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Let me start off by saying that sometimes, life intersects with school. Emergencies occur and most professors and TAs are sympathetic to unforeseen work disruptions. Aside from these unexpected instances, there are circumstances where you can justifiably ask for an extension. This is an important part of university life that can influence your grades and stress levels during assignment time.

Many people think that asking for more time to write an assignment represents laziness or poor time management. While it might be true in some cases, thinking about it this way when you have five major assignments due in the same week can be a disservice to yourself. While it is my belief that university should teach students how to efficiently manage a large workload, sometimes, asking for an extension is a necessary and prudent approach. When dealing with instances of extreme work overload and the overlapping of deadlines, negotiating submission dates with professors is not lazy, it’s pragmatic. Of course, there is an appropriate way of approaching this strategy.

On countless occasions, I have had students email me about an extension on the night before or on the day of a due date. Needless to say, I have not been very sympathetic to the pleas. You should know that most courses will have a policy on extensions and this scenario almost never qualifies.

At the beginning of each term, I encourage you to record due dates in a schedule. If you see that you have a few large assignments due in the same week, you can speak with your professors or TAs well in advance of actual deadlines and ask for some potential wiggle room. How should you do this?

First, understand that some professors will not give an extension under any circumstance other than a family emergency. If this is the case, assignments for this class should be finished first. In other cases, approach your professor or TA well in advance of a deadline (it will also help if the student has fostered a relationship with their grader). This can be done in person or through a courteous email. You should explain that you will have several other assignments due in the same week and, if necessary, present documented evidence (other course schedules) of the conflict. You should also be able to explain why the current due date for an assignment will not allow you to hand in your best work. At this point, it should be clear to the professor or TA that you are not trying to take advantage of the situation or gain an unfair edge. If the grader is amenable, a new deadline can be negotiated.

Asking for an extension does not necessarily mean that a student is lazy or somehow dishonest. Sometimes, course schedules align in a way that make due dates nearly unachievable. If approached appropriately, asking for an extension can be a wise strategy to handle these instances. From my experience, C-level students do not use an extra week to write A-level papers, but under immense pressure and with too little time, the opposite can occur. Understanding how to ask for an extension is one way of helping you navigate the most stressful assignment pileups.