College Success & Survival @ UNI

Using your Syllabus by alcdanielle
September 28, 2010, 11:21 am
Filed under: Freshmen, General | Tags: ,

From a Former Freshman

Your syllabus is one of the most important items that you will receive in your class. The syllabus is your gateway to success. It contains the details of the class. Most professors include office hours, required textbooks, a tentative schedule of the class, the format of papers and assignments, the grading system, his or her personal policies (attendance, use of technology, etc.), and many other pieces of important information.


It is imperative to look over the syllabus daily. This may seem excessive to you now, but it will prevent you from missing an assignment or test. Professors spend a lot of time creating the syllabus, and they expect you to spend a lot of time going over it. Remember, each syllabus is a guide to your course.


It is specifically important to look at your syllabus carefully after the first day of class. Some of you may find out that you are already behind. Some professors assume that you have read the first chapter of your textbook before you arrive on the first day. One area of confusion that is common among freshmen is how to read the tentative schedule. In most cases, the reading assignment listed for a particular day is due on the day it is listed. For example, the reading assignment for August 27th (shown below) should be read before you go to class on Friday. As you can see from the example below, if a student did not read the first chapter before the first day of class, she would already be behind on her reading:



It is also helpful to underline anything that you believe will be important to remember. You should also circle, or indicate in some way, how to get in contact with your professor. Unless it is already indicated on the syllabus, you may want to ask your professors how they prefer to be contacted and make a note of it on your syllabus. You should also highlight important dates and assignments on the tentative schedule. This would include, but not limited to: test dates, assignment due dates, the final exam, etc.


It may be advantageous to record your scores on the syllabus. If you do this, then you will be able to figure out your grade and see where you are in the class during midterms or whenever you see fit. Your professor will most likely appreciate not having to look up your grade for you.

If you take nothing else from this blog, then at least remember that your syllabus is IMPORTANT! Keep it with you for the entirety of the semester, and refer to it when you have questions.


From an Upper Classman

As someone who’s experienced the panic of “We have a test TODAY?!” before, I’d advise you all to take my advice and record assignment and test dates from your syllabus into your planner immediately. Don’t have a planner? Get one. Now. Yesterday. Having and reviewing your planner regularly is absolutely essential to academic success. It’s easy to let assignments, papers, and due dates get on top of you if you don’t record them in one convenient, easily accessible place. So if you haven’t already, gather up all your course syllabi tonight, and record every reading assignment, test, paper, quiz, and assignment due date into your academic planner. Then, use it, and review it every day!

This doesn’t mean you’re finished with your syllabi, however. Keep them around and review them before you start working on each major assignment or paper. Instructors will almost always give you tips, hints, and specifications for how they want you to complete each assignment in the syllabus, and it’s easy to overlook these and miss easy points if you don’t review. Have 1.5″ margins and your instructor wants 1″? You’ve missed points already, and your instructor hasn’t even read your work yet. Most instructors are flexible and willing to work with you—but only if they can see that you’ve made an effort. Neglecting to follow simple assignment guidelines will probably not ingratiate you when you want to ask for a do-over or extension later in the semester.

The best advice I can offer you as you go through college is to take responsibility for your own education. And that means looking to your syllabus as your guide through college academics—those hallowed pages hold everything you’ll need to know before you tackle that paper, project or presentation.


From a Professor

Our former freshman offers some excellent advice. You should refer to your syllabus daily. It is your map and contract for the semester. Professors are expecting that you know what is on the syllabus and that you refer to it often. In addition to underlining and highlighting important information, I would suggest that you write notes to yourself—especially if the professor has added details or clarified parts of the syllabus in class.

The syllabus is absolutely essential for doing well in class. It gives you insights into how you will be assessed and what types of assignments, tests and quizzes you may face. It also provides hints as to what may appear on tests. For example, if your syllabus provides themes that will be covered over the course of the semester, you may encounter an essay question asking you to synthesize and discuss these themes. Thus, you may want to listen for those themes in lectures and pay particular attention to and note those themes in readings. Creating a chart where you record your notes for these themes from class notes and reading notes might be especially helpful in preparing you for such an essay topic on an exam or assignment.

I also agree with our former freshman’s advice about keeping a record of all of your class scores. Your professor expects you to keep track of your own grade by using the information provided for you on the syllabus. Asking your professor to look up your grade will most likely result in the following response: “Look at your scores and refer to the syllabus.” Professors do not like to be asked to provide grades for students; it is the students’ responsibility to keep track of their own progress. You are now considered an adult and will be treated as such; this means you are accountable for monitoring your own progress and abiding by the course policies and procedures explained in the syllabus. This also makes it essential to keep all of your assignments and tests; if there is a discrepancy in your grade, you will need to produce hard copies of the scores as evidence. Your syllabus will also be your contract for discussing your grade and performance.


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I am glad that you wrote that post..

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