Your First Year

The first year of college as an undergraduate student can be exhilarating and life-changing but also daunting.

The Corcoran College of Art and Design’s First Year Program immerses new students into life at school as seamlessly as possible while also challenging them to experience a host of new ways of thinking about art, design, and life itself. From the innovative First Year Studio sequence to a unique art history seminar, students are exposed not only to unfamiliar mediums and materials but also to the major themes and ideas that underlie contemporary art and design.

Faculty advisors, student mentors, and trained staff devote themselves to ensuring that first-year students keep on a path toward academic and artistic success while becoming active members of the close-knit Corcoran community.

Below are features of the First Year Experience:

Shared Experiences

Students in their first year participate in a common framework of courses covering the practices and theories of art and design, creative and analytical writing, and the tools and techniques available today to generate and realize creative ideas. Through these courses, students develop a common language to actualize, debate, and develop their practice in a constructive, supportive studio culture. In addition, readings, discussions, and talks from visiting artists provide a comprehensive introduction to the ideas and issues that animate contemporary artists and designers as students move beyond common or pre-conceived ideas of what art and design are or should be.

Cross-Disciplinary Core

All first-year students enroll in the two-semester First Year Studio sequence. This innovative, modular sequence focuses on cross-disciplinary approaches to art making and the creative process that are both thematic and open-ended. Working in small groups, students study with faculty across departments and media, exploring a variety of methods and materials relevant to the conceptual framework of the artist and designer in today’s society. At the successful conclusion of two semesters of First Year Studio, students are prepared to enter into their major knowing how they fit within a wider field of creative endeavor.

Jump Start to the Majors

From the first week of classes in the first semester of the curriculum, first-year students are introduced to studying in their specific areas of interest through courses specially created by the faculty of their future departments. These studio courses build upon the talent students bring with them to college and prepare them for more advanced study within their selected major that begins in the second year.


Open electives are available in both semesters of first year so that students can focus on their existing interests or allow them to experiment with courses in new disciplines. Electives in the departments of Design, Fine Art, and Photography allow for studio specialization and investigation while the Department of Arts and Humanities schedules humanities courses available to all first- and second-year students.

The open electives provide the opportunity for students to explore two potential majors before deciding on their future curricular path, and for those interested in a possible teaching career, to sample an introduction to art education.

Contextual Learning

Not all experiences happen in the classroom, and the Corcoran’s location in Washington, D.C., provides students a diverse, energized, and fascinating urban campus unlike that of any other art school. A half dozen of the world’s leading museums are located within two miles of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, as are a host of art galleries, design studios, and major creative organizations like the National Geographic, National Public Radio, and Discovery Communications. An international city, Washington, D.C. boasts not only embassy art programs but also cultural centers and art programs run by many nations. In addition, the city’s vibrant immigrant communities contribute to the sense of living in an international capital that is home not only to the United States government but also to a world of cultural enterprise.



Contact Jonathan Healey

Director of the First Year Experience program