What’s My Grade and other things that ARE IN THE SYLLABUS!

Before accepting the staff position with Veterans Upward Bound I spent many years on the faculty side of the university academic world. In my current role as a VUB Outreach Specialist, I use that experience to talk with our VUB participants about meeting academic expectations of faculty in the classroom today.

The first step in meeting expectations and ultimately achieving success can be found in the mystical document your professors provided in the first week of class. This document often holds all the answers to your academic concerns and provides a direct map to securing an A in the course. It can even help tell you what your grade will be without the professor saying a word or returning your graded assignment. What is the name of this all powerful document that will lead me to success you ask? It’s in the syllabus!

One of the best tips I give is to read your syllabus thoroughly and often. If you have not even glanced at your syllabus since the first week of class, you might be making your job as a student more difficult. Most classes have a very tight schedule and faculty can not spend an excessive amount of class time repeating information.  As an adult student, it is up to you to review and read your syllabus on a regular basis. If there is something you do not understand schedule an office visit or if allowed ask a targeted specific question during class. I could usually tell which students reviewed the syllabus by the questions they asked in class. My syllabus had a writing expectations section, and included a statement that “In this course students were expected to thoroughly answer questions, stay on topic, and meet format and assignment instructions. You will not be graded on your ability to fill paper with words, but on content and use of those words.” My most frustrating student question was “How long does it have to be?” My typical response, “It’s in your syllabus”. After about the 10th time answering this question my response may have included an eye roll. Students who took the time to read the syllabus and assignment instructions would ask things like, “Would you consider my personal experience with learning in the classroom as support for this paper or does it have to be from a published article?” Here, the student was asking for clarification to the instructions. My response to this type of question was usually, “Yes that is a great way to get the three support details for your opinion on how you learn best required for this assignment.” and it always omitted the eye roll. So read your syllabus and assignment instructions first, then ask. You may find you will get a more helpful response in return.

My 2nd tip is to have your own completed assignment checklist to review BEFORE submitting it for a grade. Most professors provide assignment instructions with lots of details, some even provide a grading rubric. As the student you can decide what type of effort you want to put into the assignment. Remember, minimal effort will result in a minimal grade. If you want the A at the end of the course, then put in A level effort and pay attention to the details. Writing assignments are a large part of your grade in the majority of college classes and you will need to be able to develop basic academic writing skills with an attention to detail mindset. To help get you started, we have a basic writing checklist, just click the link to see our version. Writing Assignment Checklist. This checklist is a very basic list of expectations for academic writing and should be used as a starting point. You may want to customize this for your assignments with the details.

One of the many additional services available to our VUB participants is academic preparation and support. Would like some help with understanding how to meet academic expectations? We can help with academic writing, ways to customize an assignment checklist for your class, breaking down your course syllabus, what the syllabus means to you as a student, or any area of how to meet academic expectations. Just call our office anytime at 405-974-3686 to schedule an appointment for one on one academic preparation services. We would be happy to help.