What will I learn in Preceptorial?

What is Preceptorial?

Union’s First-Year Preceptorial (FYP) seminar, as the College website states, introduces students to the critical reading, analytic writing, and critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in college courses and beyond.  The course is designed to educate students to read, discuss, and write about important texts in literature, philosophy, science, or other areas.  Each Preceptorial seminar is different, allowing students the opportunity to choose ones that appeal to their interests, but the emphasis on critical reading, writing, and thinking should always be the focus.  See Course Descriptions.

Preceptorial is the one course, the only course, required of every single Union student. We think it is important.  

Why do I need this class?        

Preceptorial is designed to introduce you to college level thinking regardless of the field you choose to study.  You will read and discuss important ideas.  You will learn to enter the academic conversations about these ideas through writing.  The Preceptorial seminar will benefit you during your years at Union and beyond.

As New York Times columnist David Brooks once asserted, “No matter what you do in life, you will have a huge advantage if you can read a paragraph and discern its meaning (a rarer talent than you might suppose). You will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo.”  (“History for Dollars,” New York Times.  07 June 2010.)

While you will read more than paragraphs and write more than memos in Preceptorial, you will be learning the critical thinking skills needed to participate effectively in a scholarly community.  And you will learn to write, not just for future college classes but using skills that will be applicable in many other real-world contexts. Learning how to write well is always an important skill, whether you are a scientist trying to convey your new findings in a science journal or a chef trying to write a cookbook for the common public. Wherever you go in life, you will need the skill of writing to communicate ideas to others. Freshman Precept class will help you get there!           (Contributed by C. Benadiva, class of 2015)

Common misconceptions

“Precept Class is just another English Class…”

Depending on which class you choose, the class can be about any topic. Depending on your a Precept class, you may read novels, nonfiction books, scholarly articles, newspaper articles, or any combination of these, and then discuss the deeper meaning of the words and make connections to other ideas.  When you write about what you’ve read, you will make your own arguments, supporting them with evidence from the readings.   (C. Benadiva)

“All of the classes are going to be the same boring topics”

Each Precept topic is very different and the professors for each class vary. There are art professors, English professors and science professors who teach Precept because they love to teach incoming students ideas related to their field or their interests. You will be given a choice of which class you prefer.  Make your choice carefully!   (C. Benadiva)

“Didn’t I already learn to read and write in high school?”

Precept instructors truly hope you did.  And we hope you bring those skills with you.  But students at Union College will graduate as very different readers and writers than they were when they entered.  Part of the change is that you will specialize in college, learning to read and write in the specific ways of the discipline/s that you choose as your major/s.  You will also be reading much more complex texts, synthesizing more ideas, and writing arguments that add to our overall knowledge, perhaps even publishing them.  That is a big change.  To prepare you, Preceptorial helps you begin the shift toward becoming an effective, well-read, and ethical writer capable of persuading others of the value of your ideas.  You will build on what you learned in high school, but you will also move beyond it.  College is a new learning context, an important step forward.  Rise to the challenge of learning to read and write and think in new ways.