Preparing for Post-Secondary: Part Five

Have you been accepted to a post-secondary educational institution? Congratulations! Now what? 

Part Five: Reading your Syllabus and Talking to your Instructors

Transitioning to post-secondary education will be a different experience for everyone. It is important for individuals with diagnosed or suspected learning differences to be proactive in preparing for this new experience.  

Reading a Syllabus

A syllabus is an important document that outlines a course’s content, expectations, and structure. It can help you understand what to expect from the course throughout the semester.

  1. Begin by carefully reading the introduction of the syllabus, which typically includes the course title, instructor’s name, contact information, office hours, and an overview of the course objectives. 
  2. Read the course objectives thoroughly, so you understand what to expect and what is expected of you. The course objectives can help you to know what the learning outcomes will be. 
  3. Check the required textbooks and/or materials list and acquire them as far in advance as possible.
  4. Carefully review the assessment and grading section. It should outline the grading scale, types of assessments, their value, and their due dates. Understanding how your performance will be measured can help you plan your study time and assignment workload. 
  5. Some instructors include attendance and participation policies in their syllabi. If your instructor has this in their syllabus, note how your attendance and/or participation will be tracked and graded. 
  6. Thoroughly read through any policies related to late submissions, academic integrity, plagiarism, technology use, and any other specific guidelines from the instructor. Adhering to these policies is essential to maintain a positive learning environment. 

Connect with your Instructor(s)

Once you have read the course syllabus, contacting your instructor(s) to introduce yourself and ask any questions is a good idea.

  1. When communicating with your instructor(s), address them using their professional title and last name to show respect.
  2. Instructors usually have office hours designated for student visits. Take advantage of these hours to ask questions, discuss concerns, or seek clarification. Otherwise, email your instructor(s) to book an appointment.
  3. When emailing your instructor(s), use a descriptive subject. Begin with a polite greeting, include your full name and the course, and be concise and clear about your question(s). Conclude your email with an appropriate salutation.
  4. If you plan to meet your instructor(s), be well-prepared. Have your questions, notes, and other relevant materials ready to discuss. During conversations, actively listen to your instructor’s responses.
  5. Instructors often have very busy schedules, so be mindful of how much of their time you are taking during conversations or email exchanges. Following any conversation or email exchange, express your gratitude, which can go a long way in building rapport.

Your syllabus and your instructor(s) are meant to support your academic experience and growth. By carefully reading the syllabus and connecting with your instructors, you set yourself up for better preparedness, effective time management, and a positive course outcome.  

Have more questions about preparing for a new schedule? Please email us

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This post is part five of a five-part series on preparing for post-secondary education with a learning difference; Part One: Accessibility Services, Part Two: Registering for Courses, Part Three: Transitioning to a New Schedule and Part Four: Reading your Program Calendar and Finding Resources.

– Becky Bishop, Lead Instructor and Adult Program Manager

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