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Excuse Presentation 101

Its not unusual for professors to announce on the first day of a new semester that they are tired - and I mean tired - of hearing excuses. The days of late papers, overdue homework, and make-up exams, are as of the beginning of this semester finished - so much for your paper-eating dog. Once a professor I had even announced, "I am tired of killing grandmothers…most students apparently have dozens of them and it’s exhausting. No more excuses, period."

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As most of you probably inferred, that announcement did not signal an end to the bad excuses that college kids gave in English 243 or any other class. The cycle endures: Professors forbid excuses and the students keep coughing them up. The intellectual might assume that there is reason behind this madness. One might even propose that maybe a good portion of professors accept excuses after making such bold proclamations. If proven true, this is great news for the campus procrastinator and for the student with a serious emergency.

There are several ways to approach your instructors when life has tossed you a curve ball. For the most part, professors can tell the difference between when a student explains an emergency or tells an outright lie. It can be difficult, especially for freshmen who are just learning the ropes, to approach their professors when a problem arises. Here are a few suggestions that should help you explain the situation and get the extension you deserve:

Introduce Yourself to Your Professors

Before a situation arises, introduce yourself to the professor. It is critical that early in the semester, you open the lines of communication and make a point of introducing yourself to the instructor. I’m not suggesting that you ‘brown nose’ or ‘butter up’ the professor - just ask a sincere question after class one day and strike up a conversation. Also, in regards to establishing credibility, class participation goes a long way.

Talk to Your Instructors If a Conflict Arises

Talk to the teacher as soon as a conflict arises. Legitimate scheduling conflicts, family emergencies, and unforeseen circumstances always arise occasionally and prevent students from completing work and showing up to exams. When something happens, get in touch with your professor immediately. Don’t wait until the day of unless you have to - prior notice lends credibility to the circumstance.

Speak to Your Instructor in Person

Try to talk to the teacher in person. If you have to miss an exam or turn in an essay late, e-mailing your professor with an excuse is a last resort. Try to talk to them in person first. Stop by his office or make an appointment. If this doesn’t work, make a phone call. A staff directory is typically available through the university website if the instructor hasn’t given you contact information.

Provide Verification

Find a way to provide verification that your "excuse" is genuine. If the professor is reluctant to accept your excuse, authenticate the circumstance if possible. If you were late to class because of a auto-related violation, bring in a copy of the ticket. If a family member passes away, I suggest having the instructor contact your parents for confirmation. Typically, students who make excuses don’t attempt to reconcile the situation with the professor. They whine and complain, but they don’t have any clear-cut solutions. Making the effort to resolve the situation distinguishes you from the rest of the excuse makers.

Be Creative

If you are missing a class and late work is not accepted, suggest a more difficult alternative assignment. Your professor might not budge on the "no late assignments" rule, however, he might consider allowing you to substitute a more difficult project in place of the late assignment. I have found that simply suggesting an alternative usually softens the instructor’s stance on late work - he might even end up accepting the original assignment.

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