When I first attended college, I did not understand the importance of a course outline or syllabus. Higher education was something new to me. I did not have much guidance, and I did not know where to seek out such support. As I continued my post-secondary journey and I attended university at the undergraduate and graduate levels, I better understood how things worked. When starting a new class, I took note of the course syllabus. I made the connection between carefully reviewing and using the syllabus throughout the term, and a successful outcome in the course. Having been a student, teaching assistant, and instructor, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting to know and using the syllabi in all your courses. Here are three ways to use your course syllabi throughout the term.

To Get Organized

You may have likely heard the term “Syllabus Day” when referring to your first classes of the semester. Ideally, those first classes are an opportunity to review the syllabus together and ask your professor questions around expectations and requirements of the course, as well as anything else you may need clarification on. The syllabus will usually include: basic information about the course and instructor, course description and learning objectives, required textbooks, readings, or course materials, descriptions of assignments, tests, or exams, grading or rubrics, and important policies. After those first classes, go back to the syllabus and read it over thoroughly, and use it to get organized for the term. If you have any questions, get in touch with your professor. They will appreciate that you read the syllabus and that you are taking your learning seriously.

For Tracking Due Dates

Not only will your syllabus tell you what readings to complete, or what assignments, tests, or exams you will have, it will also tell you when these will occur and need to be completed by. Recording and mapping out all the due dates will help you plan your workload for the semester. Many students use calendars with a monthly view to see how these due dates align between courses and throughout the term.

When Studying and Completing Assignments

Review the learning objectives and expected outcomes for the course. These tell you what level of understanding and knowledge you should be demonstrating in your assignments and in the tests or exams you may be writing. When you are studying for a specific test or exam, or working on a particular project, keep the syllabus open and nearby. Carefully review the requirements and expectations for each, when you start working on it and before you submit it. Go back to the course learning objectives and ensure you have achieved these in your assignments or in your studying. Use study tools, such as the Minute School app, to assess yourself on key concepts that are fundamental to the course and in your degree program.

Remember that syllabi are guides to your courses and the semester ahead. Use your course syllabi throughout the term to stay organized, to guide you in successfully completing the course requirements, and to maximize your learning.

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