Throwback to one year ago- I’m in my first semester of my freshman year at Western University. The craziness of O-week has finally faded away, I don’t get lost on my way to class anymore, I’ve finally figured out which residence shower has the best water pressure, and even though it’s only been a month, I find out that I have a midterm the upcoming weekend.
As it was not the middle of the term, this came as quite a shock.
After cramming for the worst midterm of my life, I think I spent about two full days flipping through the numerous syllabus papers I was given in the first week of school, trying to make sense of them. The first step was to find them, as they had been discarded somewhere in my dorm room. I began writing down my due dates and readings on post-it notes, which quickly failed. I tried making a master list of everything school-related, but that was just overwhelming. I tried writing everything down in my personal agenda, but that also proved to be useless.
I can’t say that I’ve always been the most organized student, but I quickly realized that this skill becomes essential in the university atmosphere.
Unlike high school, you are individually responsible for staying on top of your academic work. No one is going to tell you that you have to write an essay two weeks in advance because you’re going to need the extra time to study for an upcoming test. As cliché as it sounds, no one is going to hold your hand.
The handy little syllabus that you’re given on the first day of class is the single most important document that you’ll ever receive. You need to centre your life around it and find the most effective way to use it. What ended up working for me was the 4-month calendar. On it, I listed the dates for every assignment, every paper, and every midterm. Essentially, it became a comprehensive guide on how to survive the semester.
While this advice may seem like common sense to some, if you haven’t discovered the glory of the syllabus yet, you’re missing out.