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How to Get an Extension from a Professor

Every college student is familiar with the feeling of panic that occurs when you're an hour away from a paper deadline a few hundred (or thousand) words from the end of your paper.

If you'd asked for an extension, you wouldn't be this stressed out, but an hour ahead of time is much too late to ask, and a half-finished paper is likely to get you a failing grade. So to keep this from happening, follow these guidelines to ask a professor for an extension.

When to Ask for an Extension: Circumstances

There are a variety of reasons why you may not be able to make a class deadline, and you should always explain yours to your professor. While professors may be sympathetic to last-minute emergencies, they also understand that students are juggling a lot. If you know three weeks before a paper is due that you have two other papers due that week, approach your professor to explain the circumstances and offer a plan that allows you to do your best on each paper.

If you are seeking a last-minute extension, try to get documented proof such as a doctor's note or one from your boss. Unfortunately, if you can't make the deadline because you procrastinated or partied, you probably won't get an extension. If you are in college, you are an adult, and professors expect you to behave as such.

When to Ask for an Extension: Timing

Except in the case of extreme emergencies, extensions should be requested at minimum one class period or two days before the due date. Most papers due dates are in the syllabus, letting you know well ahead of time when you should start working. If you stay current with your homework, you should know at least one class period ahead of time whether you will or will not be able to complete a paper or project. Once you've secured your extension, take the initiative to create a new due date, which should not be more than one week after the original one. This tells the professor that you are responsible and planning to get it done.

The Place to Ask a Professor for an Extension

Depending on your professor's preferred form of communication and the structure of the class, extension requests should be submitted in person or through e-mail. If the emergency that's keeping you from writing the paper is also keeping you out of class, e-mail is fine, provided that yours is well-written, carefully edited, and explains the situation thoroughly. If you really want to demonstrate responsibility and maturity to your professor, schedule an office appointment to explain the situation in person.

Two Reminders About College Paper Extensions

First, don't be afraid to ask your professor for an extension. Most professors understand that sometimes, circumstances are beyond your control and emergencies arise. Second, don't take it personally if you don't get your extension. Many professors simply do not grant extensions. They may deny your request, but you shouldn't be docked points just for asking.

It may be intimidating to consider trying to get an extension from a professor, but remember that your professors want you to succeed just as much as you do. Just make sure that you plan ahead, show maturity and respect, and maybe start working a little earlier next time.

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