SMC First Class

Helping high school students get valuable college credit early - and FREE

*Note: SMC First Class will be virtual this year due to COVID-19.

Saint Michael’s College First Class is a way for you to experience the College, its faculty, and students before you even graduate from high school.

Better yet, it is a way for you to get a valuable four-credit course for free!*

With SMC First Class, you can start your college career with college credits already under your belt. Not only can that help reduce tuition cost, it can help ensure you graduate on time – even if you decide to be a double major, study abroad or take on a minor or two.

You’ll also have more flexibility when planning future semesters. The credits you get from SMC First Class enable you to take an extra elective – maybe you’ve always been curious about filmmaking or astrophysics.

"I enjoyed the course and think it is a wonderful way to jump-start college learning."

- SMC First Class Student

Who can attend?

First Class is offered only to high school students who apply Early Action, and who are available for the 10-week course that runs late February through April of their senior year. Students choose one of five courses offered, presented as hybrid classes that combine an initial on-campus experience with online class time and classwork. The on campus component will take place on a Sunday morning in conjunction with an Admitted Student Open House the same weekend, while the rest of the academic work is completed online.

Courses are taught by some of the College’s most engaging professors; find their profiles and course descriptions below.

You can do it!

We realize that senior year can be a busy time–that’s why we have set up SMC First Class as a low-risk opportunity for admitted students. The hybrid format means you can work at your own pace while receiving support from your professor throughout the course to help ensure your success and a great first college experience at St. Mike’s.

However, if you realize that the work-load combined with your high school commitments is too difficult, you can drop the course at any time with no impact on your academic record. It is truly a low-risk, high-reward opportunity.

Getting started

To be eligible for an invitation to SMC First Class, complete your application for the Early Action I deadline by November 1, 2020 or the Early Action II deadline by December 1, 2020. Once admitted, you’ll automatically receive an invitation to register for one of the First Class courses. The registration deadline is February 1, 2021.

We encourage all students who take advantage of the benefits of Early Action to also complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

If you have questions regarding SMC First Class, please explore our Frequently Asked Questions or contact the Office of Admission at 800.SMC.8000 or


History of Rock

Taught by William L. Ellis, Associate Professor of Music

Dr. Ellis has been teaching History of Rock since his days living and working in the cradle of rock and roll, Memphis, Tennessee. There he got to hear, interview, and know the city’s many hall-of-fame figures and innovators, from Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, Rufus Thomas, and Isaac Hayes to Al Green, Three 6 Mafia, and Justin Timberlake. Ellis brings that perspective to his compelling look at rock’s storied past, which starts with the musical and cultural roots of the genre and extends through the 1950s pioneers (Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, et al.) to Bob Dylan, the British Invasion, psychedelia, arena rock, punk, grunge, and much more.

The online course is organized in ten chronological modules, each with four content elements (readings, professor’s notes, Spotify playlists, and videos) and four assessed elements (questions based on the readings, individual content-driven responses, group discussion threads, and a class blog that allows students to stay connected by posting on issues, discoveries and various course prompts). Pioneering music figures also speak to the class through video conferencing, and past guests have included such notables as Elvis Presley pal George Klein, Mission of Burma founder Roger Miller, Bob Dylan singer Regina McCrary, Justin Timberlake guitarist Elliott Ives, and Grammy-winning producers Norbert Putnam (Jimmy Buffett) and Jim Gaines (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, and Steve Miller).

By the end of the course, you will not only learn when, where, and why rock showed up when it did, but you’ll know more about its most important innovators and styles, how it has constantly changed to meet the times, and how the artists of the past continue to inform the music of today. Mostly, no other college class offers the opportunity to hear history quite like this one.

Course Syllabus

Sustainability: An Environmental Science Perspective

Taught by Karen Talentino, Professor of Biology

This is an introductory science course whose goal is to provide students with the information and tools they need to understand the natural processes of the environment and the challenges of our current sustainability crises. Earth is still our only home, and “home” is a good metaphor for the relationship between humanity and Earth. We must monitor the health of our home, and spend time and money to keep it in repair so that it can continue to provide services such as shelter, sanitation, food and clean water. We must also take care of all of our home’s inhabitants. In this class, students will gain a firm scientific foundation in environmental science, as well as the ways in which our society has developed unsustainably. We will also discuss practical strategies for developing solutions for the future, such as restoration, preservation and sustainable management of natural resources. We will use some examples of these solutions that are being used on the Saint Michael’s campus as part of the efforts of our Center for the Environment.

Course Syllabus

Concepts in Chemistry

Taught by Dr. Christina Chant, Professor of Chemistry

This course will provide students with an introduction to the basics of chemistry, including the development of our understanding of the structure of the atom, how compounds and molecules are formed, balancing simple chemical equations, the behavior of gases, energy, and a brief introduction to the basic math involved in chemistry. Although chemical concepts are covered, the main goal of this course is to show how chemistry provides the framework for a variety of topics, including nuclear power, green chemistry, and cosmetics and personal care products. This course does not assume you know chemistry and are a math star; however, we will look at some simple conversions and basic math operations as they relate to chemistry problems. There will also be optional modules throughout the course for students who are planning to take General Chemistry I at St. Mike’s – these modules will be short but will help you prepare for some of the rigors of the General Chemistry sequence. They are not required for students who do not wish to do them, but are recommended for science majors.

The course is developed to be entirely online and is divided into six modules. Each module covers several chapters in the selected text and involves readings, recorded lectures by the professor, online homework, and discussion boards focusing on real-life applications of the module topics. Supplemental videos are recommended to support learning. A small number of at-home experiments will be included. Students will demonstrate their knowledge through online exams and will present a final project on a topic of their choosing. Previous project topics have included the chemistry of baking, nuclear chemistry, microplastics, and the chemistry of stars. This course will show students what an introductory science course at Saint Michael’s College feels like in terms of how the faculty and students work together to develop a deeper understanding of the connections between topics.

Dr. Chant likes to tell her students that she actually disliked chemistry in high school but found herself enjoying it quite a bit when she entered college as a premed major. She fell in love with teaching when she was a chemistry graduate student at Penn State. Her teaching experience is varied and includes introduction to chemistry for non-science and allied health majors (both online and face-to-face), general chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry, and senior seminar. She’s also taught organic chemistry lab. Because she had been so uncomfortable with chemistry in high school, she understands the fear many students have when starting a chemistry class. She develops her courses, including this one, to address the important topics in chemistry in a supportive, understanding environment.

Course Syllabus

Introduction to Digital Photography

Taught by Jerald Swope, Department Chair and Associate Professor of Media Studies, Journalism & Digital Arts

Introduction to Digital Photography and Visual Storytelling will introduce students to the art and craft of digital photography as a means for visual storytelling. Students will learn to create thoughtful digital images using whatever digital camera they have available (camera phone, point and shoot or digital SLR) and learn to edit and manipulate images using Adobe Photoshop. While assignments will span a range of genres, emphasis will placed on documentary photography. This course is a great opportunity to learn new storytelling skills and develop applicable critical thinking and problem solving skills.


The Camera: You will need to provide your own digital camera device. This could be the camera built into your cell phone, a digital point and shoot, or a digital SLR. The type of camera you use will not greatly affect what we are doing in this class. The goal is to help you learn how to make the best pictures you can that are true to your vision no matter what device you use. Remember, “It’s the carpenter, not the tools.” Please do not go out and buy a camera just for this class.

Computer and Software: You will need to have access to an Adobe compatible computer that meets the system requirements. Please note that Chrome Books are not compatible with Adobe. The College will provide subscription access to the necessary software (Adobe Photoshop and InDesign) that you can download on your computer.

*SMC First Class is offered free to students who enroll in Saint Michael’s College in Fall 2021. For students who do not enroll at Saint Michael’s and would like to transfer their credits to their enrolling school, they will be charged $1,500. The fee to transfer these credits would be waived for students eligible for a Pell Grant, based on the 2021-2022 FAFSA.