Late Work Assignment Policy College Student

In my first fifteen years of teaching, I struggled to develop an effective, fair and student-learning centered late work policy. My policies changed from year to year. One year, I’d accept no late work. The next, I’d accept any and all late work with no consequences.

I faced four conflicts as I tried to create a policy that maximized student learning while instilling responsibility.

Conflict 1:

I want each of my students to be responsible and submit their work in a timely manner.


In the “real-world” deadlines are often negotiated and extensions are often granted.

Conflict 2:

As a teacher, I need to maintain a pace to meet curriculum requirements.


Given the choice, I’d rather students submit work late than not at all.

Conflict 3:

Late penalties may deter students from turning in work late.


Late penalties don’t work for many students who are consistently late turning in work. 

Conflict 4:

Given no due dates, students rush to finish assignments and will turn them in at the last possible moment (i.e. right before the end of the marking period)


Firm due dates are needed to allow me to provide feedback and meet reporting dates.

After much experimentation, I eventually created a policy that maximized student learning while emphasizing timely work completion. Here’s how it works.

Each assignment/assessment includes both a due date and a deadline date. The deadline date is the absolute last day an assignment/assessment could be turned in. As long as the work was completed by the deadline, students could earn full credit.

Students who did not complete work by the due date were required to complete a missing homework sheet. By quickly reviewing these sheets, I could determine which students needed additional academic support versus who needed help managing their time.

A couple of other items of note:

  • Often I involved students in setting the deadline date. This collaborative process created buy-in and simulated real-life negotiations.
  • My grading program, allowed me to create a footnote if an assignment was turned in late. Keeping track of such information was vital.
  • For students who were chronically late completing assignments, I worked with their parents, other teachers, guidance counselors, etc. to communicate deadlines (emails, text messages, posting assignments online, creating student contracts, etc.)
  • This policy actually helped students learn to better manage their time. For example, Susan was an excellent student who was involved in many extra-curricular activities and took several challenging classes. On Monday, I assigned a mini-assessment project on the Roman Empire with a due date of Wednesday and a deadline date of the following Monday. On Monday and Tuesday, Susan had several hours of homework from her other classes and she had away soccer games both nights. Instead of rushing to complete all of her assignments, Susan was able to concentrate on completing her work for her other classes and could dedicate the necessary time and effort later in the work on her Roman Empire project.

What are the advantages of this policy?

1.     Grades are linked to learning not to behaviors (poor time management)

2.     It makes the entire process more manageable for both students and me

3.     It enables me to work with students who have trouble completing assignments and provide timely feedback to all students

4.     It gives me an opportunity to help students learn AND build relationships with the students as I work closely with them

What is your late work policy? What do you like or not like about my policy?

In writing your own late/make-up work policies, consider the following questions:

“Due dates for every assignment are provided on the course syllabus and course schedule (and posted in Canvas). Unless otherwise stated, assignments are due on those days. However, I recognize that sometimes “life happens.” In these instances, you may use your allotted two flex days. These days allow you to submit an assignment up to two days late without penalty. You can use these days for any assignment and for any reason. You do not need to provide me with the reason: simply email me and tell me how many of your flex days you would like to use.

Once you’ve exhausted your flex days, then point deductions will occur for any assignment submitted after the deadline. An assignment submitted 24 hours of the due date will only be eligible for 80% of the maximum number of point allotted. Assignments submitted more than 24 hours after the due date will not be accepted. If you experience extenuating circumstances (e.g., you are hospitalized) that prohibit you from submitting your assignments on time, please let me know. I will evaluate these instances on a case-by-case basis.”

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