At the beginning of each semester, many classes go through a period that students lovingly refer to as “Syllabus Week.” This phrase comes from the sometimes true stereotype that professors won’t start teaching anything during the first week of class, instead using class time to go over their schedule for the semester, expectations of the class and classroom policies. Professors will talk about any large projects that the class may have, and then answer any questions students may pose. These first few days help students ease back into the daily grind before beginning any actual assignments.
For some professors, the syllabus is almost immediately forgotten about, and only referenced for major due dates and the date of the final exam. Many professors like to have a more fluid approach to their class than the strict daily schedule that might be outlined in their syllabus. For others, the syllabus is exactly what is going to happen each day in class, from daily readings down to homework assignments that might not be announced in class.
I learned that lesson the hard way last spring in one of my business classes. One day, everyone around me turned in paper after paper to the front of the classroom, while I just sat there confused. A quick glance at the syllabus told me that we had had essay questions due that day in class and I had missed them. Luckily, I was able to turn in the assignment later for partial credit, but you can bet that I never forgot another set of questions.
What is more likely to happen is that your professor uses the syllabus as a guide for the course. All of the important information you’ll need over the semester will be in there, including requirements and guidelines for turning in assignments, test dates and an overview of the course material. However, each day might not be exactly what was written in the syllabus.
Professors allow time for questions and more detailed explanations, meaning that your class might spend an extra day or two on the tough concepts and might speed through others. If the pace of your class seems too fast or too slow, talk to your professor. They might see students struggling with the material and will do what they can to help everyone succeed. However, it is up to you to do the work to get that grade you want.
My advice: don’t forget about your syllabus. Don’t bury it in the back of your binder behind all your other work. Use it for reference, but don’t let what’s in it bind you to doing the minimum required to pass.