Chapter 1: The Introduction

1.2 Things to Know

Melanie Gagich

What is a Syllabus?

The syllabus is a contract between you and your instructor. Yes, a contract. By reading the syllabus and not withdrawing from a class, you are entering into a contract with your instructor and the university. This sounds scary. It isn’t, just so long as you READ THE SYLLABUS. The syllabus describes required materials, course goals, expectations, mandatory attendance policies, how you will be graded, and so on. Generally, when a question comes up about the course, you can find it on the syllabus.

What is the Attendance Policy?

Time and again, professors are asked by students, “Do I really have to come to class?” And, the answer is nearly always the same, “Yes, you really have to come to class.”

You might ask, “Is this true for all classes?” The answer is, it is definitely true for your First-Year Writing courses (ENG 100/101 and ENG 102).  The First-Year Writing Program has a strict attendance policy which is explained below:

The First-Year Writing Program Attendance Policy

  • If you do not attend class regularly, you will not pass. If you miss eight or more fifty-minute periods you will receive a course grade of “F” (fail). You may miss up to four fifty-minute periods without penalty.  Each absence beyond the fourth will reduce your grade in the course by ⅓ a letter grade (for an example, an A will become an A-, an A- will become a B+, etc.).
  • If you leave early you will be marked absent on that day. If you are ten or more minutes late to class you will be counted as tardy.  Four accumulated tardies will count as one absence.
  • You will not be granted additional absences after you have reached the maximum allowable
  • Absences required by religious observance, disability and Title IX accommodations, university-authorized activities, and military service are exempt from this policy.  In order for these absences to be excused, you must provide advance notice to your instructor, no later than the end of the second week of class.  For disability and Title IX accommodations, university-authorized activities, and military service, you must provide your instructor with appropriate documentation.
Class Meetings and Minutes Total Allowed Absences Total Absences Resulting in Failure
Three Days a Week (50 mins) 4 8
Three Days a Week (65 mins) 3 6
Four Days a Week (50 mins) 4 8
Two Days a Week (75 mins) 3 5
Two Days a Week (110 mins) 2 4
Once a Week (170 mins) 1 3

How do I Communicate with my Professors?

Part of “doing college” means understanding that how you communicate to others impacts how they perceive your maturity and/or professionalism. That said, most instructors do not mind receiving and responding to emails but often mind very much if those emails do not include a formal address/sign-off, your full name, and your class and section number. Please use the example below as a reference when crafting your emails. Review the second example of how not to communicate with your instructor.

Example Email (appropriate)

Hello Instructor/Professor/Dr. [be sure to choose the appropriate title] Last Name,

This is Sally Smith from your ENG 101 Section 12 class. After rereading the syllabus, I still do not understand XXX. Can we please meet to discuss it?

Thank you for your time.


Sally Smith

Example Email (inappropriate)


do i have to turn in my assignment 2day? can u gimme more time?


Student Hours

Another thing that may be new to you is the opportunity to work and talk one-on-one with your professor. It is one of the perks of the college environment. Instructors are required to set aside time to be available to students in their offices. In general, it is always good to introduce yourself to your professor because introductions during office hours are a great way to stand out from the crowd. Furthermore, attending student hours can help answer questions concerning difficult assignments or concepts. This is a must for students who don’t like to speak up in class. Check the syllabus to make sure you’re visiting during scheduled office hours, unless you have scheduled an appointment with the instructor via email or Starfish.

Share This Book