I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about the infamous college syllabus week. And if you haven’t, it’s basically the first week of the semester when you get to go over the future class material, meet your TA, and basically scope out the class to see if you’ll actually like it or if you’ll just give up and decide to settle for a C one month in. If syllabus week sounds too good to be true, you’re damn right it is! You may be really tempted to just chill during syllabus week because nothing serious is really happening in class yet, but that, my friends, is your first mistake.
I’ll be the first to admit that during my first ever freshman year syllabus week, I took the lack of work for granted and didn’t use my time (or my syllabus) wisely at all. Don’t forget to do these TK things during syllabus week to get your semester started on the right foot!
1. Print all of your syllabi and keep them in your binder.
Your professors spend hours creating your syllabi for a reason! Contrary to what so many people think, your syllabus is choc full of important quiz and exam dates, project and paper due dates, and the outline of everything you’re going to be studying for the semester. Most times, the syllabus also includes all of your homework assignments for the semester, so it’s definitely not something you want to lose! I know lots of professors post their syllabus online, but it’s so much easier to have a physical copy that you can highlight and annotate whenever you please. Plus, sometimes professors make changes to the syllabus over the course of the semester, and those changes may not be reflected in the online version. In my post on must-have school supplies, I talked about how I use a binder to organize all of my syllabus handouts, and I seriously stand by this because, you guys, it makes it a helluva lot easier to avoid that mini heart attack during finals week when you need a handout you received at the beginning of the semester!
2. Mark down all quiz, exam, and project due dates.
So, umm, sorry to tell you this but you’re going to have to actually read your syllabus after you print it out. I know, they can be so hefty sometimes, but think of it as an excuse to visit the school cafe and indulge in an over-priced iced coffee while you get some light reading done. Be aware of all of your semester’s exams and projects for every class ahead of time. I cannot tell you how many mini heart attacks I could’ve stopped myself from having every time I realized that I had a paper due in just two short weeks, or that the project I didn’t know I had was due soon. I highly recommend investing in a dry-erase calendar that you can hang on your wall, or a planner with monthly calendars so you can easily write down those dates and stay on top of your game at the beginning of every month. I really like the Happy Planner and the ClassTracker planner, which I wrote a review on.
3. Talk to your TA or Professor about the class expectations.
Syllabus week is prime opportunity for you to get to know your class TA, get your professor to know who you are, and figure out if you’ll really be up for the class you signed up for. If you’re like me and dislike surprises, knowing the extent to which you’ll be expected to work will be instrumental in helping you avoid any curve balls that might be thrown your way. I know it’s important to challenge yourself every once in a while, but if there’s a chance that at some point you’ll be expected to do something that you really can’t do for whatever reason, it’s important to know that in the beginning when you can jump ship rather than mid-semester when dropping the class could negatively impact your transcript.
Shoot your TA an email and ask if you can discuss the class over lunch or dinner. You’ll feel a little less awkward considering they’re a student just like you! Also use this as an opportunity to get the inside scoop on how to get on your professor’s good side. Visit your professor’s office hours to get to know him or her, too. Make sure you check your *ahem* syllabus to find out if you need to email them for an appointment first!
4. Rearrange your schedule as needed.
Even though everyone and their mother will be trying to change their schedule and advising offices and the admin office will be flooded with students trying to get out of one class and into another, syllabus week is my favorite time to change my schedule. It’s better, in my opinion, to get it out of the way before you have a ton of assignments on your plate and completely forget. Plus, it’s so easy for the class drop deadline to slip right past you when you’re busy! Use this week as an opportunity to add more classes, drop a class, or completely re-vamp your semester schedule. Check out my post on creating the perfect class schedule for more useful tips!
5. Talk to your classmates.
It can be insanely easy to just chill by yourself in a corner of the lecture hall for an entire semester (been there, done that!) but that makes it way harder to find additional resources (a.k.a. your lovely classmates) when you need them. Plus, you could be missing out on an opportunity to make new friends if you always keep to yourself. I was that person for a long time, and looking back, there were so many cool people that I’ll probably never get to know because I didn’t make the move to sit next to them and introduce myself from week one.
Your classmates will always have something to offer you. Always remember: if you’re the smartest person in the room, find another room! Don’t think anyone is beneath you, and don’t think you can’t learn from someone else because you feel more experienced. It’s totally okay to start up a conversation with whoever you happen to be sitting next to in class. In fact, that’s how I made some of my closest friends. Try asking a question about the homework before class starts, and if the conversation keeps going, ask that person if they’re free and want to go for lunch.
6. Find shortcuts to and from class.
Okay, I’m going to get a little salty here because I did NOT do this my entire first semester and was SO FREAKIN’ mad because of all the time I could’ve saved. I’m the kind of person who sometimes prefers to keep doing things I’m comfortable with—I will always walk the same way to work or to the grocery store because it’s familiar and I don’t have to think about it. This can set you back if the familiar way also happens to be the longest way—especially if you’re already running late for class! I love that you can easily use syllabus week to scope out all the best shortcuts to any point on campus without looking lost because it’s literally the first week of school; EVERYONE’S lost.
7. Find your textbooks for as cheap as possible.
One of the biggest mistakes you could make in college is buying your textbooks before your classes start. Granted, it’s not the biggest mistake, but it is super annoying to realize that you just spent $500 on your textbooks when you could’ve spent half of that if you had put in the work to swerve your school bookstore and go through rental sites. Start looking for your textbooks after you had the first class so you’ll know if it’s worth getting one. Also, your professor might straight up tell you not to get the book, or may suggest where to find a copy for free.
What’s your plan for succeeding this semester?
Be sure to check out my post on How To Prepare For The First Week Of College for more useful tips!