We’re rapidly approaching one of those times in the school year where it’s easy to fall behind. (Or, for many of us, fall further behind.) With syllabus deadlines rapidly approaching and the demands of your non-academic life refusing to go away, it’s easy to decide that maybe you’ll just hand a few things in late. What difference could a few late assignments really make?
So you do the math. The syllabus probably says something about losing points for turning things in late. So you try to figure out how a little academic tardiness might impact your final grade. If your grade can handle it, why not hand that paper in a little late?
Grade impact should certainly be part of the equation when you’re faced with this situation. But it’s not the only one. I’d like to suggest a couple of other reasons to think twice before handing that assignment in late, reasons that may not immediately come to mind when you’re trying to decide if seeing Catching Fire on opening night is worth a little academic slippage.
3 Reasons Not to Hand Work in Late
1. Late Work Makes More Work for Your Teacher
We’re basically selfish people. So I can understand why most students only think about how handing something in late might affect their final grade. But on behalf of teachers everywhere, I’d like to point out that you’re not the only one involved in this equation. And the simple fact is that grading late work is harder for the teacher.
At first glance, that may seem rather odd. Why should it matter to me when I grade something? Doesn’t it take the same amount of time to grade a 5-page exam regardless of when it gets turned in? In short, no. There’s a rhythm to grading. Working through a stack of exams, I fall into a pattern where I know precisely what I’m looking for, how many points I’m awarding for certain kinds of answers, and so on. Although that rhythm can get a little tedious after a while, it’s an efficient way to grade. Grading the same exam later requires grading without the rhythm. It can be done, but it takes longer.
So late work makes more work for me, the professor. And if you’re not selfless enough to care about whether you’re making more work for me, just remember that it’s in your best interests to keep the teacher happy.
2. Late Work Is Bad for the Other Students
Another factor that most students don’t include in their late-work calculations is the corporate aspect of learning. In a good learning environment, students learning from each other is part of the process. I’ve had classes where I’ve learned almost as much from the other students as I have from the teacher (sometimes more). And hopefully I’ve contributed as well.
That’s where late work comes in. When I haven’t done my work, I can’t contribute as effectively to the corporate learning experience. I may get that assignment done later, but it doesn’t really help. By then the class has moved on to other things. The window for participation has closed.
3. Late Work Is Bad for Your Learning
Setting aside these altruistic reasons for turning work in on time, let’s get back to some unadulterated selfishness. Late work is bad for you because it impacts your own learning. Contrary to popular belief, teachers do not pick due dates by spinning a cat on a calendar and seeing where the tail points when it stops. (Okay, to be more accurate, we don’t always do that.) In a well-constructed course, assignments are due at particular times because that’s when you need to know/process something before you move on to the rest. An out-of-sequence assignment is better than nothing, but it’s not what it could have been.
But Life Happens
Having said all that, remember that your teacher also knows that sometimes life happens. After all, life has probably happened to him or her as well. And your fellow students know this too. So don’t take this as an opportunity to pile guilt on yourself if you just couldn’t keep up with the deadlines, not because of poor personal planning, but because the snowball got rolling too fast and bowled you over. It does that sometimes.
So yes, there are times when you need to bite the bullet, face reality, and hand stuff in late. But before you do, take a minute to think about how this will impact more than just your final grade. Late assignments come with a price, and we often fail to count all the costs before letting that deadline slip by.