Part 15: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time - The Potpourri File
College professors from around the country have offered the most outrageous excuses their students have given for missing a class, a test, or an assignment. Here are the best ones from a whole host of sources - let’s call it “potpourri” ala “Jeopardy” - that have prevented students from attending class.
As an overview, this article is part of a series (Overview: The Best (Really Worst) College Student Excuses of All Time - Introduction to the Article Series), exploring what excuses college students have offered to explain an absence, a missed exam, a paper or project being late, etc. All of these excuses have been collected from this author’s contemporaries - professors and instructors at colleges and universities all across America. As such, it is a “crowdsourced” piece, and I owe them my gratitude for sharing their “best” excuses - which in reality means the “worst” - from their students over the years that provided the basis for this article series. And in all of these articles, each of which deals with a different “origin area” for student excuses, from health to tech to social to pets and more, we not only see excuses that make us laugh, but we also see some that could make you cry, as there are also stories of students who “went the extra mile” and persevered over the unique obstacles they might have faced in their lives to succeed in school (A complete list of the articles in the series with links to them is provided at the end of this article.)
In this article in the series exploring college student excuses, we look at our final general area of excuses that have caused students to miss a class, a test, or a paper/project submission deadline. This general area is made up of anything and everything else, excuses submitted by my contemporaries across the country that didn’t fit into one of the other more defined areas, like medical, tech, family, social, and of course, pet issues! So, without further ado, let’s open the “potpourri” file and explore some of the more “interesting” excuses offered by students over the years to their professors.
The Potpourri File
One thing is for certain: There are simply great excuses among the many that my colleagues have submitted! Take this one recounted by a professor from her father’s college experience:
“My dad has a story that he once was late to class because he was listening to the song ‘American Pie’ for the first time on the radio. Once the prof heard the song, he excused the lateness!”
And there are excuses that no one outside of academia would believe, but many of us on the inside can readily relate to, as yes, we’ve all encountered something along these lines before if we have taught for any length of time at all:
“I had a student who missed two weeks of class because he said he did not realize the semester had started.”
“One that comes to mind is that the student was not aware homework or assignments were required. Ever. Any. At any point.”
“I had a graduate student, who after week 3 and a no show, but still registered, say to me when I reached out to check: ‘You mean I have to ATTEND classes?’ This was a NYC teaching fellow.”
“A local student submitted an assignment an hour late and said she didn’t know what time zone we lived in...all semester.”
“It’s not fair to give me a low participation grade. I can’t participate because I don’t come to class.”
“I got lost between the parking lot and the classroom, so it was not worth coming.”
“I had a student write me 5 minutes before class began to say that he was really sorry for missing class but that he had forgotten to set his alarm.”
“On the first day of class, there was a sign on my classroom door indicating that a different class with a different instructor had moved to a new room. Apparently four students hung around the new room waiting for me. One of them emailed me and accused me of ‘not showing up.’”
Then, there is what I, myself, have found to be an extremely common one over the years, one that tells you, “Hey, your stuff isn’t as important to me as that other guy’s!:"
“I can’t come to class next time - I have to study for a test in another class”
Most of us can relate to having money problems at one point or another in our lives, and yes, college can be tough financially today! But, as the saying goes, money can’t buy everything - and in this case, an excuse!:
“I had a student miss a major exam because he had to cash a check.”
Now elevators are a reality in any academic building today of two stories or more. And yes, they generate more than their share of student excuses:
“I got stuck in the elevator in our library once about fifteen minutes before my biology class started. I get an email on my phone from two students saying ‘we're going to be late, we're stuck in an elevator.’ I'm not sure what to say other than ‘yeah I know, I'm literally in the same elevator.’"
“Years ago, a student handed me a signed, sealed letter on letterhead in an official campus envelope. It was from the residence hall director, explaining that she had been trapped in an elevator during class.”
Yes, the arts are different. And there are different excuses for these kind of unique courses and their demands:
“Final painting critique; maid threw my paintings out.”
“Final scene in an acting one course: Student said: “Someone drove their vehicle through the mall and I was traumatized by it. Can’t do my scene!”
Then there’s this one story about a student who definitely didn’t get the memo that “the show must go on!”:
“My hands-down favorite excuse comes from when I was teaching an acting class. The scene was from Hamlet. The actors are in place, the fencing moving forward, Gertrude collapsing with the cup when suddenly an agonized look of horror crosses the face of the student playing Claudius. ‘Good, good!’ I think. Claudius hasn’t committed that much to this scene yet—this is a breakthrough moment...Instead, ‘I can’t die today’ Claudius gasps, looking in horror around the dusty studio, ‘I’m wearing Armani!’”
And on a related note, clothing - or rather, the lack of availability of certain items - also tended to be a common issue for students today...
“Student couldn’t come to class because their dresser drawer broke and they had no pants. And had to wait for maintenance. I excused his absence.”
“‘I don’t have rain clothes’ — this one made me wonder if what I was wearing was proper rain attire.”
“I had a student miss class because she ‘could find tons of socks but no matches.’”
Then there are excuses that spring from, well, unusual personal circumstances:
“I was once asked to remove certain assignments from a class because a student was in a beauty contest and had to spend extra time in a tanning salon.”
“‘I couldn't do the assignment because I had to shave my body for the swim meet.’ For me it was TMI.”
“I’m too pretty to attend clinical at that facility...”
“The maid quit.”
Unlike most of the other articles in this series, this one doesn’t conclude with a story of students persevering or overcoming adversity with such issues. Hopefully though, all of these students - and students in the future - will have learned from these experiences (and maybe even have a great story to tell about them someday!). I will conclude though with the excuse that was perhaps the best - or at least the most unusual - of the entire lot of submissions from the over 500 professors who contributed to this project:
“A student was 5 minutes late for the beginning of an exam. When they walked in, they immediately apologized: ‘I am so sorry I am late, I was being chased by a zombie.’ I handed them the exam, no questions asked. I figured it was creative enough to warrant a pass. After class the student confirmed that it was real - some people were dressed up as zombies to promote something (blood drive I think?), and they were friends of his who temporarily delayed his trip to class.”
And yes, then there's the perfect retort we wish we could all say to a student who mysteriously shows up at the end of the semester after being mysteriously absent for some time:
“Student strolls in after 3 weeks absent....says: ‘Oh, my bad...I just needed some time off. Can I get the final?’ I simply responded: ‘No, dude!’”
The Article Series
If you enjoyed reading this article on the best excuses offered by college students regarding legal issues, please check out the other articles in the series exploring a whole host of other “causations” of absences, missed tests, late projects, etc. It’s all offered in a good spirit, and I hope you will check them out for yourself and perhaps share with your colleagues - and maybe even your students!
Enjoy this article - or these articles? Please buy Professor Wyld's ebook - The Handbook of College Student Excuses - that compiles all of these excuses in one place - for yourself, for a college student you know (or parent), or for a college faculty member. It is a great, fun read, and makes a great gift! Get it today from Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1073655) or on Amazon (https://amzn.to/3rM5IXZ). You can also view the college student "Excuse of the Day" on Dr. Wyld's blog at http://www.collegestudentexcuses.com/the-best-excuse-of-the-day/.
About David Wyld
David Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness.
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