Syllabus week: A fun or focused fresh start?


Cartoon by Audrey Meyer

Cartoon by Audrey Meyer

After the long—although not long enough—winter break, there was plenty to talk about: old flings back home, gifts you got for Christmas and, most importantly, which new show on Netflix was worth watching.

In the midst of all this, classes have started and the familiar struggle of getting into a new semester makes its way onto campus. The first week of classes usually means that the infamous syllabi are handed out, giving students “the heads up” about the excitement and/or torment of the upcoming semester. The workload is minimal, as each beginning of a semester is, so the real question during the coming weeks is this: Should we let loose or crack down?

Sophomore Cayla Collins thinks these starter weeks should not be a time of stress.

“We should be easing into school right now,” Collins said. “This is the time to hang out with friends and have a little fun before we have to get back into full study and school mode.”

As the semester drags on, homework and projects tend to accumulate. The term “social life” will change drastically in meaning, and having a night to yourself will mean having your own booth in the science library.

By the end of last semester, I was so swamped with work that I had someone ask me if I had been at home the past few weeks. Though I was happy my disappearance had not gone unnoticed, I was saddened to think how much I had missed and how much I missed everyone.

Why shouldn’t you allow yourself the beginning of the semester to have fun?

Unfortunately, it is way too easy, in my experience, for the first few weeks to extend into the first few months.

I could very easily lay on my futon this entire week and get everything done, but when the work starts piling up and I need to be hitting the books, it becomes increasingly harder to get off my ass and get to the library.

Sophomore Kristen Koehl feels that if she doesn’t get into a routine now, then she won’t get into one later.

“I have to start off the semester already going to the library,” she said, “or taking time to sit at Starbucks and read my textbook chapters because if I don’t start now, then I will develop the habit of never going and never studying.”

There needs to be a balance during these first few weeks.

What works for me is setting aside two or three days during the week that I will do my work, get a drink at Starbucks, and really be motivated. That gives me the other few days to lay with my friends and watch a movie, read a book on my Kindle or just lay in bed and drift in and out of an amazing nap.

This gives me the basic structure of a routine so that I don’t get off track the rest of the semester. It also gives me time to have fun while the workload is still light.

English professor Dan Barden has a different view of the first weeks of school, which I found quite refreshing. He doesn’t provide a syllabus during the first week because he wants to get to know his students and for them to get to know him. He feels as if this week is for his students to understand his teaching techniques and decide whether the course is right for them.

“The way I teach is very different,” Barden said. “It is a bit unorganized and I want students to get a feel if they can handle how I teach.”

Barden emphasizes that class is meant for people to learn and that a syllabus can be a way to see the minimal amount of work you can do instead of focusing on the learning itself.

As a student it is your job to decide how to handle the first few weeks of the semester. Only you can know what is most conducive to the success of the rest of your semester.

My advice is this: Find your perfect balance between hard work and fun, so that you can set the tone for another fantastic semester.