4 The Syllabus

Students often label the first day of a college class as “Syllabus Day.” It’s partially a complaint that the first day of class is spent reviewing the course . While course policies aren’t always terribly exciting, they are important. Think of a course’s syllabus as a contract between the instructor and you. This contract is an agreement: the instructor establishes the subject, how it will be taught, and how you will be evaluated. You accept this contract by staying in the course. Additionally, the syllabus also provides important information such as the instructor’s office hours and how to contact the instructor.

Why is the syllabus important?

Questions like these can usually be answered by reading the syllabus:

  • Do we have a final exam?
  • Where is your office?
  • When are your office hours?
  • How many major assignments do we have?

Many instructors have had an experience like this one:

Student: I stopped by your office hours on Tuesday, but you weren’t there.

Instructor: I don’t have office hours on Tuesday; my office hours are posted in the syllabus.

In this example, the student has wasted her time because she didn’t reference available information. Additionally, the issue that led her to the office has not been resolved. A conscientious student should be knowledgeable about the course and should know details like the instructor’s office hours, or how the course grade will be determined. The syllabus provides this information.

How many papers will you be required to write in this course? How many total points make up your final grade? What’s the name of the text we’re going to use in class? Where can I get the book? Will my instructor ever accept late work? What happens if I miss a class? The answer to all of these questions can be found in one place: the . Whether your instructor gives you a paper copy of your syllabus or posts one online, be sure to read it. The syllabus will prepare you for the course.


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Writing and Rhetoric by Heather Hopkins Bowers, Anthony Ruggiero, and Jason Saphara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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