We dread receiving it because it means the official beginning of a new semester: the syllabus. Every college professor has one, and it’s usually outrageously long—a short novel. Do we read it? Should we read it? Is it really that important? YES.
1. Read the syllabus before class.
There’s a reason professors post their syllabus before the first day of class, and that’s for you to actually read it. You may not have to read it in-depth, necessarily, but you want to find the important points and be aware of them before meeting your professor. Plus, the syllabus is usually pretty good about telling you whether or not you have work due on the first day.
2. Highlight all of the important info.
When reading a syllabus, I usually try to highlight the most important info such as office hours, exam dates, paper/project due dates, etc. This is a great way to see how many important dates you’re going to have in class and give you more of a feeling for the professor and their policies.
3. Write down all of your professors’ office hours.
Designate a page in your planner or notebook to write down each professor and TA’s office hours for each of your classes. This way you will have all of your resources on one page to refer to when needed. Bonus points if you include their emails as well.
4. Write down all of the due dates and reading assignments.
One of the first things I do when getting a syllabus is one of the most tedious. The most important part of a professor’s syllabus is, arguably, the list of assignments and due dates. This is one of the few resources you’ll have for the entire semester to ensure you’re on time. To make sure you turn in everything and turn it in promptly (because some professors don’t remind you, or remind you in enough time), write down all of your due dates for the semester. I put them all in my planner using this free printable. You don’t have to own a planner, though, to use this printable. I find it easier to write down all of my classes’ assignments for each week so I can get a feel for each week of the semester and how busy I’ll be.
5. Get to know your professor.
Some, not all professors, include personal background info about themselves in their syllabus. This is a great way to get to know them. If they don’t include their background info, you can still use their syllabus to your advantage. By simply reading each syllabus, you’ll know exactly what each of your professors expects from you and the most effective way to pass their class. Plus, by reading the syllabus, you’ll have at least one topic of conversation or question when introducing yourself on the first day.
6. Figure out which classes will be more demanding than others.
By writing out all of your assignments, projects and exams for each of your classes, you’ll be able to get more of a feel for how you semester is going to look time-wise. This will allow you to distinguish your busy classes versus your easy classes. You will be able to plan out your weeks better. Which classes require more studying? Which professors assign a lot of weekly reading? How many essays, tests or projects are you going to have due each week? This way you’ll know.
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