It’s back to school time, and many people want to start their new school year off on the right foot, as organized as possible. I’m here to help, because after eight semesters of college, I finally figured out how to most effectively parse a syllabus for the semester. When you get your syllabi, these are four things to do to prepare to have a great and organized semester and stay on top of your assignments!

Figure out how you’ll keep up with weekly work

I’m one of those crazy people who really does try and do her readings for every class, but I’m not good about checking my syllabi every time I open a book or I’ll forget an entire class altogether, so I had to find a new system for myself, and it is one that a lot of my friends have since stolen and adapted for their own schedules. Every semester I took 4-5 classes and each had weekly readings, so I create a Google sheet using every  single syllabi where I put in every single reading and assignment for the upcoming semester. It takes a bit to put it all in there, but it is SO worth it. I like Google sheets rather than a printed out aspect because I can hide rows when they are finished, highlight what I have and haven’t done, and adjust things when inevitably a professor changes something.

Here’s what it looks like:

Mark down any major assignments in multiple places

Major essays, problem sets, poster presentations, et cetera should be noted early on in the semester, especially if you’re taking multiple classes. No one wants to realize three days before they are due that they have two essays due in one week. But if you know ahead of time,you can handle that. I not only put major assignments like essays and problem sets into my regular syllabi tracker but I also write them into my paper agenda not only on the weekly pages but on the MONTHLY pages so I can see them ahead of time whether I’m looking for them or not. It helps you plan ahead and keeps your eye on the future.

Discussion posts online? Plan for them

When I started college, I was alarmed to find out that not only was I expected to do the reading and talk about it in class, I had to contribute to an online discussion board each week. As someone new to that game, it was a bit difficult for me to remember to do it. Sure, you can put it on your assignment google sheet for each week, but I found more succeed making a reminder on my phone for the same time each week, shortly before the topic was due, when I knew I would be at a meal or somewhere else I could log online and write.

To do the discussion posts, you pretty much have to have done the reading, so don’t plan your discussion posts before you reasonably know you’ll have done the reading. It might also be useful to create a little section in your notebook for that class marking that you’ve done the discussion post once you completed the reading.

Note how your grade comes together

Every teacher is different, but a common occurrence on syllabi is a grade breakdown.

What this little image is telling you is yes, you’ll have two tests and two projects,but you also better be keeping up with your discussion board posts because that’s 20% of your grade! Without these inclusions on syllabi, I think a lot of people who discount how much something means to their grade, so be sure to take a long look at it. See here, discussion board posts matter more than a single test! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study for the tests, but if you don’t do as well as you wanted, keep in mind it isn’t the end of the world. Noting how your grade comes together in formats like this also helps you predict your grade as assingments come back to you from your professor so there are no end of term surprises.

RELATED READ: A Step-by-Step Guide To Using Your Planner This Year

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member