Family Emergency?
Your Instructor Needs to Know

Emergencies do happen. Even though your instructor may have warned you that there is no excuse for missing a quiz or turning in a paper beyond the deadline, he or she may see things in a different light if it's a true emergency. Here are some things you can do to mitigate the consequences of missing class:

1. For a recurring medical condition that you know may keep you home unexpectedly on some days: Let the instructor know about it early in the term. Schedule a meeting during office hours and make it clear you are not asking for relief from required work, but for some allowance for turning in work late if you are unable to attend on an important day.

2. For an emergency: If possible, phone in or email and leave word. Many faculty have answering machines and will get your message even if they're not in the office when you call. Leave a number where you can be reached. If you don't know where you'll be, leave the number of a friend or relative who could relay the message to you. In addition many faculty check their email regularly.

3. For a situation when you know in advance you can't make a class: Tell the instructor as soon as you know. Even if the excuse seems unimportant to everyone but you, it's always worth asking; do it early so there's more of a possibility that arrangements can be made for you to turn in work early or make up work when you return.

At some colleges your academic advisor or counselor or the student services office can distribute a memo to all of our instructors to inform them of the emergency, especially if you will be missing classes for a week or more.

Even if you missed an important quiz or deadline for dubious reasons, let your instructor know anyway. It's better to make a fool of yourself by admitting you overslept or even forgot a paper was due or left the essay at home than to get a zero. Instructors forget or leave things at home, too, and may give you the benefit of the doubt.

Remember: It's better to tell the truth, no matter how ridiculous it makes you seem. Sometimes you'll strike out, but you never know. If you are polite and reasonable in your approach, you may be surprised how willing your instructor is to help you in your dilemma.

Last Updated: 6/7/12