Exception Season

You’d be amazed at the number of exception requests I’ll get over the next few weeks. I’ll be asked for project deadline extensions. I’ll be asked to accept unsubmitted homework weeks late. I’ll be asked how to make up for low midterm grades. I’ll be asked to create extra credit assignments (because nobody did the original ones).

I get it. All semester we want to believe we’re going to turn things around. The end is so far off. Until it isn’t. We see that final day of classes approaching and realize our chances to make a change are dwindling.

My goal as a student was to never ask for an exception.

You may feel differently, but the truth is that the reason you need an exception isn’t unique. You’re not the only student who’s poured a can of soda into their laptop the night before a deadline. You’re not the only student who’s working a part time job. You’re not the only student who’s ended a long-term romantic relationship. You’re not the only student who left town for the weekend before an exam only to discover their car wouldn’t start for the return drive.

How do I know? Because all of those things happened to me. Sometimes if affected my grade. My life turned out alright.

Two types of exceptions

  1. The genuine ones: you’ve been working hard all semester, turning things in on time, attending class, doing well on exams and learning from your experience. Then something hits you out of the blue and threatens to destroy that hard-won progress.
  2. The inevitable ones: you’ve been doing the opposite of (1) all semester, leaving yourself vulnerable to emergencies. Something hits you out of the blue but in reality it’s just the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

If you’re in group 1, then the exception probably isn’t going to hurt either way. But go ahead and talk it over with your instructor.

If you’re in group 2, you have reflecting to do. You may feel that this latest thing is the issue, but it’s not. You’ve been living all semester on the brink (think Jenga, one block before the tower collapses. Or Kerplunk one stick away from loosing all the marbles). Go ahead and talk it over with your instructor, but ask yourself what you could have done to stay out of this position in future courses.

You may think that your circumstances are different from everyone else’s.

You’re right. Except that the one thing we have in common is that none of us are learning under “ideal conditions”. We all have some mayhem.

Your life is always going to be messy. One of the big lessons you’re learning is how to be productive in the midst of this wonderful chaos. Learn to perform even when the circumstances aren’t ideal.


By never asking for an exception.

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