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Getting Organized

ORGANIZE YOUR SEMESTER

Each of your professors has given you a syllabus, or course outline. A syllabus is not just a list of assignments and due dates, but a source of information on policies, test types, and final grade calculation. Whether one page or ten, the syllabus is a plan to follow, a road map of the professor’s expectations. And, professors expect you to read your syllabus and keep up with class assignments on your own—they certainly do not appreciate exclamations such as “You mean there’s a test in here this Friday?!”

Below, you will find a chart that you should fill in as directed. Ideally, in the future you should fill in a chart like this during the first week of classes. Clearly outlining course requirements will help you to set priorities and plan your time accordingly, thereby reducing anxiety and confusion.

HOW TO COMPLETE THE CHART

  1. Collect all of your syllabi. Sit down with your chart and pull all needed information from each syllabus, transferring it to the chart.
  2. Under COURSE, list each course title, with your most difficult course at the top, to indicate its high priority, and your easiest course at the bottom. Under each course title, set a goal by adding the final grade you want to earn in that course.
  3. Under PROFESSOR, record name, office hours, office building and room and phone number. Plan to visit each professor’s office hours during the first several weeks of classes to introduce yourself and to ask any questions you may have. If you get acquainted with each professor early, especially in your most difficult courses, you’ll be more likely to seek help regularly, before problems with grades can arise. Seeing this entry on your chart will remind you to do this.
  4. Under EXAMS, briefly list the dates and types of each test and how much each one counts towards your final grade (ex., midterm 30%). Do the same under PROJECTS/PAPERS and again for OTHER, for courses in which homework, quiz grades, or critiques contribute to your final grade. Leave blanks for any courses in which these do not apply. These three spaces show you, at a glance, exactly what you have to do — and when — to earn the final grade you desire.
  5. Under ATTENDANCE POLICY and LATE & MAKEUP POLICY, note any special requirements. There will be wide variations on these; you need to know that four absences in one course will cause your grade to drop, while in another case you have more leeway. Your chart will make it easy to note individual requirements that can affect your grades.
  6. Post your completed chart where you will see it every day. Seeing all of your course demands condensed onto one sheet of paper, rather than spread out over five multi-page syllabi, is the first step in organizing and balancing your approach to the semester.
  7. Immediately transfer all of the important dates you have listed — for tests, papers, projects — to your semester calendar, tying this essential information into your long-range time-management system.

TIME MANAGEMENT

Another good tool for wrapping your head around what you need to do daily, weekly, monthly, and throughout the semester, is to fill out the Time Managment Worksheet (PDF).

Also, take advantage of the Time Management Workshops offered through the Learning Skills Center.