What Should You Do?: Missing an Exam Because You Overslept

The other day, I gave an exam to a large class. When it ended, I went back to my office to get the exam ready to be graded. After a few minutes, there was a knock at my door; I opened it and saw a young woman in tears. When I asked what was wrong, she told me that she had slept through her alarm and missed the exam.


I’d like to offer some thoughts about situations like this. First, your syllabus likely doesn’t mention oversleeping. The syllabus probably only describes the times when you miss an exam because of an excused absence. Excused absences generally include documented illnesses, university-approved events, and death in one’s immediate family. Clearly, oversleeping is not an excused absence.

Second, faculty members are put in a very difficult position when a student oversleeps and misses an exam. On the one hand, the syllabus doesn’t call for a make-up, other students managed to get to the exam, and you have rested more than anyone else who took the exam. On the other hand, mistakes happen and having a little more sleep probably doesn’t amount to a significant advantage.

Third, you need to live with the consequences of your actions. You may think that sleeping through the exam isn’t such a big deal, but a faculty member may see it as a really big deal. They might give you a 0 on the exam or have you take the exam with a penalty (e.g., losing 10 points right off the top). Alternatively, they might simply have you take the exam right there on the spot and not penalize you at all.

I hope that you’ll never have to deal with this on exam day. Exams lead to enough stress on their own. You don’t need any more. If you think you might oversleep because the exam is in an early class, or because you stayed up studying longer than normal, then set more than one alarm or have a friend either call you or knock on your door so you don’t stay asleep.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I let the woman at the beginning of my blog take the exam with no penalty.


Special Guest Writer-Casey Magyarics (graduate student): Writing an Email to Your Instructor

Writing an email might sound like an easy thing to do, especially since we all spend so much time writing text messages, but writing an email to a professor or TA is very different from writing a text message. When you’re writing an email to a professor, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:


1. State your name and what class you’re taking. Your professors likely teach more than one course and they can’t keep track of everyone. If you tell your professors who you are and what class you’re taking with them, you’ll probably get a much better response.

2. Clearly explain your issue or question. Don’t just say that you need help with an assignment, be specific about the question you have. Make sure you have looked at the syllabus or assignment guidelines clearly before asking your professor or TA for help.

3. Be respectful! This is very simple, but it can really help you out. Everyone is busy, so if you are appreciative of your instructor’s time, they are probably going to be more willing to answer take care of your concern/question thoroughly.

4. Use professional language and grammar. This is where writing an email to a professor and text messaging are very different. You will want to use proper grammar and sentence structure. Don’t use things like jk, lol, !!!???, or emojis.

5. Don’t act like your instructor owes you anything. Your instructor may not be willing to provide students with their presentations or notes, so it’s important that you not act like you’re entitled to these privileges. Same thing goes for extensions on assignments, etc.

These 5 pieces of advice can really help you create a positive relationship with your instructor through email. Remember that you might need to contact these people when it comes to bumping your grade up from a B to an A at the end of the semester or when you need a recommendation letter for a scholarship or grad school. Plus, it’s always nice to treat your instructors with the same respect that you expect from them.

Jobs and College

Consider this question: should you get a job while you’re at college? Some of you don’t even have to worry about earning extra money because you’re lucky enough to have your parents pay all your expenses. Some of you need money to pay for school and housing and therefore definitely have to work.

For the rest of you, the question is a bit tougher. For example, some students’ parents will pay for some things, like tuition, but leave the cost of other important things for the student to deal with. These costs might include rent, food, gas, entertainment, etc. These students often feel forced to get a job because living at the standards they’re used to without a steady stream of income would be difficult or impossible. There are also those students who, though their parents pay for most things, feel they want to take greater responsibility for their life, gain work experience, and have extra spending money.


If you’re thinking about getting a job, it’s important to make a plan before you go out looking for them. Don’t just take the first job you see. Remember that you’re a student first and that whatever job you take must truly take a back seat to your primary responsibilities as a student.

Keep the following guidelines in mind. First: make sure that the number of hours that you work allows you to go to class, study, and have a normal life. I’ve talked to many students who committed to too many hours and ended up falling far behind in their schoolwork. Related to this, I should add that faculty members are usually not moved by students who use a job as an excuse for not completing schoolwork. Second: consider the location of the job. You should favor a job either on or close to campus. If you get a job far off campus, you’re going to be saddled with transportation costs and the time it takes to get to and from work. Third: be sure the job is worth it, both financially and as a way to gain experience. I worked through all my years of college, and I can say that all those hours in the places I worked would have made no sense if I wasn’t paid fairly well and if I didn’t learn a lot about myself and how to deal with other people.

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.