3 Things You Should Do With Your Syllabus

College has many perks that high school doesn’t have. My absolute favorite? That beautiful syllabus that a professor hands out, or puts online, that shows you the dates of every single assignment. And yet, hundreds of students make absolutely no use of this god-send. But not anymore. I’m going to tell you exactly what you should be doing with your syllabus.


1// Read It through

Before you write or highlight or do anything with your syllabus, the first thing you need to do is read your syllabus. You might not have to read every single word, but you definitely want to read the class procedures, objectives, and every single word of the assignments and their breakdowns. These are the essentials to any class.

2// Create a Contact List

Now that you’ve read things through, you’ll want to create a list of contact information. This should include the name of your class, the full first and last name of your professor or TA along with their title, their email address, and their office room and hours.

I typically write these down however if you have terrible handwriting, type it up and print it out. Regardless, you’ll want to keep it in a place you’re going to be able to easily find, like in front of your desk or in a file folder.

3// Create an Assignment Schedule

The list of assignments with a due date are my absolute favorite part of every syllabus I’ve gotten into college. I can plan nearly my entire semester simply because I know exactly what weeks I’m going to need 3 cups of hot chocolate (or tea) per day or what days I can basically sit around and read. However, in order to do that type of planning, you need to put all of your assignments in one place.

The inspiration for my assignment schedule comes from this take on an assignment schedule by Dani at Dani Dearest. I really liked her assignment schedule, so I took the idea and tweaked it a bit to fit me. So here’s how I did it:

|| Create a 5 Columned Spread Sheet ||

Open Excel and label the first 5 columns (A – E) with the following:

  • Check
  • Day
  • Date Due
  • Class
  • Assignment

|| Set up the Months ||

Underneath the headings, I merged the cells and wrote in the first month of the semester. Then I skipped about 30 lines and wrote the same thing with the next month. I repeated that until I had finished all the months in the semester, or term.

|| Enter Assignments ||

Now is the time to bring up that syllabus. Because almost all professors will have their syllabus online, just download it and copy and paste the assignments. I go through this one class at a time, enter every assignment under every month and then move on. There is the option of going by month where you enter the assignments for every class under the first month, then the assignments for every class in the second month, and so on. Either way works and it’s all up to you.

While you’re inputting the assignments, I recommend centering and bolding the assignment description of every exam, paper, or project so that you can easily see it.

Please not that you should ignore putting in the symbol for the day of the week into the spreadsheet. We’ll do that in a later step to make your life easier.

|| Order by Date ||

And now we get to actually make this document useful to you.

First, you want to select every cell in the first 5 columns within the month. Then click the A-Z Button which you should find in the toolbar in the far right. Then select “Sort Smallest to Largest” in the drop box that appears.

If that’s not an option, select “Custom Sort”. A box should pop up and then you can select to sort by Column C and that should automatically fill in the order by smallest to largest. Then click ok.

There you go, that should sort that entire month’s assignments by date. All you have to do is repeat that process for the rest of the months.

|| Fill in the Days ||

At this point, the only columns that should be empty are the “Day” and “Check”. To fill in the Day column, you’re going to need a calendar to look at.

With your calendar, go down the list and of assignments and fill in what day corresponds to that date. Because all of the days are in order, it should be much faster than if you were to do them while filling in your assignments in the second step.

|| Set up the Weeks ||

With all of your assignments in order, we’re going to break it down even further by indicating weeks. I do this so I can easily add a week’s assignment to my Bullet Journal without having to rely on checking dates by themselves. And, I think it makes the spreadsheet look a little nicer.

In the toolbar, there is a box next to the underline command. Click on the arrow next to that box and a drop down menu labeled “Borders” should appear. Then select the option that says “Bottom Border”.

Now you’re going to go down the list and highlight the row that corresponds to the last assignment in a week. Then you’re going to click on the box that next to the underline command. Continue doing this until you get all the way through the spreadsheet.

|| Making Use of the Spreadsheet ||

Now we’ve created this list of all the important assignments, you need to make use of the spreadsheet.

I keep mine saved on my desktop so I can pull it up whenever I need to. Every week I write down my assignments in my Bullet Journal so I can plan each day in better detail. When I start an assignment, I put a backslash (\) next to the assignment in the check box. When I finish an assignment, I replace the backslash with an ‘X’.  And once I’ve turned in the assignment, I highlight the row bright yellow.

Creating this spreadsheet saved my grade a number of times last semester. And it shows me, way in advance, which weeks are going to be hell and which are going to be heavenly.

Those are my tricks to making full use of your syllabus. I’m particularly partial to my assignment spreadsheet and I hope you guys find some use for it.

What do you do with your syllabus? How do you keep track of your assignments?