5 Parts of a Syllabus You Don’t Want to Ignore

August 14, 2017
Posted in Student Tips
August 14, 2017 ACS

On the first day of class, most instructors will distribute a syllabus. Many students make the mistake of glancing at it, and then tossing it in the trash (or losing it in the bottom of a backpack). Aside from the course description (which you already know) and the required textbook (which you already purchased), what else is there to know?

As it turns out, that syllabus contains plenty of valuable information. In particular, review these five components, and save your syllabus in a folder of important papers for the rest of the semester. You might need to reference it later.

Contact information. You need to know how to contact your teacher, in case you have questions or an emergency. If you get sick and miss a test date, your instructor is more likely to be generous in scheduling a makeup time if you contacted him before the missed test.

Attendance and other policies. Some instructors are sticklers for attendance; others are not (but you should attend class anyway). Some might not count you as present if you walk in the door after roll call! The attendance policy, and others that might affect your performance, are important things to know. Making a note of them can help you to prevent unpleasant surprises later.

Grade computation. Sure, earning good grades on every assignment and test is the most obvious way to ensure a satisfactory final score in the course. But it also helps to know how your grades are calculated.

Test dates. Record all test dates in your planner or smartphone calendar app, and set up reminders for yourself. Many instructors believe that remembering test dates is your responsibility, and they won’t always issue multiple reminders.

Paper and project due dates. It’s every student’s nightmare; you don’t want to show up for class empty-handed on term paper due day! Making a note of assignment, paper, and group project due dates can prevent major disasters later in the semester.

As always, remember to ask questions if you’re unsure of an item on the syllabus. It’s better to seek clarification upfront, than to risk a misunderstanding down the road.


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