Ask a Professor: Is It Ever OK to Skip a Class?
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- Skipping a class can leave you behind and impact your grades.
- Good reasons to miss class include illness, job interviews, or emergencies.
- Let your professor know if you need to miss a class.
- Avoid falling into the habit of missing class, and only skip for a good reason.
Every college student skips class. But how bad is it to miss a class? And is it ever OK to skip?
Professors understand that students miss classes for good reasons. If you are sick or have a big job interview, most instructors would encourage you to miss class.
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As a college professor, I had students who worried that missing a single class for a graduate school interview might harm their grade. I also had students who never showed up for class until the final.
Before skipping a class, weigh the benefits against the consequences. Plan ahead to minimize the consequences of a missed lecture. And consider letting your professor know that you missed class.
How Bad Is It to Skip a Class?
Most undergrads skip class at least once. And most professors understand that valid reasons keep students from attending every lecture.
In general, it's not terrible to miss a single class — as long as you're not skipping the midterm or final. But skipping can become a problem if it's chronic.
Missing multiple classes often means a lower grade. In classes that include attendance or participation in final grades, skipping means missing points. More broadly, students who do not attend class tend to perform worse on exams and assignments.
When Is It OK to Skip Class?
It's OK to miss class sometimes. College students are often balancing school with work, family responsibilities, and other pressures. Professors understand that students sometimes miss class for a good reason.
So when is it OK to skip class? Before missing a class, consider your reasons. If you are sick or need to care for a family member, those are good reasons to miss class. If you find the class boring or would rather hang out with friends, those aren't great reasons.
5 Reasons to Skip Class in College
There are some good reasons to miss a class in college. And in some cases, professors will actually encourage you to stay home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, many instructors asked sick students to avoid class.
Illness or Caregiving Responsibilities
Are you sick? Is it contagious? Then you should avoid class. Don't put your classmates and instructors at risk. Fortunately, most professors know that sick days are unavoidable.
This reason also extends to caregiving responsibilities. If you're a student parent and you have a sick child, professors generally understand that you'll need to miss class.
Students often have little control over the scheduling of job interviews. If a job or internship interview overlaps with class, should you skip? Or try to reschedule?
In general, it's OK to miss class for an important interview. As a professor, I had students miss class to attend job interviews, medical school interviews, and other important events related to their careers.
School or Work Travel
Travel is a common reason for missing class. But is it a good reason? If you're traveling for school or work, it's generally OK to miss class. For example, student-athletes miss class for out-of-town games. A work conference or grad school visit might also mean missing class.
However, it's not a good idea to miss class for vacation. So try to avoid scheduling vacations during the semester.
What if your car gets a flat on the way to school? Or your water heater breaks and you have to stay home to meet the repairperson? Professors understand that last-minute emergencies happen.
But avoid making up emergencies to get out of class. That only makes professors more suspicious about students facing real emergencies.
Colleges host all kinds of job fairs, networking events, and internship information sessions. And they often schedule these career prep events at the same time as classes.
Most professors understand if you need to miss class for a valid career prep reason. However, it's a good idea to attend all-day events outside of class time.
Should You Let Your Professor Know If You're Going to Miss Class?
If you know in advance that you'll miss a particular day, it's a good idea to reach out to the professor early. For example, if you have an out-of-town conference or a career fair coming up, send your professor a quick email asking how to make up for the missed class.
In situations where you don't know in advance, it's still a good idea to contact your professor. Let them know why you missed class — briefly. There's no need to go into extensive detail about your stomach flu.
Make sure to review the syllabus before missing a class. Instructors often include information on their attendance or participation policies. The syllabus might also include policies on missing class.
Avoid asking your professor to do additional work. Most instructors will not share their lecture notes or connect you with someone who took notes. You can also visit office hours to discuss anything you missed.
Example Email Templates for Missing Class
In general, you should keep the email short and concise. Below are a few examples of email templates to help you figure out what to include in the email to your professor.
Example No. 1
Dear Professor Smith,
I will miss the lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 4, because of a summer internship interview that day. I've already asked a friend to share his notes from the lecture. Could you let me know how I can make up the participation points for that day?
Example No. 2
Hello, Dr. Jones,
I missed today's lecture because I tested positive for COVID. I'm attaching the doctor's note that recommends staying home from class for the next week. I plan to review the slides posted on Blackboard and ask a friend for notes. Is there anything else I can do to avoid falling behind?
Example No. 3
Dear Dr. Williams,
I am unable to attend class today because of a family emergency. I will ask a classmate for lecture notes, and I plan to stop by office hours on Wednesday to discuss the material I missed.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Skipping Class in College?
Some professors insist on 100% attendance. But most understand that there are times when students benefit from skipping class. If you're sick, for example, you should stay home. Or if you have an important job interview, most professors would recommend prioritizing that over a single lecture.
However, there are definite downsides to missing class. By skipping, you'll miss out on valuable information. You'll also need to catch up on what you missed by borrowing lecture notes and reviewing material.
Do professors actually care if you miss a class? Most professors expect students to miss a class every now and then. For students who miss one or two classes over the course of a semester, professors rarely care.
But the frequent skippers fall into another category. Professors can see frequent skipping as disrespectful of their time and expertise.
Ultimately, it's OK to miss college classes when you have a good reason to skip. But avoid making it a habit, or you could put your grades at risk.