What I Wish I Knew

What I wish I knew about SUBMISSION DATES

3 Minute Read -

As undergraduate students, we are conditioned to think that submission deadlines are cast in stone. That’s the case for most of us anyway. A handful of confident students actually attempt to negotiate assignment dates with their lecturers, but this is often not a good way to go about things either. As you move further up the degree hierarchy, things become more flexible. This is why you may find someone finishing a degree in 2 years and the next person taking 4 years to complete the same degree.

Although these variances can be reduced to differences in registration status (e.g. part-time vs full-time), many know how to put a pause on their studies, but this requires knowing the rules. In this post, I discuss some pointers about submission deadlines and putting your studies on hold if you need to.

They are there for a reason

Submission deadlines really are not only there for the pleasure of university administrators. They are there to ensure that you graduate timeously, that you are registered properly, and that there is a constant cycle of students moving in and out of the university environment.

While no school or university sees itself as a factory, there must be processes in place to ensure that resources are available to service the needs of the students. Consider an airport. If all the flights for a particular day landed at the same time, there would be chaos. Firstly, planes need a runway to land. If the runway is clogged with planes, not everyone will have space to land. This would cause a disaster for the pilots and their passengers. Secondly, there might not be enough personnel to ensure that passengers disembark safely or that their luggage is removed from the plane. When the passengers enter the building, the elevators and escalators may be clogged, and passengers may find it difficult to track down their luggage on congested conveyor belts. This is not even considering what will happen to those waiting in the arrivals terminal to fetch all the passengers at the same time. It would be disastrous.

Similarly, degrees are designed in a way that optimises the student’s learning experience, but also ensures that the university has the necessary infrastructure to serve all the students who happen to be registered at a particular point in time. They also would not want someone to take 10 years to complete a 3-year degree.

For this reason, deadlines are important, but they are not cast in stone.

They can be flexible

The higher up you go, the more flexible deadlines become. Many students who do advanced degrees do them part-time. This means that they will have other commitments which also require their time. For this reason, doing an advanced degree as a part-time student becomes very challenging. However, this may also be the case for undergraduate students, particularly distance-learning or online students.

Resultantly, universities make accommodations for students who may ‘run out of time’ to complete their degrees. These may be related to family commitments, health reasons, and financial reasons, amongst others.

There are options for extension

If you have circumstances that do not allow you to commit the time you need to your studies, there are options to extend your deadline. You would need compelling motivation, but it is also best that you find out what your options are the minute you realise you might not make it.

Many students go through difficult times and then let the ball drop on their studies. Only when they feel they are ready to return, do they explore options that may allow them to pick up where they left off. Informing your institution as soon as you see things may not be going well is always a good idea, so they can advise you on the best way forward. Similarly, if you are pregnant, you will likely give birth soon, so make provision for that by talking to your institution.

They can be tighter than you think

Lastly and most importantly is that there is no way of avoiding them. Many students overestimate the amount of time they have. I wrote a piece about this last year, which you can read here. If you know that you need to submit a research report by February next year, start working on it now! Research is complex, problems come up, things don’t work out, so avoid waiting to the last minute to get started.

If an unforeseen event happens, you will also have the advantage of proving that you did in fact make good progress before your unforeseen event and this may assist you in your plea for additional time.

While deadlines are important, missing them does not mean you will never be successful in your studies, although this may be the case under very extreme circumstances. The key is to know the rules of your degree (or the ‘standing orders’). All students have access to them, so make sure you read them.

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