they were developed to align with the Bates College mission statement and the “Values and Aspirations” articulated in the 2016 Institutional Plan. These include:

First-Year Experience Values

The First-Year Experience is comprised of a variety of programs that lay the foundation for your undergrad experience and ensures a smooth transition into the Bates Community.

It is guided by and grounded in values central to the Bates community that students will engage with throughout their first-year at Bates. We have provided further explanation of these values below.



The value of equity, inclusion, access, anti-racism, & educational justice centers Bates’s commitment to ensuring that all members of our community are equipped with the resources needed to attain their goals and to contribute to a community that supports the wellbeing of all of its members. 


Community is any collection of individuals who share a common set of values. Community is central to the student experience at Bates College. Students encounter it in their residence halls and classrooms, on athletic fields and in office spaces, on campus and beyond. Community is a fundamental point of intersection where all of the College’s values can be discussed, explored, respectfully considered, and renewed.


A residential liberal arts education is a model of academic exploration grounded in openness that deeply values encounters with the unexpected. It is possible only through engagement in community with others as well as through ardor and rigor on one’s own. It aspires to provide opportunities within and beyond the classroom so that students can develop holistically. Students can connect their questions, experiences, and interests not only across their classes, but also between their classes and their co-curricular exploration. The inquiry can be problem driven and emphasizes approaches from distinct perspectives, often recognizing that solutions come through cross-pollination of ideas and approaches.


Identity is created through relationships, life experiences, cultures, family, talents, and world views. And, identities can shift. How a student identifies in the classroom may be different than how they identify with a group of friends, how they identify in the dance studio or how they identify as an athlete; at Bates we honor complexity and encourage students to explore and embrace the many layers within themselves. Purpose is about a student’s “Why”. When we think about purpose at Bates, it is often in relationship to others: the impact we have on the people in our communities, the environment, and the wider world. The process of exploring who we are cultivates meaning in our life and brings us a sense of purpose.



At Bates we empower students to engage with their health from a values-based, intentional lens. Health and well-being is a multidimensional and lifelong practice for individuals that occur within the Bates community and the broader world. As such, we aim to equip students with the knowledge and skills to think critically about their experiences in order to advance and inform positive wellness decisions that are right for them. In so doing, the College actively works to disrupt systems of power and oppression inherent in this field.


A student’s college experience will be defined not only by people — the people you meet, befriend, and learn from — but also by place. One of the great things about attending a small residential college is that we all become connected to a new world filled with new places, many of which will wind up being deeply meaningful to you. These places will help shape your college experience, and sometimes even your future path in life.


First-Year Experience Components

Summer Resources and Orientation Lyceum Page

These are time-released resources provided to students over July and August prior to on-campus New Student Orientation. They are housed on the student’s Lyceum page, and they are organized into four categories: 1) Welcome and Values, 2) Academic Exploration Resources, 3) Bates’s History and Mission, and 4) Finding and Building Community at Bates.

Ask Me Anything Opportunities and August Registration Consultation 

While students have access to Academic Exploration Resources by early July on their Summer Resources page as well as access to participate in Zoom-based “Ask Me Anything” sessions focused on designing their Fall course schedules, Bates also provides opportunities for one-on-one interaction via its August Registration Consultation program. First, students register for their First-Year Seminar in July and are informed about their FYS placement in late July.

Second, in early August, an August Registration Consultant (often, but not always, the student’s FYS professor) will reach out to the student to see if they need any support in their Fall course selection. Students are encouraged, but not required to communicate with their August Registration Consultant. These meetings are particularly helpful in identifying recommended entry course pages in all fields of study, reviewing the general education requirements, particularly the foundational Mode of Inquiry requirements, and encouraging exploration in areas that may not have been accessible during educational experiences prior to coming to Bates.

On Campus New Student Orientation

Orientation is designed to welcome new students to campus and provides students the opportunity to begin forming friendships with their peers. In addition students will meet campus partners, student leaders, learn about resources offered on campus, and participate in interactive activities on and off campus. Students will become familiar with the Lewiston / Auburn area and campus.

Additional Info- Bates College Orientation

First-Year Seminar (FYS)

The FYS is a core academic component of the first-year experience. Each first-year student takes a first-year seminar or FYS that is designated as a W1. This is a limited-enrollment course specifically designed for first-year students. Topics vary from year to year, but seminars represent a broad range of interdisciplinary issues and questions addressed within the tradition of the liberal arts.

First-year seminars enable entering students to work with faculty and other students in a small class; they provide closely supervised training in techniques of reasoning, writing, and research; and they foster an attitude of active participation in the educational process. First-year seminars carry course credit toward the baccalaureate degree and are offered only in the fall semester. Again, all first-year seminars fulfill the first-level writing requirement [W1], and they may also fulfill other General Education, major, or minor requirements. Usually a student’s first-year seminar instructor is also their academic advisor.

Pre-Major Academic Advising

The FYS instructor serves as a student’s first academic advisor (pre-major advisor) until the point of major declaration, which usually takes place between October and March of the student’s second year. The FYS instructor/pre-major advisor partners with students on their academic exploration, referring them to relevant resources as well as engaging with other members of their advising team, i.e., their student support advisor, when and if appropriate. 

Additional Info – FYS and Pre-Major Advising Portal

First-Year Experience (FYE) Workshops

FYE Workshops are 6 to 8 Lyceum-based workshops that usually include either short video-based content or a short article and a reflection activity. They are tethered to the student’s FYS, and are meant to provide all students with clear and consistent access to information on a range of topics that either strengthen academic skills or provide deeper dives into ideas initially explored during orientation or summer resources. Topics have included: time management, note taking, drafting essays, health and wellness resources, exploring equity, inclusion, and access, and deepening study skills.

They are grounded in the same set of 6 values that animate the entire FYE, and they encourage successful academic and social transition to College. The FYE workshops are anchored in narrative values structure as well as tethered to the FYS and spaced over the first Fall semester because they draw student development research that suggests comprehension increases when programs have thematic coherence and resonate with student needs, i.e., information is provided when it is most useful or applicable to their lives).

First-Year Centers (FYC) (Residence Life)

First Year Centers (FYCs) are small residential communities where first-year students are supported by a member of the Residence Life Staff known as a Junior Advisor (JA). FYCs are designed to foster inclusive spaces, to nurture authentic relationships, and to promote intentional living practices.

There are three kinds of FYCs. Most FYCs are located in larger residence halls with multiple class years where new students can interact with a cross-section of other class years and learn from the experiences of older peers. The Healthy Living communities of Clason House are substance-free and thrive without the presence of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. Finally, the First Year Houses, Milliken and Frye Houses, are home to FYCs where students live only with other first-year students and experience college together in close-knit and cozy communities.

Additional Info – First Year Centers

First-Year First Weekend (FYFW)

This is a collection of programs during the first weekend of the Fall semester after the start of classes. Programs are organized by campus partners including but not limited to the Office of Campus Life, Harward Center for Community Partnerships, Office of Intercultural Education, Multifaith Chaplaincy, and Center for Purposeful Work. These programs encourage further co-curricular exploration by students and opportunities to link the curricular and co-curricular, and they foster community-building across class years.