It’s the first day of classes and you’re a mix of nerves and excitement. You’ve done everything right: grabbed your books, mapped out your classes, purchased the Scranton t-shirt, loaded up your Royal card, decorated your dorm room, and signed up for a million clubs. What now?

READ THE SYLLABUS!

The most important thing you can do to ensure academic success is the one thing students often overlook: the syllabus.  Your professor will most likely give you the syllabus on the first day of class, and there’s a reason for that: it’s important. The syllabus serves as a contract of sorts between you and your professor. It’s the document in which your professor will outline what they expect of you and what you should expect from them.

Syllabi can vary from instructor to instructor, but there are certain elements you should pay close attention to:

Contact Info: Your instructor will hold office hours. Office hours are an open length of time during which you can visit your professor to discuss the course. The syllabus should also include email information.

Attendance Policy: This is super important. Many professors will allow you a certain amount of “excused” absences. Excused absences can be used for illness, vacations, or any alarm mishaps. Unlike high school, many professors will not reiterate this policy throughout the semester. They will consider the syllabus enough to convey this policy. Do not be caught mid-semester with too many absences!

Resources: The University of Scranton has a ton of resources to help you succeed. Many of them will be listed on the syllabus. Resources such as tutoring, the writing center, and more.

Grading: How your professor figures or calculates your grade is an important part of any syllabus. You might see a break down like this:

tests and quizzes: 70%
presentation: 20%
class participation: 10%

This breakdown is important because it will help you to gauge your progress throughout the semester.

From the very first day of class, you will hold in your hands the information you need to succeed. The syllabus is by far the most important and helpful document your professor will give you. Make sure you read it and understand it.

For more on how to read a syllabus, watch this video.