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We have all probably been here at least once. The professor hands out the assignment sheet, and provides a lengthy discussion about the expectations, helpful hints, and things to remember, and when the professor asks if it all makes sense, we bob our heads up and down like great students should.  Then we leave. We get home, exhausted; glad the day is over. We give ourselves a well-deserved break, and forget about the assignment for a while. A few days later, we pull it out, and for whatever reason, we have no idea what we are supposed to do, let alone get started. You start to panic, not sure how to get started.

Well, there are a few things you can try before throwing up your hands, and crying on your professor’s shoulder. First, relax; then re-read through the assignment sheet and highlight any important points. Try to get a sense for what the professor wants you to do. How do the points that you highlighted work together? Sometimes, it’s just a matter of turning longer sentences into bullet points. Whatever you are unsure about, make a list of questions. Then, email your professor and ask for clarity. This is really important. If you have a list of questions, it will make it much easier for the professor to give you more specific instructions, rather than annoying them with, “What was I supposed to do, again?” If you have time, you can go to the writing center and make an appointment with a tutor who will read through it with you.

In future, remind yourself to take notes about what the professor says about the assignment and write it directly on the assignment sheet.