First-years at RISD take the First-year Program of Experimental & Foundation Studies studios and Liberal Arts courses.  The year-long curriculum is outlined here.

Foundation students may not drop or withdraw from any first-year program courses without the written approval of the Dean of Experimental & Foundation Studies. Courses in Experimental & Foundation Studies and in the three Liberal Arts departments (Theory & History of Art & Design, Literary Arts and Studies; and History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences) are required of all first-year undergraduate students. A student must see the Dean of Experimental & Foundation Studies if they are considering a drop. The Dean will, after discussion with the student, approve or deny the request.

The offices of Experimental & Foundation Studies (EFS) and Liberal Arts pre-register first semester first-year students for all required studios and Liberal Arts courses. First-year students cannot take courses at Brown University. Wintersession is the first time that first-years select their own course(s). In Spring, first-years are assigned studios and placed into a THAD-H102 section, but can select their HPSS-S101 section from a limited group of choices.

Transfer students fulfill the 18 credits of the first-year studios by transfer of credit from another institution or by completion of the RISD 'Summer Experimental & Foundation Studies' along with transfer of credit. The First-year Summer Program consists of 9 credits and is usually taken in the summer before admission.