As students receive their syllabi at the beginning of the semester, the inconsistent and often unclear extension policies put forth by professors cause uncertainty for the months to come. Such variety in extension policies cause student stress, especially when students are unsure whether their extension will be granted in case of emergencies before an assignment’s due date.
To alleviate stress caused by the uncertainty around extensions, each academic department should establish a uniform departmental extension policy. The additional time provided by extensions would allow students to follow a healthy sleeping, eating and exercise schedule, thereby helping them manage stress.
One in five college students experiences more than six stressful life events in a year, according to a 2018 study by Harvard Medical School researchers. Academic deadlines, especially when coupled with other work or family responsibilities, are undoubtedly a contributor to stress.
While Georgetown University emphasizes its support for students’ mental health, much of university-provided support has placed a responsibility on students to manage their own stress. Providing students resources to handle stress is undoubtedly important, but the university can also take a tangible step in alleviating stress by allowing students to plan ahead with departmental extension policies.
Currently, without departmental policies in place, extension policies range widely: Some professors do not provide a written policy on the syllabus and some do not allow any extensions, though others are more accommodating. The variation in policy leaves students vulnerable to stress should unforeseen work or family obligations become overwhelming at any point during the semester.
Explicitly stated departmental extension policies would allow students to plan their schedules to best align with their nonacademic obligations. Especially for those who have more uncertainty regarding their work and family obligations, these students would be able to avoid a full course load with stringent extension policies.
The implementation of departmental policies would not be unprecedented. The McDonough School of Business, along with the economics and government departments in the College, have policies that establish a curve. These policies set clear expectations for students considering any given class.
With these policies made public, students are able to make informed choices about their course selection. Should a student find that a competitive curve does not best serve their learning needs, they could opt for a course in another department, and some may choose to avoid a major with strict policies.
With set extension policies in place, students will no longer begin a semester without knowing how their professors may handle extension requests.
The departmental model for creating extension policies provides clearer policies for students while allowing differences across disciplines. In crafting extension policies, each department would consider the nature of assignments in the discipline and preferences of its professors, thereby creating a policy most functional for that department.
Clear departmental policies would also alleviate the burden on professors of determining the legitimacy of individual students’ claims for needing an extension. Because students were made aware of the policies when they decided to enroll in the class, professors need not justify denying an extension in accordance with policies.
As students juggle various work and family obligations during the academic year, they should not be stressed by the uncertainty of how an extension request might be handled. Academic departments at Georgetown should establish and publicize clear extension policies to mitigate an already intense stress culture.