Skip to main content

Subsection 10.1.2 The Syllabus

Your Secret Weapon.

We wanted to explain the parts of professors' lives that you probably haven't thought about because it's important context for understanding their many roles, their jobs as your teachers, and how you can relate to them respectfully and productively. That being said, professors are here to teach you and every other student in their class, and they want to do that to the best of their ability while balancing their other responsibilities.

Making a request of a professor can be difficult, especially while you're still adapting to a new student-teacher dynamic, and oftentimes when a student says something disrespectful to a professor, or visa versa, it's because of a lack of thoughtfulness or understanding, not a willful malevolence. Fortunately, professors give you a secret weapon you can use when you need to make a request. It's called a syllabus. Most students don't recognize the power of the syllabus because syllabi in high school (if you even had them) tend not to be as informative as syllabi in college. In college, by contrast, there are many good reasons to read the syllabus.

Reading the syllabus can tell you . . .

  • how your professor likes to be addressed.

  • the best way to contact your professor.

  • the times that your professor offers office hours.

  • the professor's (or department's) policy on extensions and late work.

  • the professor's (or department's) policy on what constitutes cheating and what forms of collaboration are allowed.

  • how they will calculate your grade.

  • when assignments are due.

  • what materials you need for the course.

Now there's a magical day at the beginning of the semester called “syllabus day” where everyone goes to class and just does nothing! How amazing!

Tip 10.1.1.

Just kidding! The truth is, of course, that syllabus day is important. Professors reserve an entire day of class to go over the syllabus because they expect students to know their policies and assignment due dates.