Ask For Assignment Extension

Alex Kurland, Staff Illustrator

It’s two in the morning — you’ve just spent an unsettling number of hours desperately willing your brain to absorb countless formulas, dates and other random facts, shuddered through a Danforth dinner and hit the books all night only to realize that, oops, you still haven’t done that one assignment that you swore you would do the night before (but that barty was the barty of all barties and couldn’t be missed).

Starting that paper/lab/million-paged book is simply out of the question, so what do you do?

Since UR students are in fact human and therefore not nocturnal animals or robots, you probably allow yourself to sleep — but not until you’ve thought of a suitable excuse to tell your professor.

Students will frequently ask professors for extensions on assignments, citing a wide range of reasons, many of which are completely legitimate. Other huge assignments, sports commitments, religious holidays and life in general can get in the way of completing schoolwork, and there are only so many conscious hours in a day to finish it all.

More often than not, professors are sympathetic to our pleas of mercy for flexibility with a due date — after all, they are human and were most likely stressed students once too.

In fact, Maryann McCabe, a senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology finds that students who directly ask for an extension (rather than simply neglecting to hand in an assignment without an explanation) are being respectful and responsible, demonstrating a commitment to their schoolwork.

She doesn’t tend to see these excuses or exceptions negatively and is comfortable “fitting things in whenever.”

“I realize that my class is generally taken as an elective and other classes’ work may sometimes take precedence,” she said.

In her eyes, the date that an assignment is actually handed in is not important as long as it is eventually completed.  Her reasoning is that students are telling the truth when they supply reasons for being pressed for time, and her own busy schedule can leave little time for grading assignments promptly.

Anthropology Professor John Osburg is also forgiving of his students, reasoning that he “has memories of being in the same position.”  However, he is wary of students’ habits of frequently asking for extensions.

He has also picked up on certain tropes in students’ excuses for late work, such as strategically vague references to a disturbing event that has rendered the student in a “fragile emotional state” and consequently unable to work effectively.

He explained that these “incidents” are almost always referenced in the context of a sorority dilemma, but never within a fraternity.  In fact, Osburg noted that it is almost exclusively girls who ask for extensions, and boys simply hand in work late with no accompanying excuse.

“Another interesting pattern is that a much smaller number of students are apologetic,” he said.

He notes that, instead, these students seem to expect a refusal of an extension, writing in their requests assurances that they “would never usually ask for an extension, but…” and even, “I understand if you don’t want to grant me an extension…”

As college students, we may have evolved from the dog-eating-homework excuse, yet still rely on extensions and leniency from professors to salvage sleep, sanity and GPAs.

Some of us are more comfortable asking for leeway than others, and certainly some professors are more likely than others to grant it.  The student-professor relationship is based on some level of trust, which can be violated if a student takes advantage of a professor’s generosity or compassion.

So, next time you decide to spend an evening looking up humorous political cat memes online instead of writing that paper because you figure you can plead your way to an extension, think twice.  Because your professor probably won’t be able to relate to that.

Ganeles is a member of
the class of 2015.

Sometimes life gets pretty stressful with assignments on top of other priorities, especially with the last few weeks of the semester creeping up on us. Pulling an all-nighterisn’t healthy, so instead of trying to get things done all at once, maybe it’s best to ask for an extension on an assignment. An extension on an assignment can be beneficial and at times necessary for collegiettes to perform their absolute best. Here are a few tips for when you’re looking to ask for an extension.

When You Should Ask for an Extension

Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to ask for an extension on an assignment. Maybe you’re trying to spice up your project so it’s the best it can be! Shawn Kildea, an assistant professor of communication at Rider University, says that students can ask for an extension if they want to add a few elements to their project to improve it as a whole.

“If a student is working on a project and makes it clear that by having more time they can dramatically improve the piece by adding an element they can't capture in the deadline time frame, I will usually offer an extension,” he says.

It’s also worth asking for an extension on an assignment if you are struggling with unclear directions, or if you do not have the sufficient resources to complete the assignment. This could be affecting the entire class, so expressing your concerns to your professor may be the best way to go.

“I will extend a deadline if I believe that my directions were unclear or if the deadline proves too unrealistic, or if a majority of the class appears to be struggling,” said Jason Method, a journalism instructor at Rider University.

Being studious and hardworking may prove to be an advantage if you need a deadline extension.

“If a student has been doing their homework and doing well on tests or quizzes, then if they ask for an extension and offer a decent reason, I'm inclined to listen,” Method says.

How to Ask for an Extension

One of the biggest things to keep in mind when you’re planning on asking for an extension is that you shouldn’t wait until the very last minute to do so! It will look as if you’ve procrastinated, which won’t leave a good impression on your professors (or one day, on your employers).

“I always tell my students that I almost never grant a last-minute extension request,” says Barry Janes, a communications professor at Rider University.  “If they ask earlier, it shows that the assignment is on their minds, and whatever concerns or problems they are having seem more legitimate.”

If you ask early and provide a good reason, you are halfway to your extension.

Generally, you can start your request off with an email to your professor asking for the extension and giving your reason why you need one. Still not sure what to say? Give this a try:

Dear Professor ________,

I’ve been having a little bit of a hard time finding sources for my term paper, and in order for it to be the best it can be, I could really use a little extra time to research and write it. Would it be possible to have an extension for a few days?

Please let me know if you would like for me to meet with you during your office hours to discuss this further.


[Your name] 

It’s no fun to burn out and exhaust yourself mentally as you try to get all of your work done at the end of the semester. Asking for an extension may seem scary, but it’s a whole lot better than failing the assignment or the class altogether!

Sometimes asking your professor if he or she can extend a deadline is the best thing to do. The worst that your professor can say is that you can’t have an extension, but it’s worth a try!


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