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.

Study Tip: Making Rehearsal Work for You

Exams are creeping up on some of you. Time to get studying. When you review for an exam, you’re almost certainly going to rehearse the material you learned, which means repeating the information in order to more securely store it in your memory. This makes sure that what you need to know is easy to remember come exam time.

However, don’t think about rehearsal too simply; psychologists often talk about two distinct types of it. Maintenance rehearsal is when you repeat something over and over without giving any meaning to the information. Let’s say you want to remember the definition of the word “axon,” which is a part of a neuron: maintenance rehearsal would involve saying “axon” over and over until you think you can remember it. This is also called rote rehearsal. It keeps information active in your mind, but it typically has limited value if you want to remember it for any significant length of time.

Elaborative rehearsal involves giving meaning to the information you’re trying to memorize. Research clearly shows that when you want to commit things to long-term memory, like when you’re studying for an exam, you need to use this kind of rehearsal. Elaborative rehearsal isn’t only repeating the piece of information you want to remember, but also making it associated to something else you already know. So, going back to the word “axon”: to remember its definition, you can think that an axon takes a neural impulse “away” from the neuron. “Axon” and “away” both start with the letter A. This makes everything much easier to remember.

Here’s another example of how you can use elaboration to improve your memory. Let’s say that you want to remember the names of all five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. You could repeat the five names over and over (rote rehearsal) or you can think of a more meaningful way to remember them, like forming a word from the first letter of each of the five names (this is called an acronym). This spells HOMES. Using acronyms makes it much easier to remember than five separate words!

Have you ever used elaborative rehearsal before? If “yes”, how has it helped you remember something?

Special Guest Writer–Dr. Jerry Hauselt (Southern CT State University): Faculty Expectations

Professors expect that college students will act differently than high school students. Why? Because college is voluntary and expensive. Therefore, it is expected that students will take their education seriously and take responsibility for maximizing their investment of time and money. Professors expect that students will act like scholars, and come to class ready to engage with the material. You need to have the same attitude towards studying as you’d have toward training: success comes only after sustained hard work. One of my colleagues explains this to her students by telling them that they should come to class prepared to prove that they are the smartest person in the room. Students with this attitude succeed not because they impress her, but because they know the material.

Many students enter college without realizing that THE RULES HAVE CHANGED and they need to change their attitude towards academics. In high school, studying and doing well may not be popular, but in college, it’s why you’re here.

I try to convey to my students that rules have changed with the following elements from one of my syllabi:

Electronics/Facebook Free Zone. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! NOW! Texts can wait. Also, TEXTING KILLS GRADES. If you want a poor grade, keep texting. Are you paying tuition so that you can text friends in a crowded room? Are you paying tuition to have a comfortable seat in which to make Mark Zuckerberg rich? Please note that your friend’s latest tweet or Facebook post or last night’s basketball scores WILL NOT be on the exam. Put your phone away for an hour. It won’t hurt. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Respect, Please. We are here to learn about psychology. We are not here to chat, text, or engage in other behavior that will negatively impact another person’s ability to learn. You are not as quiet as you think when you text or comment to your neighbor. If you must sit and talk to your neighbor, do it outside this class. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Another important element of respect for others is remaining in your seat during class. It is disruptive and rude to those around you to leave in the middle of class and return. Please take care of what you need to take care of before or after class. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Electronic Access. We will be using the internet and email. It is your responsibility to gain access to both (available free in campus computer labs) and be familiar with how to use them. YOU SHOULD ALSO PLAN BACK-UP ACCESS. Learn where there are other computers you can use if yours fails.

What are your thoughts on Dr. Hauselt’s pointers?

The Importance of Attending Class

Now that you’ve been in college for a short time, you might be asking whether you should attend class or not. It’s an interesting question, especially given that almost all colleges don’t have a universal attendance policy. Moreover, if you’re taking a large class you might reason that no one would even know if you were missing. As a faculty member, and one who teaches large classes at that, I’m going to argue that you should definitely attend class. It’s your individual responsibility; no one’s going to make you go. But if you don’t go, you need to be prepared for any negative consequences.

As far as specific reasons to attend class, here are 6 quick points:

1) Class time should be interesting and fun. You’ll also learn while you’re in class. This is easy for me to say, but any instructor worth your time should be working to make you never even want to miss class. Your instructor should motivate you to show up focused and ready to learn. Although this isn’t always true, most faculty are prepared to work hard to make your class experience something to look forward to.

2) Based on my 27 years of teaching all sizes of classes, I can confidently say that attending class makes you learn more and increases your grade. I’ve found a high positive correlation between attendance and grades—the more students attend class the better their grade.

3) In many classes, like my own, reading your textbook is no substitute for hearing the lecture. Exams are often directly from the lecture and not from the textbook. Therefore, not being in class could significantly impact your grade.

4) Getting notes from your classmates isn’t a good substitute for attending lecture either. The friend you get notes from might take those notes much differently than you, and that might require your classmate to take a long time explaining what they mean.

5) More and more classes are instituting an attendance policy, in-class work (even in large classes), a participation requirement, or all three of these. Every day you might miss means a loss in grade points.

6) When you attend class you are able to interact with others. You get to talk to other students and hopefully make new friends that can last a lifetime. Also, you can talk to your Instructor, finding out more things about the class and what that Instructor is investigating in his or her research.

Special Guest Writer–Jake Bailey: Starting College

So you’ve begin your freshman year. By now, you’ve read over your syllabi (hopefully), settled into your dorm, and have some kind of routine you follow every day. Class is already starting to pick up, and it may start seeming a little scary. I know when I was in your shoes, I was not doing so hot. Specifically on an emotional level. Everyone would give me all of these tips on time management and campus resources. They helped tons don’t get me wrong, but there are a few tips I’d like to pass down to all of you that you do not hear as often. In addition to the usual academic advice you hear a lot of, this advice is important to heed.

The first piece of advice is rather simple, but makes a significant difference: keep yourself healthy. In my first year of college, I didn’t do a great job of taking care of myself. I put 100% of my energy into my classes, and almost none into myself. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, eating right, etc. I didn’t even look like myself and my grades suffered. I know money is tight in college, but try to eat decent food even if it is a few bucks more. You’re also going to run into situations where staying up all night to finish a paper seems absolutely necessary. I don’t know about y’all, but I need my beauty sleep. Complete as much of that paper as you can, then PLEASE get some sleep. Humans aren’t meant to stay up all night. Get your hair cut. Exercise if you want. Shave regularly (not trying to sound like your parents). All of those seemingly small things really do help, and you will feel 100% better.

My second tip: find a hobby. Find something you can do with others or by yourself that relaxes you. A lot of you probably did some kind of extracurricular activity in high school. Sports, marching band, student government, volunteering, whatever it is–it’s not as easy to do in college. Luckily for you, there are tons of clubs you can join on campus. Even if you for some reason can’t find a club you like, there are many other things to do. I played club dodgeball for a couple of years and loved it. Now I’m taking boxing classes. Just find something you really like. It keeps you in a rhythm and keeps your head clear.

The last thing is a little harder than it sounds. Talk to people. I know, just starting a conversation with a complete stranger out of nowhere seems tough. But guess what? It isn’t. Crack a joke about something that just happened to the person standing in line in front of you. Get to know the people in your classes. You never know what could come out of it. You could be talking to your best friend.

I hope this helps everyone. Don’t spend too much time worrying about the future. I promise if you just buckle down in class, make friends, and do what you love, everything else will fall into place.