Six Tips for a successful Semester

Fear the semester no more!

The fall semester might be challenging, but with the tips below, you’ll be ready to conquer the semester.

You must first be mindful of what is expected of you in a course. Read the syllabus carefully to understand what you will learn and what your assignments look like. Write down all the due dates in a planner and organize your time accordingly.

Use the office hours on the syllabus to meet with your professor or TA. You can ask them as many questions as you want, and they will happily help you. The Student Success Center also offers a wide range of learning services that you can find on Concordia’s website. Countless workshops are crafted to help you better navigate your semester. 

Volunteering on campus is a rewarding experience that allows you to make connections and improve your confidence. Say you’re in journalism, you could join Concordia’s radio station, but if you are a JMSB student, you could be part of one of the committees at John Molson. Volunteering will allow you to get hands-on experience in your program of studies. You can find all student clubs on Concordia’s website under Student Life and find the best match for you. 

Regular physical activity can improve your memory, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boost your self-confidence. I find exercising to be a form of self-love, because you get to challenge yourself to push through, spend time alone and improve your overall well-being in the long term. In the EV building downtown, Le Gym offers both online and in-person fitness classes. If you are interested in martial arts, aerobics, dance or yoga, among others, now is your time to sign up!

Many students struggle to balance classes, social life, volunteering, working and paying bills. After a hectic day, you might feel a little overwhelmed and drained. It’s essential to spend time looking for a relaxation technique that helps soothe your anxiety. That could be mediating, breathing exercises, or practicing mindfulness. Sleep is another vital aspect—insufficient sleep can affect mood and intensify stress. It is recommended for adults in our age range to get at least seven hours of sleep. 

If you have concerns regarding your mental health and need professional help, Concordia offers counseling and psychological services. You can book an appointment online on Concordia’s website under Health & Wellness. 

The last thing you want to experience is going through all the course material a night before the due date. Find yourself a study space that will keep you motivated and focused. Concordia’s Webster Library, downtown, is open 24 hours. Make sure to be consistent and plan your study time. Also, turning your phone off for a while can be a game-changer. 

Have a successful semester!



Syllabus or Sylla-BYE

A survey into the importance of syllabus week

You’re sitting on the couch, glass of red wine in hand, soaking up the last few days of winter break. You feel a buzz coming from somewhere under the layers of knitted blankets. You sift through them to finally find your cell phone glowing with a new email notification: “FART 201 SYLLABUS, WINTER 2022.”

You groan but swipe through to the PDF, skimming through the information. You’re desperately trying not to sob when you see the group project worth 50 per cent of your grade. Towards the end of the document, you see the classic section entitled “Plagiarism” that details the most deadly academic crime a student can commit.

But something is off…

Have you ever noticed that the paragraphs about plagiarism seem to be copy-pasted from syllabus to syllabus, often without proper citation?

You can thank me later.

That hilarious yet blatant instance of hypocrisy has caused me to think deeply about the syllabus and what it stands for. If such an important document contains such dissonance, is it really the best way to transmit all the details of a course?

A syllabus is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a summary outline of a discourse, treatise, or course of study or of examination requirements,” or some other lengthy combination of words that could be summarized easily. The syllabus is often considered a type of contract between the professor giving a course and their students. It’s the road map that provides those taking the class with an overview of what is expected of them, and what they can expect from the professor.

While syllabi have a noble and crucial goal, I was tempted to question whether they actually reach the student population.

In a recent and incredibly sound survey (a poll conducted on my private Instagram account), 82 per cent of the 234 people who answered read their course syllabi. I was definitely not expecting this overwhelming majority. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, and have unrealistically low expectations when it comes to university students reading long and repetitive packets of information… or my friends are just overachievers.

That being said, the poll was unable to measure the level of thoroughness which students go through the course outline. Last semester, a professor from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Kenyon Wilson, performed a mini social experiment on his students, during which he included instructions to find a $50 bill in his syllabus after telling his students to read it thoroughly. At the end of the semester, no one claimed the cash. There are two lessons here: we might not be as rigorous as we ought to be in our syllabus-reading and our professors should definitely incentivize students with money to do the bare minimum.

In another Instagram poll, I found that only 37 per cent of the 222 people who answered pay attention during the syllabus class, which is the first lecture of the semester during which some professors go over course content and take questions or concerns, taking it as far as reading the document word for word.

What was interesting was that a handful of the people who don’t read the syllabus do pay attention during the syllabus class, showing that though it can be redundant for those who read the course outline, others find that class necessary or a more effective way to retain the information.

Still, I’ve been pondering ways to make syllabi and the syllabus class more interactive, but all I could come up with is a shared Google Calendar or a hologram of your professor that appears on your shoulder whenever something is due.

So, it seems like syllabi are here to stay, and when used to their full potential, they’re helpful organizational tools. And who knows, maybe your professors will be inspired by Wilson’s experiment, so read carefully this syllabus season! (If they aren’t, you can always consider a strongly worded email to Concordia administration demanding cash for reading…).


Graphics by James Fay

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