Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why deadlines are important

In every class, there are students who believe it’s just fine to miss the deadline of an assignment and give an excuse (often a lame excuse) and expect it to be “okay” to submit the assignment late.

I’m here to tell you that it is NOT okay!

Here are some of the reasons that you should NEVER miss a deadline:

1. Missing deadlines is not professional behavior. You are on an academic path preparing you for a profession. Which means that you need to develop professional behavior now. Because it's not something you can simply "turn on" after you are in school and start your first day on the job in your profession.

2. You don't want to develop bad habits. Research shows that the more you engage in a behavior, the more likely that behavior will become ingrained as a habit. And we all know how hard habits are to break, eh? Is that the kind of student, or the kind of professional person, you want to become? Always late?

3. One thing often leads to another. Missing deadlines can have a "domino effect" by leading to other problems for you. For example, if you are missing an assignment, then you may not have the knowledge or expertise you need for the next assignment. So now the next assignment will be late. And you'll be unprepared for the test. Before long, your ability to succeed may really start to fall apart!

4. Meeting deadlines is respectful to your peers and your teacher. Teachers often have limited time for grading and other course management tasks. If you are late, then they have find additional time when you finally get around to getting your work done to grade that work. That's not respectful of the teacher's time. Do you really want to be a disrespectful student? It's also discourteous to your peers because the teacher may have to hold off grading their work, or at least hold off releasing the grades or graded work.

5. You don't want the grumpy grading grinch evaluating your work. Having to take extra time and effort to grade work that was not submitted on time (for no good reason) makes even the most patient person frustrated. Do you really want a grumpy teacher evaluating your work and assigning a grade? Nah, me either.

6. You want to avoid bad things. Sometimes, really bad things. Of course, you could lose some or all of the grade points on a late assignment. But it could also lead to a bad (perhaps failing) grade in the course, especially if it becomes a habit (see #2) or leads to missing knowledge (#3). But remember #1 above? Missing deadlines in your profession could lead to disciplinary action, including firing. Perhaps even a loss of your professional license! In health care professions, missing some deadlines could constitute criminal negligence that could seriously harm patients (and lead to jail time).

Okay, life happens and true emergencies occur. We all know that. So if you must miss a deadline, or even think you might miss a deadline, here are my suggestions:

1. Exhaust all other options. Missing a deadline should be your last resort. Can you get someone else to shoulder that interfering responsibility so you can make the deadline? Can you skip or postpone that other thing? Can you hitch a ride or hire a cab to get you there? Remember, this course is the foundation for everything else and you don't want to mess it up!

2. Talk to your teacher. Acknowledge the importance of the deadline. Be respectful in your approach by being clear that you really do understand the burden your situation brings to others. Also be clear that you take your academic success seriously. Do not demand anything. Present your situation and ask for your teacher's advice. You may be surprised by a solution you hadn't thought of. The teacher may even offer to extend the deadline.

3. Talk to your teacher. Really. Never, ever, ever, let a deadline go by without contacting your teacher. Failing to contact your teacher ahead of time, unless it is absolutely impossible, sends the message that you are blowing off the deadline. Availability of communication media these days means that there really are very few situations where a brief message cannot be gotten to your teacher.

4. Talk to your teacher. I mean it this time! For serious issues that impact your ability to engage fully in your course, bringing your teacher into the loop is the best thing. We have experience helping students and can often find ways to help you overcome your obstacles. At the very least, involving the teacher can make it clear that your missed deadlines are truly unavoidable.

5. Document your case. Even if it's not required, documentation will help clarify your position. Many, many students just make stuff up. Avoid that assumption by proving up front that you're not making up your situation. Be sure to follow up any verbal conversations with your teacher with a written confirmation of the conversation. For example, if you chat with your teacher and they extend your deadline, then follow up with an email to the teacher confirming the extended deadline. That way, it's in writing and in case your teacher forgets, you can remind them about the confirmation you sent. It also gives you both a chance to clear up any mistakes in communication that may have occurred, such as getting the new deadline date wrong.