How to Ask a Professor for a Paper Extension
Maybe you just broke up with your significant other, have become suddenly ill, or are just completely swamped with other homework. There are a myriad of honest reasons you probably won't have your paper in on time. It can seem intimidating or even embarrassing to ask for an extension, but most professors are willing to hear you out. Asking politely and promptly just might attract your professor's compassion.
Formulating Your Reason
Double-check your course’s policies.Before you actually ask your professor, read over the class syllabus and any other course policies. Sometimes professors will say if they automatically grant extensions, are willing to consider them in certain circumstances, or have a no-extension policy.
- Knowing what your professor’s rules are, and what they’re willing to do, will help you phrase your request correctly.
Show evidence if you say you are sick.A serious illness, like the flu, is a reasonable cause to ask for an extension. You don’t have to go into great detail about your illness; most professors won’t want to hear about this. Be aware that some professors to ask for a doctor’s note or other evidence, evident.
- Keep it simple. For example: “Professor Thompson, I came down with a bad flu over the weekend and need more time to work on my paper. Could I have an extension please? I’d be happy to show you documentation from the University Health Services."
Be honest about personal emergencies.If there is a death or grave illness in the family, or some other unexpected hardship, this is a good reason to ask for a paper extension. Many professors would be willing to grant extensions in genuine cases of personal emergencies, but don’t abuse this possibility.
- Try something like "Dear Professor Thompson, I'm sorry to say that last night my great Aunt Maude passed away. I'm with my family right now and will be attending the funeral. I was planning on completing my paper for your class tomorrow, but given the circumstances, could I ask for a two-day extension?"
- A professor may or may not ask for some kind of documentation of the emergency, so don’t go this route if you’re unable to back up your story.
Let your professor know if you are swamped with work.Professors understand that you may be taking several classes at once, and have other things going on in your life as well. Sometimes you need an extension because you are overloaded. It’s worth trying to ask for one if this is the case.
- Stress that you need this kind of extension to write a good paper, e.g. “I’m requesting an extension because I’m overloaded with three exams all taking place on the day the paper is due. I want to do well on this paper and give it the attention it deserves, and another day or two would really help.”
Go the strength in numbers route.A group of students could collectively ask a professor for an extension if they all have an exam or other commitment that is taking away from time they need to spend on a paper. If several people all ask a professor for an extension, it can be more convincing than asking on your own.
- Say something like “Professor Thompson, 7 of us in your class are also enrolled in CHEM 220, and we have an exam on the same day the paper is due. Could we have a one-day extension so we can have enough time to write strong papers?”
Keep it simple.Whatever your reason for asking for an extension, don’t wear your professor down with endless explanations. Just get straight to the point, ask why you need an extension, and thank your professor for considering.
- If you need an extension because you caused yourself to get behind in your schoolwork, accept responsibility and ask for the extension anyway. Most professors will appreciate the honesty.
Ask as soon as possible.Professors are much more likely to grant an extension if you ask before the paper is due. Ask as soon as you think you might need one, rather than the night before the deadline, or afterwards.
- The exception to this, of course, is an unexpected emergency, such as a family death or being rushed to the hospital.
Approach your professor in-person.Talking one-on-one with your professor will help show them you are being honest in saying you need an extension. When you think you need an extension, visit the professor during office hours or at least ask to talk to them for a minute after class.
Email to ask your professor about an extension.If you’re sick, away, or it’s the weekend you might not be able to approach your professor in person. In that case, plan to write a polite email to ask for more time to write the paper.
- Your professor likely teaches multiple classes. Write your class and time in the subject.
Decide how long the extension will be.An extension should give you a reasonable amount of time to complete the paper, based on how long you’ve already had to work on it, and on how much you’ve finished. Think about your professor’s personality when deciding how long of an extension to ask for.
- If your professor seems strict, leave it entirely up to them to decide how long of an extension to grant. You may just have to take what you can get.
- If your professor is more lenient, and you think you can get the paper done within a certain time (such as two more days), ask for a specific extension.
- If your professor seems like the type to negotiate, aim high. If you think you can get the paper done in two days, ask for a four day extension at first, and expect your professor to negotiate down.
QuestionI have to turn in homework tomorrow that is on my iPad and I forgot to bring it home. What do I do?Trevor HCommunity AnswerIf possible, call or email your teacher as soon as you can and be honest. It's entirely possible that they will be understanding of the situation, especially if this is not a regular thing for you. Perhaps you might want to consider requesting if you can do any extra credit work on top of your forgotten homework to help make up for this.Thanks!
If you're asking a professor for a paper extension, ask for it as soon as you know you need it, rather than the night before or after the paper is due. When you make your request, be direct and keep it simple. You can tell your professor you’ve been ill or had a family emergency. You even can tell them you’re overloaded with work by saying something like "I'm requesting an extension because I have 3 exams the same day my paper is due." Whatever you say, say it directly and politely, and thank your professor for their consideration.
- If you have a documented disability or other factor that impacts your schoolwork, talk to your school’s disability services office. You may be granted automatic extensions for papers, or other accommodations to help you perform to the best of your ability.
Sources and Citations
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