Tips for conquering your syllabus

When entering this fall semester, take the personal ambition to set a successful trajectory for the full school year ahead. The early weeks of September are the perfect time to combat the resentment and stress from summer ending by planning for a positive semester ahead!

Besides a kickass packing list, one of the greatest necessities in order to achieve success in your classes is simply reading your course syllabus.

Your course syllabus is a refined course description written by the professor to serve as a map to success in the course.

Professors and Teacher Assistants (TA)s are eager to help students succeed in their courses. Following their rules will give you the best advantage for triumph in the class. Considering that it was professors who planned out the course, disregarding particular guidelines will take you down a directionless path

Any course syllabus will include a couple of key components that should be noted while reading.

These syllabi will most likely have a section displaying the course’s expectations, a section telling you what the professor is requiring from students.

Skimming the expectations is a good way to determine if participation is a necessity for the course, in addition to understanding their style of grading when it comes to heavily weighted final papers.

If you read between the lines, you can also uncover the nature of the instructor’s style. If the syllabus is strictly organized then it is wise to assume lecture procedure will be conducted the same.

The syllabus’s grade breakdown is also essential when planning out your semester ahead, and helps in deciding which projects take precedence over others. This section displays a professor’s late policy, which, I should note, can be different for every course. If the syllabus claims some leniency, that should be calculated when determining the merit of time spent on each course assignment.

In the spirit of setting yourself on a successful path this fall, another important note is making it a priority to visit professors’ office hours. Swallowing your pride and speaking to your professor about the course’s material will prove to them you respect their job and are interested in the course’s content.

Some advice would be to copy down all of your professors’ contact information (email, office location, hours), and formulate a couple of questions based off the syllabus. Your professor will see that you have already thought about the course’s learning goals, and you may even get some respect from them that can pay off during finals.

On every syllabus there will be a section listing due dates for major assignments. Copying down due dates for all your classes at the beginning of the semester will help you in the upcoming months.  By noting overwhelming conflicts among your classes, this prior knowledge will keep your stress levels down in December’s busy weeks.

The final take away from a syllabus is understanding that it is the professor’s direct impression for the course. The design of the syllabus sets the course’s tone. Policies and instructions written with a friendly tone means your professor encourages student communication over the content.

Remember that professors put in substantial thought and effort into organizing a course. Reading the syllabus will serve as a major benefit in finding success for your journey in any course.

*This article was originally published in The Cord.

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