Reflecting on a Liberal Arts Education

During her first year at Hope College, each student writes a Liberal Arts Reflective Essay as part of the First Year Seminar (FYS). At some point during Senior Seminar, we ask students to write an essay in which they reflect upon the FYS essay that they wrote during their first semester at Hope. I tell students that there are three really good reasons to do this:

  • Your FYS Essay is like a time capsule. Who were you three years ago? One student in my Senior Seminar course went to download her FYS Essay and learned that three years before she had uploaded her packing list for college instead. It was an interesting list, and one that with the benefit of hindsight she would have written differently.
  • Reflection is a good thing. You’ve put a lot of time, effort, and money into your college education. Was it what you expected? What worked? What didn’t? Reflecting on your FYS Essay can help you see how much you’ve grown in three short years. Doing so will also get you started on the kind of self-reflection you’ll practice in this course.
  • Reading and responding to your FYS paper will help future Hope students. Every two or three years, a team of Hope professors reads an anonymous set of FYS Essays and the corresponding responses written as seniors. Their observations help the College assess a number of things, including writing instruction, cognitive development, and how all of the pieces of the liberal arts education fit together.


For students: To retrieve your FYS Essay:

  1. Go to and select the term when you wrote your FYS essay (e.g., Fall 2013) from the list.
  2. If prompted, login with your 1Hope account.
  3. Click the “My Courses” link in the top box.
  4. Find the “First Year Seminar Resources for Students [Year]” course in the list and click on it.
  5. Click on “Assignments” in the “Activities” box.
  6. Click on the “Submit your reflective essay” assignment.
  7. Click on the file in that assignment and save it to your computer.


Each Senior Seminar instructor gives a specific assignment for students’ essays. We tell students who do not have access to their FYS Liberal Arts Essays (perhaps because they transferred to Hope) to think back to their expectations concerning a “liberal arts education” prior to becoming a Hope College student.