Make Friends with Your Syllabus

The number one dreaded response to a question you ask your professor is “It’s on the syllabus.” Professors love this phrase almost as much as students hate it. However, it’s important to understand that your college career will be so much easier if you make friends with your syllabus. This is your guide to surviving the semester, and the best part is you usually get all of them at the exact same time.

The most important information for students on the syllabus is the attendance policy. Some professors are very lenient about attending class (although it will always pay off for you to go) while others have a very strict “one-and-done” policy. If this information is on your syllabus, it can help you to plan for those inconveniences of life. For instance, you might be able to schedule a doctor’s appointment during Stats 1001 if you have to, but you definitely can’t go to the dentist during English 1010. Try your very best to save those absences for when you really need them, and always contact your professor to let them know you won’t make it before the class if at all possible. Professors appreciate this consideration for their time, and you will definitely notice the difference in their persona toward you.

The second most important information is the book list. Knowing ahead of time which books you’ll be reading for the semester can help you plan this out. Check and see if you know any friends who have the book and check university Facebook pages to see if another student is selling the book you need. While your university bookstore is an excellent resource, we all know that they tend to have some of the most expensive books. However, occasionally you’ll have a class where the professor has written their own book, and it’s usually only available at the university bookstore. This is where you get to make the fun decision whether to rent or buy the book. In my experience, if the difference between the price to rent or buy is only a few dollars, go ahead and buy the book. It will be much less stressful than trying to keep from accidentally damaging it all semester, and you’ll get to put it on your shelf and look cultured to all your friends.

Last but not least, take note of assignment dates. Most syllabus have all the dates for assignments, exams, and project deadlines. Write these down at the very beginning of the semester so that you can plan when to start each assignment and when to start studying for your exams. Knowing this information ahead of time will also help you plan for finals week. Many universities have policies about the number of finals you can take in a 72-hour period, but you have to request to move these finals very early in the semester. Don’t be that person to wait until Thanksgiving to realize you have four finals in 48 hours. Give yourself and your professors a break and find out that information now.

Knowing the syllabus inside and out before you really get into the semester will be the single biggest time saver for you. This will help you prioritize assignments between classes, manage your time, and improve your study skills. Make an effort each semester before classes start to sit down with each syllabus. You won’t regret it!

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