Anatomy of a Syllabus

A syllabus is a contract detailing a professor’s goals and expectations for their course. Not all course syllabi are created equally, so you may find that a syllabus in one course is 20 pages long while another is at most five pages. Some professors will take the time to detail each assignment so that you have reference material when it is time to begin, while others prefer to explain as the semester moves forward. Below is a list of common things you will see in a syllabus:

Course title, course number, time/meeting place

This section helps you keep track of which syllabus goes with which course; it also informs you if you are in the right class on the first day.

Information about your professor

Office hours, office location, whether you are expected to schedule an appointment or drop in during certain hours, professor/TA email address, the best phone number to reach them at (which is becoming less common now that we have smartphones and the ability to check our emails more frequently).

Course materials

  • This is the section where you will find the required books/supplies you are required to have and any books/supplies that are not required but highly recommended.
  • The college bookstore and sites such as Amazon, for example, may provide the option to rent textbooks, which need to be returned by a specific date.
  • Always check with others around campus to see where they are getting their books. Some professors will inform students about the cheapest places to get their course materials.

Learning Objectives

Objectives are what you will know or be able to do once you have completed the course. For example, “understanding the role of the electoral college in presidential elections,” might be a course objective.

Grading System

Each professor will grade their assignments differently from one another. Their specific way of measuring your performance/grade will typically have its own section in the syllabus. Some professors grade on a point value system with a range of points being equivalent to specific grades. Other professors may use some wacky formula that only they understand.

This section will usually explain how the professor will break down your overall grade.

Ex: Participation = 10%, Quizzes = 25%, Homework = 15%, Tests = 50%

Attendance Policy

Very important! You will notice that some professors do not have a stringent policy, while other professors will decrease your overall grade after two unexcused absences. This is a great section to get familiar with so that you are not surprised later on when you find out you have failed a course because of your attendance issues.

Course Calendar

This section details each class and what you will cover that day, along with any assignments that are due.

Academic Integrity Policy

You will eventually get to know this without needing the reminder, but this section details what to expect if you ever get in trouble for academic dishonesty. Hopefully, none of you will ever need to refer to this section.

Disability/Accessibility Policy

Details how to go about getting accommodations you may need to help enable you to participate in the course

Miscellaneous Items

  • Detailed instructions for assignments
  • Late work policy
  • Classroom conduct
  • TA’s office hours/contact information
  • A statement letting you know that the information in the syllabus is subject to change, and you will be informed right away about any changes that take place.

View the original post at The College Study Struggle.