What Is a Syllabus? And why is it important?

It is safe to say that the syllabus is likely the single most important document in any course you will take at university. This unusual word comes from medieval latin for “list” but is actually based on the misspelling of a greek word. While that is a story for another time, the syllabus is a comprehensive road map to your course. It covers everything the professor wants you to know about how to be successful in a given class. While they may differ slightly from course to course, every syllabus (should) contain the same basic information.

1. Who is teaching your course? The syllabus will contain the name of the instructor, their contact details, and office hours.

2. Where and when? It will also have the time and place of classes for the semester. It may also contain the due dates for specific assignments as well as schedule for quizzes/tests, and the final exam.

3. What is needed? There will be a list of any required text books, readings, or materials you will need for class. In most cases, you will not need these items on the first day, so there is no need to panic if you do not have the syllabus before the class begins.

4. How does this all work? The rules and policies will tell you what the the instructor expects of you and how the class will operate. It may even cover issues such as late assignments and being tardy to class.

These are just the basics, but they do give an indication of just how important this document is to your success. It may be given to you on paper, but it is more likely found online. Depending on the instructor, this may be elaborate, simple, fun, or a bit boring. The important thing is that you read it carefully, transferring critical dates to your calendar with enough warning about deadlines so that you can take action. If anything in your syllabus is unclear, be sure to ask the instructor for clarification as you will be expected to follow the rules, guidelines, and procedures it covers.

It is likely that no one will remind you, so do take note of all the basics as mentioned above and be prepared ahead of time to lessen your stress.

Copyright Ⓒ Juvenis Maxime 2023

Author: Kenneth Knox