An Insider’s Guide to a College Syllabus

by A Guest Author

Every single one of your college classes will have something in common – they’ll all have a syllabus. Your professor will give you your syllabus on the first day of class, or you might even have access to it sooner online.

Don’t make the mistake that many college students make and file your syllabi away to soon be forgotten. They are crucial to your success in each course. But what are they exactly, and how do you use them to your advantage? Here is an insider’s guide to a college syllabus.

Professor Contact Information

One of the most important parts about the syllabus is the contact information it contains. Your professor will list his (or her) email address and/or phone number, and he’ll tell you where and when his office hours are. He’s not telling you all this for nothing. College professors like students who contact them (for reasons other than missing class), so keep this info and use it.

Course Details

The syllabus will also list the dates, times, and locations of the course. For the absent-minded students among us, this is super important (just don’t forget where you put the syllabus). It will also list its official name/how it will appear on your transcript.
Required Materials

Here is where you’ll find a list of the books that are required, as well as any other required materials. You may also find optional ones listed. As much as it pains your wallet, buy all the required books and materials as soon as possible.

Course Overview

There will be a general overview of the course, and you’ll get a description of what you’ll be learning and the topics that will be covered. This definitely worth a read so you’re prepared for what’s to come. And if you realize that the subject matter just isn’t for you, you’ll be able to drop the class now before it’s too late.


The single most important part about your syllabus is the schedule. Your professor will list out a course schedule, and some will write a more detailed one than others. Some professors will list every class date and what will be covered that day, which is very helpful if you miss a class. You will just about always find a reading schedule, due dates for papers/assignments, and exam dates. Keep a master agenda or calendar, and immediately put these days (and dates from all your syllabi) into it. Immediately!

Attendance Policy/Grading

This is the other most important part of your syllabus. Your professor will list the attendance policy – pay very close attention to it and follow it. Missing too much class could significantly lower your grade or even fail you. You’ll also find a grading plan that will let you know how you’ll be graded and how much weight each assignment/test/requirement holds toward your final grade.

Other Info

Syllabi will often include other info, depending on the professor. There will usually be conduct guidelines and participation requirements – read them and follow them! Anything else your professor includes in the syllabus warrants close attention because if it’s on there, it’s important to them (and to your grade).

About The Author:

Mark Weatherford is a high school English teacher and father who likes helping students survive their college experience. He loves to write and checks his work with the help of a grammar checker.

Photo Credit: Nautical Nightmares

This post was written by A Guest Author

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