What To Do if You Have to Miss Class

Academic Success

Do you actually have to miss class?

You have another class or meeting

Some students panic when another instructor schedules an extra workshop over one of their regular classes or they are told they have a mandatory meeting (for example, for all international students, students with financial aid, etc.)  Quite simply, your regular class normally takes priority.  All you have to do is explain to the other instructor or to the person in charge of the meeting that you have class.  In most cases, the instructor will reschedule your workshop and the meeting organizer will tell you class is more important than a meeting (and you may be able to get the same information in an email anyway).  If you cannot get out of these obligations, tell the instructor of your class that you tried and were told you  have to attend said workshop/meeting.  Your instructor might send an email on your behalf because they will probably not be pleased that someone else is cutting into their class time.  Or, you may have to choose: is class or a meeting more important to you?

You have a club or sorority event

You’re in college to learn and your classes take priority over your extra-curriculars.  If you tell your professor you are missing class or leaving early for an event like this, they will probably tell you that you can choose to do this, but they are sticking to their attendance policy.  So you will have to decide if you’re willing to lose points or be marked absent so you can go to your event.  Keep in mind that you don’t want to risk your grades for something like a sorority, however.  You don’t want to discover, for example, that you lost your scholarship because you didn’t maintain a high enough GPA, and you don’t want that instructor to think you don’t care about their class because one day you might want a recommendation letter from them.

You think it’s unsafe to travel.

Maybe it’s sleeting and the school didn’t cancel classes, but you think the roads are too dangerous to drive on.  Don’t go to class.  Your instructor should care about your safety and if you email them ahead of time to inform them that you think travelling is unsafe, they should accept your judgment.  They may inform you that you will still be marked absent but, in a case like this, you should prioritize your physical safety.

You are sick, have a medical emergency, a family matter, etc.

Yes, you can miss class.  Your professor understands and will not be upset.  In fact, they probably don’t want you spreading your illness to the rest of the class and would prefer you stay home, anyway.

You Will Miss Class

Informing the Instructor

If you will just miss one day because you have a cold or something, you probably don’t need to tell the instructor, especially if you have unexcused absences you have not yet used.  You can just miss class and get notes from your friend if it’s a lecture, or you can email the instructor to ask if there is any work you will miss and need to complete.  The instructor will likely not email you to tell you you missed work; it’s up to you to figure out what you need to complete.

If you anticipate extended absences because of an injury, illness, or family matter, inform the instructor and ask what work you need to complete.  Also inquire if you can get an extension for any work if you think you’ll need one.  In fact, even if you don’t think you need one, you might want to ask for one anyway.  It’s better to turn in an assignment early than late.  And you don’t have to go into detail about your circumstances.  You can say you’re sick or having surgery or have to tend to family matters.  You have a right to privacy and the instructor doesn’t need to know why you’re going to the hospital. However, keep in mind that some instructors require documentation for an extended absence so you might have to ask for a note from your doctor.

You Missed Class and you weren’t expecting it

So you took a nap at 2:00 p.m. and somehow slept through your 5:00 class.  If you have unexcused absences you have not yet used, you don’t need to tell your instructor this.  You can let them assume you were ill or whatever instead of admitting that you did something kind of silly.  It’s not likely they will care where you are or ask.  You can just email another student in the class or an instructor to find out what you missed.  If you missed something like a lab,  you may have more trouble making up your work, but if you email the instructor hopefully you will be able to work something out.

Krysta 64

10 thoughts on “What To Do if You Have to Miss Class

  1. Briana says:

    I’ve advised a number of students to email asking the supervisor if their “mandatory” meeting is really so mandatory they expect students to miss regularly scheduled classes (you know, the classes that are the main reason the student is attending college). So far, ALL of them have been excused from the “mandatory” meeting to attend their class without a problem.

    If the supervisor were to insist against all school policy that a student will be penalized for missing some meeting because they were in class, then I have one response: My class is mandatory, too. A student can definitely choose to attend something other than my class, but they will be marked absent according to the attendance policy. (Although my classes have free absences that don’t count against your grade anyway, so half the time these students telling met they have a “mandatory” meeting are basically trying to get an extra free absence. Your free absence is for whatever you need it for: a meeting, a dentist appointment, a funeral. I think people think these absences are just for sickness or times they don’t feel like showing up and believe that if they have a “good” excuse, their absence won’t count as their free absence.)


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, students always seem surprised that they can be excused from meetings or events. But they are at college to attend class and to learn–of course the college is going to allow them to prioritize that! If some supervisor didn’t allow them to miss a meeting, I would actually question if they had the authority to tell a student that they had to skip class. Unless it’s athletics. For some reason athletics are considered more important than class.


      • Briana says:

        Yeah, if it’s a school function, then there’s no reason a student should be told to miss class to attend it. I’m pretty sure even athletic exemptions apply only to missing class for away games, not practice or general meetings.


  2. TeacherofYA says:

    Yeah, the only thing I’ll have is a dr appt on one of my school days that I can’t reschedule. However, I’ve had lots of professors tell me that absences are absences, and that there’s no such thing as an excused one…can they do that if you have a dr. note?
    Never have had this come up…


    • Krysta says:

      Every class I’ve seen usually has excused absences built in already, so you can miss maybe two days without a problem. I think whether instructors do or can require a doctor’s note usually varies by the department or school. But typically I’ve only seen a doctor’s note required for an extended absence like a surgery or a long illness. So in this case I would just ask the instructor if they want/need the note. Some instructors won’t care, though. I had one tell me to get him a note, so I spent hours waiting to get in to the doctor to get the note, and then my professor didn’t give me the promised extension on the assignment anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TeacherofYA says:

        That sucks!!
        I’m a little concerned because my dr just recently changed up his schedule and has shortened his hours…I see him once a month for meds…my classes are Tues/Thurs so I hope this isn’t a problem again, because I don’t want to miss class unnecessarily. I live in Michigan, so I try to save my absences for crappy weather in winter!!
        I always appreciate the advice!! Thank you.


    • Briana says:

      In my experience, a doctor’s note or other “documentation” is generally requested only if you’re going to absent for a decently long time, or if you’re going to miss something like an exam for which the instructor usually doesn’t allow retakes. (Of course, I know instructors who just roll their eyes if you try to give them a doctor’s note for a scheduled dental cleaning on a test day. If you scheduled the appointment for the exam day yourself and it’s not actually an emergency, that’s kind of your own fault. :p )

      Liked by 1 person

      • TeacherofYA says:

        Nah, this is just a med check: I can’t reschedule because the meds are controlled substances and they get weird about changing days. But I will make sure it doesn’t happen again now that school is starting. They’ll have to see me another day besides Tues or Thurs. Luckily I think Sept 6 is too soon for exams!

        Liked by 1 person

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