Syllabus week is either quickly approaching or has already started for most college students, and it can either be the easiest or the most overwhelming week of your life. While you normally don’t have any classwork to do, you do receive an overload of information. Why are your professors giving you so much information? How are you supposed to sort through it all? What can you do to manage your time?
What to do with your syllabus.
Actually read it!
If your professor posts your syllabus online before classes start, print it out and read through it. This gives you a jumpstart on the information, and then you can pay more attention to the details they give you in class. If your professor gives you the syllabus in class, quickly glance through it before your professor begins to discuss it.
Either way, you need to prepare to take notes! Your professor will likely give you helpful tips as they outline what the syllabus says. These can be life-saving (like, “The final is non-cumulative”) or they can be really detrimental if you don’t hear them (like, “This assignment takes a week to complete.”) Mark anything they emphasis; dates, projects, policies, etc. You can use a highlighter or a pencil, but make sure you know what your markings mean and what is important!
Use a schedule.
It’s definitely important to use a planner, and it makes it so much easier if this is set up from the beginning of the semester! I write down assignments on sticky tabs so that I can easily adjust due dates and move assignments around, but you should use whatever system that works for you! If you’re curious about my planner, you can check it out here, and order the one I use here. I’m literally so obsessed with it.
Organize contact info.
All my professors give out their email, office address, and phone number on the syllabus, but I’m not going to dig through the syllabi whenever I need to send an email or ask a question.Instead, I simply write all of their contact info out on a document on my computer and save it to my desktop. Easy peasy. You could even save a contact in your phone with their information so that your professors are only a search away. This makes it easy to actually email a professor.
What to do in class.
Connect with your classmates.
Sit next to someone(s) who looks nice, and ask them questions about themselves! Honestly everyone is looking for friends in class, so reach out! You could ask…
- What’s your major? How does it relate to this class?
- Have you heard anything about the professor?
- Are you interested/good at this subject?
From there, make sure you get contact information. You just gained a resource that can help you out! If you ever miss class, you can get notes or help from there; and you can offer the same in return.
Your professors will probably drop helpful hints about the upcoming semester, their grading policies, etc. Like I mentioned with the syllabus, jot this stuff down! It could save your life!
Make a good first impression.
First impressions stick! Make sure you pay attention in class. I normally dress well for class, but especially during syllabus week… even if you’re only getting ready in fifteen minutes, you can still look nice! Try wearing something super fancy, like the super cute tops from Nordstroms or the bargains from H&M. Let your professor and TAs know you care about the class and that you are putting forth effort. It could really make a difference in the long run. And please, above all, don’t be on your phone.
And outside of class.
Textbooks are ridiculously expensive, even buying secondhand or renting them! I recommend finding out if they’re really necessary. If the textbook comes with an access code for something online that you need or if the class is heavily based on reading, you’ll probably want to purchase/rent the book.However, if you only need the textbook for supplemental instruction or the occasional help, you should check to see if it’s available at the library or if sections are online. I could have gotten by without the book for most of my classes.That being said, don’t miss out on a good grade by refusing to spend money! Search online for good textbook prices, and never, ever, ever buy the book from your campus bookstore!
Learn your schedule.
No, don’t just write it down. And don’t just memorize when and where your classes are. Figure out when is a good time to eat lunch, workout out, and study based around your classes. Find good places to stop in between them and manage what you’ll be doing throughout your day. This could make you twice as productive.
Join groups, clubs, and orgs.
The first week is the perfect time for a fresh start. If you set your schedule making time for extra “stuff,” you’ll make it a priority later on. Getting involved on campus is incredibly important; start early!
Talk to your professors.
This can be a little nerve-wracking, especially if you’re a little shy like me! While first impressions are incredibly important, it’s honestly unlikely that your professor will remember your first conversation if you simply introduce your name to them and leave it at that. Even if they’re a bad professor (learn how to deal with that here), you should still interact with them! In my first semester, I had it all planned out that I would introduce myself to my professors after class with a witty anecdote about my name… little did I know that there was literally a line in front of all my professors after class! I was nothing more than a name in a rushed line.If you feel like you need to avoid being another face in the crowd, visit their office hours during syllabus week. Ask them specific questions about the course and about them personally! Some good questions could be…
- Why are you interested in this subject?
- What tips do you have for someone who’s never studied this before?
- If there’s one thing I should take away from the class, what is it?
- What’s the best way to contact you?
Introduce yourself, too! Tell your professor why you’re taking the class, and let them know why you have an interest in the subject.
The new semester is a fresh start full of possibilities. This is your chance to reestablish yourself and your goals. You can use your planner to keep track of both your short-term and long-term goals! Make sure your goals are realistic. For example, I’m going to start working out this semester. Instead of saying I’m going to work out everyday (which would be awesome but nearly impossible with my schedule), my goal is to work out three times a week, whenever I can fit that in. I know I can achieve that goal, and maybe once I regularly work out three times a week, I’ll increase my goal to four times! My long-term goal for the semester is to maintain my spot on the Dean’s List, and I can accomplish this goal through short-term, monthly goals, like making sure I maintain A’s in my classes and turning in work early!
Overall, college is tough and stressful enough. Don’t stress over the first week! Spend your extra time enjoying campus and hanging out with friends while you can!