How to Ask for an Extension on a Paper (15 Strategies!)

How to Ask for an Extension on a Paper
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This is how to ask for an extension on a paper from your professor:

  1. Ask for an extension as early as possible
  2. Ask in person (if you can)
  3. Show how you meet the extension policy
  4. Show that you care about your grade on your paper
  5. Suggest a solution to the problem
  6. Suggest a time frame that you can meet
  7. Provide evidence for your hardship
  8. Show what you’ve already done
  9. Ask during open office hours
  10. Make the email professional and respectful
  11. Ask for the extension in your second email, not your first
  12. Approach student support services
  13. Only ask for an extension once
  14. Consider asking for extensions on all your classes at once
  15. Tell the truth!

What you need to know about Asking for an Extension from a Professor

The rest of this article will show you how to follow those 15 steps in more detail!

Jump to Tip 1 to skip my introduction

Asking for an extension on a paper can be hard.

Sometimes you don’t know how to write an extension email request to your professor, or what to say to increase your chances of success.

13 tips on how to ask for an extension

Extended deadlines can be really useful when you want to boost your grades or are juggling study with real life. But you need to be strategic about your request.

Teachers have very different approaches to extending deadlines.

Some are very flexible, others almost impossible to budge.

Teachers get extension requests from up to 25 percent of all students in their course. That’s why they’re often so reluctant to give you an extension. Granting extensions can become a huge chore for teachers.

You need to be careful about how you ask to extend your assessment deadline. This is because asking for an extension doesn’t automatically guarantee that you will get it.

You also want to ask for the extension in a way that doesn’t lead to a penalty and decreased marks.

Many universities have policies where students are given penalties per day an assignment is submitted past its deadline. This is particularly the case in universities that give number scores out of 100 such as in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

However, even in North America, you may find that your teacher will move your markdown from a B+ to a B- because your work was late and your excuse was not good enough.

As a university teacher, I estimate that I have had well over 400 students ask for extensions over the past decade of teaching. I have also managed other university teachers and seen how they go about granting or denying extensions.

Overwhelmingly, the students who got the extensions were those who followed most of the below key steps.

Read also: The 9 Top Extension Excuses and How to Ask Them
Read also: 15+ Tips on Requesting an Extension

1. Ask for an Extension Early

Asking for an extension within 3 days (72 hours) of your due date looks really bad. It signifies to your teacher that you hadn’t started early enough and are now panicking.

Teachers are very much less likely to give extensions within 3 days of the due date.

The majority of papers are due on Fridays. If your paper is due on Friday, the latest you want to ask for an extension is Tuesday.

I always recommend to my students that they complete their assignment at least 7 days (preferably 14) before the submission deadline. This is so that when things go wrong in their lives they can still submit in time.

You are probably very busy with your job and family commitments. Nonetheless, you’ll need to find time to start your work early in order to avoid asking for an extension altogether.

When you’ve graduated and you’re out in the workforce, extensions aren’t an option.

Your boss isn’t going to say the night before your big presentation to a client “Oh, you got busy this week? No problem. We’ll ask the client to come back next week.”

Your boss is more likely to show you the door.

However, there are exceptional circumstances in your life that can be used as appropriate excuses for extensions. Some of these are:

  • an upcoming surgery,
  • pregnancy,
  • a pre-booked vacation,
  • you’re a carer for your parent, child, or partner

In these circumstances, you should get in touch with your teacher early on to ask for an extension. Ask as soon as you know that submitting on time will be a problem.

If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you need to ask for an extension a day or two before the due date, you might be out of luck. However, try the tips below to make the best out of a bad situation.

2. Show the Professor your Course or University Policy

There should be an extension policy that outlines what counts for an extension and what doesn’t. If you consult that policy you will be in a much better position to apply for the extension.

I recommend bringing the policy to the professor in order that they know you’re serious about applying. However, be careful not to look like you’re insisting on the extension.

Instead, approach the professor with the policy and tell them that you think you might qualify for an extension under the terms of the policy. Then, ask the professor whether they would consider approving the extension under those terms.

I find it much harder to refuse an extension if the student has laid the groundwork for their extension request. It’s very hard to tell the student that you are going against university policy and denying them an extension.

Similarly, your professor may have created their own policy. Search through the course materials on your course’s website (Moodle, Canvas, or Blackboard) to see whether there is any mention of extensions.

This is easier than it sounds. Simply download the little-read key documents on the course homepage that are generally labeled:

  • Course Handbook;
  • Module Guide;
  • Subject Overview; or
  • Some combination of the above titles

Then, conduct a word search in those documents (usually Control + F or Command + F) for the word “Extension” or “Late”. That should take you to the professor’s wording for their own policy.

Similarly, to look for university policy, simply conduct a search for ‘Extension Policy’ on your university’s website.

3. Show your Professor that you care about your Grade

When you contact your teacher either face-to-face or by email, you need to let them know you’re asking for an extension on the deadline because you really care about your grade.

Your reason for an extension request can be seen in two ways:

  • You want an extension because getting a top mark is your priority and you need more time for that to happen; or
  • You want an extension because other things in your life were a priority instead of writing the paper

Some of the best extension requests that come into my inbox start with a statement about your goal. Students often say ‘My goal is to receive X grade in all my subjects in order to qualify for a Master’s degree, further education, or a specific internship’.

Laying out what your goal is to show that you are asking for the extension because you want to do the best you can.

A teacher is much more likely to grant an extension to a student who wants one to ensure they do well. On the flip side, they will be less likely to grant an extension if you haven’t shown an interest or commitment to the subject.

Here’s where building a relationship with your professor in advance comes in very handy. If you’ve already got a long chain of email discussions or had some quality face-to-face chats about the subject, your extension request will be looked upon more kindly.

Every extension request you send should start with a statement showing that you want the extension because you are prioritizing the subject.

You do not want to leave the impression that you want the extension because other things took precedence over your studies.

4. Suggest a Solution so you Won’t Run out of Time Again

No matter how long you ask for, you need to use the extension request to show your good side: that you’re a fixer, not a complainer.

A great way to do this is to explain how you are going to fix the issue so it won’t happen again. If you’ve asked for an extension because you have run out of time you could:

  1. Explain that you have now freed up time every Monday afternoon to go to the library to study;
  2. Let your teacher know you’ve booked in for some study skills sessions at the library to learn to manage your time better; or
  3. Explain that you have talked to your boss about ensuring your shifts don’t clash with university activities anymore

5. Suggest a Time Frame for your Extended Deadline

Be proactive about what you want to happen if your deadline is extended. To do this, it’s best to let your teacher know how long you think you need.

Professors are often very busy people. They manage large groups of students, colleagues, and clients. They’re often off campus for multiple days working in the field.

Because they are so busy, they will likely approve the solution that your present to them. It makes the issue quick and easy for them and gets it off their plate.

Suggesting a solution and timeframe also shows that you have thought about what to do.

In this instance, the extension request can be seen in these two ways. You have come to the teacher and either said:

  • “Here’s my problem – can you find a solution for me?”; or
  • “Here’s my problem – I have identified a solution. Do you approve of my solution?”

Teachers are impressed when students have taken matters into their own hands. We want students to show that they are proactive problem solvers.

I recommend asking for an extension of between 2 and 7 days:

  • 2 Days: Your 2-day extension request is an opportunity to say “I’ve done most of it well in advance, but after doing some more thinking and reading I think I need to make some edits. Can you give me 2 quick days to make those changes so I can submit by a best possible piece of work?”
  • 7 Days: Your 7-day extension request is for bigger issues. This request is basically confessing that you haven’t really done much planning. For a 7-Day request, highlight that the problem or issue that you’re facing (Sickness? Family emergency?) might drag on into next week, so 7 days is a reasonable timeframe.

6. Provide Evidence for your Extension Request Immediately

Evidence is usually your golden ticket for an extension. The minute a doctor’s certificate is thrust under my nose I sign on the dotted line: Extension Granted.

While a doctor’s certificate is the ideal form of evidence, not all situations call for it. Here are some forms of evidence I’ve accepted in the past:

  • An email from a child’s teacher. If your child has been home sick for the week, ask your teacher to drop your professor an email as evidence that the child has been off sick.
  • A letter from your boss. If your boss has asked you to come in to do some extra shifts, ask your boss to return the favor and write a quick hand-written letter noting that they’ve needed to call on you.
  • A receipt from a computer or car repair shop. Computer issues are one of the most common extension requests. If you don’t provide a receipt from the repairman or a photo of the issue, your teacher might scoff. The same goes for car issues. If the issue is with a car, be prepared for your teacher to respond: “Ever heard of a bus?”
  • Newspaper clippings. This one’s surprisingly common. If you were in a car accident, the victim of a crime, or you had a death in the family, these things are often reported in the local newspaper. Take out the newspaper report or death notice from the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ page and give it to your teacher.

No matter what the evidence is, it goes a long way.

If you provide evidence in your first email or conversation with your teacher, they’ll be impressed by your preparedness and are more likely sign off the extension on the spot. If you don’t, be prepared to be told to go away and come back with some evidence of hardship.

7. Show what You’ve Already Done on your Paper to Increase your Chances of Getting an Extension

This strategy works as a treat.

Come to your teacher saying “I’ve made an effort – look!”

Like the above points, this one shows that you’ve put some thought into the extension request.

You aren’t coming to them expecting a hand-out. Instead, you’re coming to the teacher with something to offer.

Showing that you’ve made a substantial start shows the teacher that you didn’t just forget about the assignment. It also shows that you haven’t totally prioritized everything else in your life. You’ve put thought into it, at least!

You can attach your draft in your request email or bring it in person. While you’re at it, highlight one point where you’ve been struggling.

When showing a draft, it’s a good idea to say “One of the reasons I’m not finished is I hit writer’s block at X point. It’s taken me weeks and I just haven’t been able to figure it out!”

In other words, your draft says to your teacher: “I’ve been thinking about this a lot! I want to do well, and this class matters to me.”

8. Ask for an Extension in Person if you Can

Asking for your extension in person can be one saving grace late in the game. If you’re within that 72 hours before the submission zone, asking in person might be your one chance to save the day.

When you ask in person, it makes it look like you’ve thought things through.

You’re saying: this request isn’t just an email slapped together at 11 pm the night the paper is due. I’ve been thinking it over for a day or two, and thought “hey, I really need to talk to someone about this.”

Here’s the other key benefit of asking in person: It humanizes you.

It is so much easier to say ‘No’ to an email than a person standing in front of you, cap in hand.

Don’t forget to bring a few things with you when you ask in person:

  1. An extension request form. If your university has an official request form, print it out and bring it with you. Ensure that it’s completely filled in, and all it requires is the teacher’s signature. As I said earlier in this post, teachers are busy. If you present an easy solution, chances are they’ll take it.
  2. Evidence or a draft. As I noted above, evidence of hardship is the golden ticket. Bring it with you to the face-to-face meeting. Similarly, waving a draft under your teacher’s nose shows them that you’ve gotten out of the starting blocks – you’re just not quite ready to submit

9. Ask for the Extension During Open Office Hours

The trick for this one is to bring a list of questions with you.

Come to open office hours with a list of 7 – 10 questions about the assessment.

Most of these questions should be to ask for clarity or advice on how to write the piece.

For example, you can ask the professor which scholarly sources they recommend, whether your thesis statement is okay, and whether the key points you’ll talk about will win you marks.

The question “Can I have an extension on this paper?” should be the last question you ask.

Asking for the extension last makes it look like you’ve not just come to open office hours for this one reason. It also shows you genuinely care and are engaged in the coursework.

If you’ve already developed a relationship with the professor and have attended open office hours previously, this trick will work even better!

10. Ensure any Extension Email request is Professional and Respectful

I know that many of my readers are online or distance learners.

For you, an email is an obvious and only way to ask for an extension.

For those students who can’t ask in person, remember that your email request must be professional and respectful in order to maximize your chances of having the extension granted.

This is so important, yet so often overlooked.

Students these days! They send emails like they’re text messages.

The way your email is crafted either shows you care, or that you’re a spoiled brat.

Seriously – you should hear the things teachers say about students in the faculty lounge.

Don’t give them an excuse to tell all their other colleagues that you’re a brat.

Here are some essential points for any email asking for an extension:

  • Formal Greeting. Start it with a formal greeting, a comma, and then start a new line. Remember this is formal: you’d be shocked how many times students get my name wrong and don’t use capital letters for names. It looks terrible.
  • Statement of Goals. Ensure you remember to state what your goal is, and how long you would like the extension for, provide evidence and let them know how far through you currently are (Steps 2 to 5 above)
  • Formal Farewell. End it with a formal salutation – ‘Regards,’ ‘Yours truly,’ and ‘Sincerely,’ all work well
  • Your Details. After the formal salutation, provide your full name and the class you’re in. Your teacher has many classes and teaches many courses. Ensure they know immediately which class you’re in. One year I had seven Katies and they all left out their surnames when emailing me. I was consistently confused.

These seem like self-evident points, but it’s ridiculous how many students fail to send respectful, formal emails.

11. Ask for an Extension in your Second Email, Not your First

If you send an initial email asking questions about the assignment content, your teacher will be more likely to give you an extension.

For example, often a student will email me 10 days before the paper is due asking for tips and advice. I’ll bank in my head “Hey, this student really wants to do well.”

Then when it comes time for you to email your professor to ask for an extension, the professor already knows you’re a good, engaged student.

The professor should be reminded that you’ve been working really hard on this piece, which will play into their decision-making when they decide whether or not to give you an extension.

One way to remind your teacher of how you’ve been working hard is to send your extension request email as a ‘reply’ to your previous email discussion. In this way, your teacher will be able to see all previous correspondence and see how hard you’ve been working.

12. Approach Student Support Services

For all universities I’ve worked at I’ve gotten emails from student support services insisting I give a student an extension.

Often, a disability support officer or a student counselor even has authority over the course teacher to grant extensions.

Therefore, if you feel you have cause to go to student services for counseling support or support for a disability, that’s a great avenue.

There are a few important things to keep in mind, though:

  1. You will need to do this well in advance. A booking with a counselor may take a week to organize. Then, the counselor may need to conduct a needs assessment, which will take even more time.
  2. Just booking the appointment may be enough. If your counselor needs to conduct further assessments or refuses to advocate for an extension for you, that’s okay. Contact your professor to ask for an extension of the deadline for the paper and state that you’ve been to see a counselor. This will make it look like you’ve been really proactive about the situation.
  3. You may not get the support you wanted. A counselor or student support staff member may deny a request. So, make sure you have good grounds to seek support before taking this route.
  4. Consider applying for an Extended Deadline as a Group

This happens often. A full class of students approaches the teacher and announces that there has been a glut of assignment deadlines all clustered together into one week.

Very, very often, teachers will negotiate with one another to ensure the deadlines do not clash.

Therefore, it might be a good idea to seek a representative to ask the teacher for an extension. A great time to do this is when the whole course cohort is together in a lecture or seminar. The teacher may ask for a show of hands to see that there’s strength in numbers.

Alternatively, the strength in-numbers strategy could be done by email. Email both professors whose deadlines clash and ask them whether they can discuss together the possibility of moving the deadlines.

Once again the earlier in the semester you do this strategy the better.

13. Ensure you only Ask for an Extension Once

One extended deadline for a paper is surely enough. If you ask for another extended deadline on your second paper, you’ll start getting a bad reputation. Then, rejections for extensions will get more and more common.

I’m not only talking about one extension per course here. I’m talking about one extension period.

Keep in mind that teachers love to gossip. If you’ve asked for an extension, you can put good money on word getting around the faculty lounge that you’ve done so.

In fact, often we’ll email each other right away to discuss and coordinate responses to extension requests.

To avoid a bad name, only ask for extensions rarely – preferably only once in your degree.

If you’ve got a good track record of submitting on time, this will be a tick in your corner when you ask for an extension.

Feel free to remind your teacher that this is your first-ever extension request. But don’t lie – they’ll check with your other teachers.

14. Ask for a Blanket Extension for all your Courses at Once

If you really need more than one extension due to a big life challenge, I’d recommend copying all of your teachers into one email letting them all know that you’d like one blanket extension for all coming deadlines.

One great tip for this blanket request strategy is to search for the academic who is in charge of your major or overall course and get them to coordinate the blanket extension for you.

To find out who is in charge of your overall major, check the College’s webpage that discusses your major and look for the name of the key faculty contact on that page.

15. Tell the Truth about why you want an Extension

Above I mentioned that teachers talk.

Boy, do teachers talk. They gossip in the faculty lounge, they send emails to one another about students and they’re notoriously condescending.

Any extension excuse you share with the teacher, your other teachers will know about it.

Sometimes this works in your favor – a teacher will already have heard you’re having a rough time and treat you with a little more care.

But, sometimes it doesn’t work in your favor at all. Especially when you lie.

Have I told you the story of the girl who had 3 grandmothers die in 2 years? That was a head-scratcher. Yep. It happened – and yep, the faculty was well aware that she was a chronic liar.

She never got an extension request granted again. So don’t lie – It’ll come back to bite you.

Your story needs to be consistent. Teachers talk to one another and they love to gossip about students. If your story to one teacher conflicts with the story to another, word will get around.

Summing Up

Okay, so you’ve got your 15 tips on how to ask a professor for an extension on a paper. Now it’s time to check out our 9 common extension excuses post to make sure your extension excuse won’t fall flat. There are tons of tips and strategies packed into that post that’ll help you with your request!

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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. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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