I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Sometimes going to class is the last thing you’ll want to do.
But, what excuse will you come up with for skipping class?
Well in my post on how to tell your professor you’re skipping class I told you that the best approach is to tell the truth!
But while writing that post I thought – you know what:
I bet my readers would be super interested in all the excuses that I’ve heard over my 8 years teaching in universities!
So I brainstormed what I think are that 21 most common excuses for skipping class in college that I’ve heard. Here they are!
(P.S. you can go to that other post to get some sample emails that show how to let your prof know you’re skipping class).
>>>RELATED POST: MY 31 BEST ASSIGNMENT EXTENSION EXCUSES I’VE EVER HEARD
21. The Trains or Busses were Cancelled
Okay I have a story about this one:
One of my students (who missed about 5 classes in a row) emailed me one day letting me know he missed that day’s class because the train drivers were on strike.
The problem was, he didn’t realize we lived in the same building. And that we always took the same train to class.
And that I took the train that day.
And I didn’t see any picket lines anywhere. Hmmm…
Maybe if you choose this excuse, you might want to make sure you send them a photo of some picketing transport workers?
20. My Kid was Sick
Okay this one actually sounds legit.
Kids are sick. All the time.
In fact, most of the time for this excuse I just think “thank god you didn’t bring the kid to the class.”
Unfortunately if you don’t have a kid you can’t use this excuse. Maybe you had to babysit your sick kid brother?
A similar one to this is “There’s a bug going around the whole family”. This one’s super common, too. Or, as I teach education studies, a lot of my students say: “The kids at my workplace made me sick.”
I get that one. It’s definitely legit. Most teachers spend their first year teaching in bed dealing with all the snotty illnesses they’ve been exposed to.
19. I was Sick
Such a lazy excuse.
But I guess it’s one that is also believable.
Personally, I just roll my eyes and don’t care. But many other teachers get super annoyed when a student skips class.
So how can you make this one more believable?
Well, here’s a few pointers for when you’re sick:
- Don’t send me a picture of your snotty nose. No, thank you!
- Feel free to send me a doctor’s certificate.
- Tell me in advance! If you’re sick, you didn’t really get sick this morning, did you? I mean seriously, just drop me an email 3 days earlier saying you’re suuuper sick and that you’re probably not going to make it into class this week.
- Promise you’ll do the weekly readings from your bed. It’ll show you’re still engaged and interested.
18. I’m a Carer
I have a lot of sympathy for this one. I was really surprised just how many carers there are out there in the world when I became a teacher.
But you know what? At all university’s I’ve worked at, we all knew who the carers were in our courses well in advance.
That’s because carers generally make it known to their personal tutor, the head of the department or other teachers about their situation. We get advanced warning so we can be flexible for the carers and do our best to help them out.
So I wouldn’t lie about this one. Plus, it’s kind of a low thing to say “I’m caring for my disabled mother” … when really, your mother’s perfectly fine.
17. I didn’t Realize I was in your Class
This actually happens.
Just think about that. People actually don’t realize they enrolled themselves in a several-thousand dollar course.
And yet I get this email the first week of every single semester.
This excuse usually turns up only because I send out an email to every student who didn’t turn up the first week to say “Hey, where were you!?”
Fortunately this excuse only ever turns up in the first week of semester so you have the rest of the semester to make up for it and hopefully get a top mark at the end of the semester still.
16. The Police Caught me for Speeding
I like this one because it’s so believable.
I mean really, who’s going to claim they were caught for speeding unless they actually were.
One main thing about the most believable excuses is this: they’re not the first thing you’re going to willingly admit to.
Another good part about this excuse is that it’s something you actually would send off at the last minute. Usually last minute excuses make me thing “Well could you have told me this two days ago?” But if you just got that speeding fine, well that makes sense
But here’s the thing about this excuse: if you were caught for speeding, you probably have the ticket. So take a photo of it and send it through as proof!
Also, why didn’t you just turn up 20 minutes late? I mean, how long does it take the cop to write the speeding ticket? Or did you lose your license on the spot?
Nonetheless, it’s definitely an excuse for missing class that I’ve gotten a fair few times.
15. I was Studying for Another Course
Ha! I get this one sooo much!
Students often say “Oh sorry, I didn’t make it to your class this week because I was busy studying for another class.”
And what I think is: “Is their class more important than mine?”
The students’ excuse usually is that there’s an exam coming up in a day or two and they want to dedicate all their time to studying.
The problem with this is that exam period is at the pointy end of the semester. Usually that’s when I’m providing really important information and tips on my exams that are coming up a week later!
Plus, your teacher is likely to come back with: so, you didn’t study all semester so now you’re cramming. Is that right?
Well, that’s what it looks like…
14. I took on an Extra Shift at Work
Unusually common, this one garners a little sympathy from me.
I usually think “Yep, you’re a university student. You need the money now.”
I was there. Broke, living off 2-minute noodles, and desperate for more shifts from work.
Many of my colleagues are less forgiving. They often complain in the faculty lounge about how students put work, social lives, etc. ahead of university.
I usually recommend to students who make this point that they do something to avoid this clash in the future. I’ll recommend they either switch to a different seminar group or ask their boss about moving shifts.
I mean, this isn’t sustainable all semester.
Either university or work is going to have to budge in the long run.
Related: A List of Homework Excuses
13. There was a Death in the Family
Against popular belief, we ask for evidence of this one.
Because this is probably the #1 most common excuse for missing classes and asking for extensions.
There’s a story that’s been going around my faculty lounge for the past few years that one student has had her grandmother die 4 times now. We’re considering starting a tally…
So what should you do?
Well, actually show some evidence. A really simple piece of evidence is to send through the funeral proceedings leaflet, newspaper announcement of a death, or something similar.
I know this is a really sensitive topic, but it’s also one of the least believable ones.
12. I was Hungover
Yes, I’ve had this excuse. Several times.
I’ve also skipped classes for being hungover (as a student, not a teacher).
But your teacher isn’t going to be impressed. Maybe phrase it as “I woke up with a huge headache.”
The reality is, there’s nothing I can really do about you missing class. (And frankly, you’re an adult, I don’t care).
But if you’ve in a course where there’s points for in-class participation, you’re going to lose points for missing this class.
And if your class is always going to be on at 9am the day after your favorite night at the local club, maybe consider taking the class another semester.
11. “It isn’t Compulsory to Attend”
Well, points for honesty.
I’ll often have students come to me and tell me that it’s stated in my course handbook that missing 2 classes per semester will be overlooked.
And it’s true, I did bury that line somewhere in my course handbook. Good spotting.
But really you’re taking a liberty by taking that as permission to skip class for no reason.
At the end of the day, it’s your loss. All my classes are intentionally linked to the assessment tasks. And you’re an adult. So go get drunk and skip class.
10. I Slept In
I feel ya!
I have almost slept in for classes so many times. I’m in my 30s and it’s still just as hard to wake up to attend class now that I’m the teacher as it was when I was the student.
So points for honesty. But I’ll still dock marks for in-class participation.
Maybe buy about 25 alarms and place them all around your dorm vis-à-vis Lorelai Gilmore. (If you don’t get the reference, look it up on YouTube).
9. I had Computer Troubles
This one’s specifically for my online students.
I teach mostly online classes nowadays (Yes, because I don’t like waking up. See Point 10). And students who miss live classes invariably say they had computer troubles.
Sure, this happens a lot.
On the one hand I can partly believe it because if you’re coming up with a lie, surely you can come up with a better one than that!
But at the same time, my B-S meter definitely starts going off.
I remember I had one student send me a photograph of her cracked computer screen. I still thought it was probably B-S. Like, how many photos of cracked computer screens are there out there on the internet?
I think it’s more believable if your excuse is really, really specific. Like: what part of the computer died? What was the problem? Did you go to the university IT services to ask for help?
8. I had a Medical Appointment
This is fair enough. Particularly because I’ve spent most of my academic life teaching at universities in the UK. And the free healthcare is amazing. But when you’ve got a specialist appointment, you get mail from the hospital saying “Come in at this time on this date.” You don’t really have a choice.
But again, if you have a medical appointment, this is one that you can tell your professor in advance. So tell me a week beforehand and I’ll understand for sure.
7. It was Snowing
Being someone who’s spent about 40% of his adult life in Canada, I find this excuse hilarious. Hilarious!
But in Britain, the nation comes to a standstill for 3mm of snow.
Once, when working at a university in England, I went to work and it was a ghost town. Not even the other staff members were around.
There was well less than a centimetre of snow on the ground.
And get this…
The security guard came around and told me I had to go home because the campus was closed for safety reasons.
On my walk back to the train station, the snow had melted so much you couldn’t even tell that it snowed for 5 minutes that morning.
Get your act together, England. Be more like Canada.
6. My other Class was Cancelled
WOW this one is common.
They’re points like:
“We thought your class was cancelled because Jan’s was!”
I am incredulous at this excuse. Like, are you freaking serious?? Did you hear me cancel my class at any point ever?
But the reality is, on weeks when one or more other classes get cancelled, a lot of students just decide to give themselves the week off.
If you’re reading this, you’re a university student and you probably already know this (unless you go to a university with particularly diligent students).
More honest students just come out with it: “I didn’t come because you were my only class for the day.”
It doesn’t look good. I don’t think there’s a more obvious way of saying you don’t give a damn about my class.
At least I’ll still get paid.
5. It’s the Last Week of Semester
Ghost town. Absolute ghost town.
I made the mistake one semester of setting the assignment due date of Monday in Week 12. Classes didn’t end until Friday Week 12. I had a whole lesson planned on the importance of pausing to reflect on what was learned.
No one turned up. Not a soul.
Kind of ironic, given the topic of my lesson that week.
Needless to say, now I set all assessments to be due after the last day of semester.
4. It’s St. Patrick’s Day or 4/20
The first university I ever worked at was a Catholic University. It had many, many Irish Catholic students.
You wouldn’t believe how many conservative Catholics let it all go on St. Patrick’s Day.
I’m not joking: I still got students turning up to class. But they were DRUNK. My class was literally a scheduled stop on a pub crawl!
I dismissed them and told them to go to the pub.
Maybe they should have just told me they weren’t going to attend class.
3. Our Other Teacher Held us Back
The faculty politics of when to let your students go is brutal.
I can’t stand the teachers who hold their students back until the very last second of the hour. And for some reason it’s all the immovable, stubborn 50-something male professors who do this!
On the other hand, I’ve had professors storm into my class 5 minutes before the end of my hour kicking me out of my own classroom because I should give them time to set up their computer!
Usually this excuse is a recurring offense. It’ll be the same problem every week. Usually because the admin staff scheduled classes at different ends of campus, meaning a pack of students end up running across campus together 10 minutes late for class.
If your previous teacher held you back, I recommend turning up late and being honest about why you were late.
I don’t recommend skipping the class altogether.
If you’re honest, your teacher will likely let you in, then let loose at your other professor next time they cross paths in the hallways of the faculty lounge.
2. My Timetable Showed the Class was Cancelled
This is another one that happens all the time!
Since timetables were moved online, admin staff have had the power to change your timetable week-by-week. They think that this is great because it enables flexibility and agility in room allocation.
Unfortunately it just confuses the hell out of everyone.
So we can complain about admin screwing up our timetables all the time.
But if you’re trying to use this excuse when it’s not true or accurate, you’ll be caught out. I mean, if it’s cancelled off your timetable, why wasn’t it cancelled off mine?
1. I’m taking a Vacation
At least twice per semester I get a student coming up to me saying they’ve booked a vacation in the middle of the semester.
Usually this excuse is provided early in the semester and I’ve got a good clear amount of warning. And I’m usually pretty flexible about this.
But most teachers aren’t.
In fact, at every university I’ve worked for there have been official policies that clearly state that planned vacations are not acceptable excuses for missing classes or asking for extensions.
But hey, what do I care … I’ll give you the resources and tell you good luck quickly writing your essay on the beach!
Don’t Forget: I’ve Got Email Templates for You!
So, those are my 21 most commonly heard excuses for skipping class in college.
I provide solid advice in this post on how to email your professor to let them know you won’t be in class. Check it out for some easy email templates to use and a little advice on what to write in the email.
I’d also love to hear the best excuses for skipping class that you’ve heard in the comments below!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.