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What Is a Syllabus? Everything to Know About This Important Document

A syllabus is your master document for keeping up with any college class. Don't know much about it? Learn how to utilize this key resource the right way.

As a prospective college student embarking on a new educational chapter, you’ll find the syllabus is one of your best academic resources. Professors will expect a lot from you in college, from getting yourself to class on time to keeping up with a schedule of challenging assignments. Overall, you’re responsible for your college learning experience, so keep yourself organized with the ultimate resource any teacher hands you at the beginning of the semester: their course syllabus! Let’s take a look at what this document is and how it can help you succeed throughout the semester.

What is a syllabus?

A syllabus is basically a course blueprint that outlines the topics and materials you’ll study throughout a class and what you’ll have to complete, such as:

  • Reading assignments
  • Weekly homework
  • Midterm or final projects
  • Quizzes, tests, and exams

Syllabi also provide you with important deadlines, grading and code of conduct policies, and how to get in touch with your professors if you have any questions or want to take advantage of their office hours. A syllabus often includes a list of necessary supplies to complete your work. But a syllabus is more than just a road map to learning—it also acts like a contract between you and your professor, acknowledging your responsibilities as a student and highlighting their promise to teach to the best of their ability.

Reviewing your syllabi

You’ll receive a syllabus for every course during the first week of each semester. Your professor will likely spend some time on the first day reviewing it. This is the ideal time to ask questions and seek clarification. Some professors may even post the syllabus online before class begins so you can come prepared for the first day. It’s crucial to read all your syllabi at the beginning of each semester so you can add important due dates to your calendar and plan ahead for more time-consuming assignments. Writing all your assignments down allows you to schedule other events around your course requirements and build your time management skills as a student.

Related: How to Stay on Top of Your Classes (and Life) in the First Weeks of College

Syllabi for online classes

You should receive some form of syllabus whether you’re attending classes online or in person. If you’re in a distance learning program, you can expect all correspondence and important documents to be available in the virtual classroom or via your student portal. Though online classes are often more flexible, you’ll be expected to stay on top of your work two-fold—you’re responsible for prioritizing your schedule when it comes to virtual learning. It’s different for everyone, and some may find the format too challenging to adapt to. Fortunately, professors will store the syllabus for you in the virtual classroom so you can access it whenever you need to. It will help you keep up with each week’s topics and assignments so you always know where you stand in the course.

Continue to use your syllabi 

Being a college student forces you to learn the importance of organization quickly. You can use each syllabus as a generic timetable to help you structure your semester. Remember, you’re going to be managing multiple classes, projects, and due dates simultaneously; the last thing you want is insufficient time to study for your midterm exam when you have a presentation due the same week because you didn’t cross-reference your syllabi. As an independent college student, it’s your obligation to contact your professors in a professional manner if there’s an oversight in your planning when it comes to completing your assignments. But if you continue to use your syllabi throughout the semester, the less likely you’ll have to face the repercussions of late classwork.

Related: Why Every College Student Should Keep a Planner

A syllabus is one of the most critical documents you’ll receive throughout your college career, and you’ll be at a disadvantage if you don’t use it. Keep all your documents on hand and review them several times through the semester as a refresher for course expectations and deadlines. You may find most answers to your questions right in your syllabi, whether it’s about grading or the chapters you must read each week.

College life is a balancing act, and mastering this skill can be hard the first year. Learn The Best Ways to Balance Academics and Socializing as a College Freshman to keep up with it all!

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About Carolina Jacobs

Carolina Jacobs is a Managing Editor at Classrooms.com.


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