When you are in high school, you might get some sort of overview of what the class is going to be about, but rarely will you see a syllabus. So if you are in a college class, and the first day of school the professor hands out some papers, let me explain what they are handing out to you in the first place. The professor is handing you a syllabus, or a description of how every class is going to be run, and a rough schedule of what each class is going to be about.
This is a very good tool to have if you are a college student, and it helps the professors out as well. The professors are going to hand this out to you because it helps you figure out what is going on for the semester. It helps the professors out as well because it helps keep them organized, and they know too what is coming up. With professors and students having such busy lives in the college setting, it helps you keep track of what you are going to need for the day.
Understanding the syllabus is pretty easy. Just look at what the date of the class is, and see what is listed on the date of the class. On that date will be any reading that needs to be done, any papers or projects due, and anything else that you are going to need for that day. Any special readings, class trips, or assignments will be noted. Keep track of that, and make sure you ask the professor if you are unclear of what is expected.
Using your syllabus is good for a lot of reasons. It will give you a heads up for what is due, what is happening, and how you can plan your day ahead of time. There might be a situation where you will have to miss class. Whether it be due to being sick, tired, or just needing the time for something else, you will know if you can get away with missing the class or not. Each student is usually allowed to miss up to one weeks worth of classes.
If you see that you just have a reading due, you might be able to skip that class, and just go ahead and write your term paper for another class. Knowing this ahead of time can help you plan your entire schedule for the day, and know where you might be able to buy time for a big paper as opposed to staying up all night and being unable to function for the whole day, as opposed to one class being missed.
Your syllabus is a nice little cheat sheet for how the class is going to go. Don’t lose it, because it tells you exactly what you are going to need for each class. Your professor is going to expect that you keep it handy, and won’t always remind you if something is due, so you need to have that to keep with you so you know what is going on. Your syllabus is your friend, so make sure you don’t lose it!