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Student Excuses: A Blast From the Past

After I posted the story of the mother who called me about her daughter’s failing my class (and then not), a reader of the blog asked me to repeat a post from years ago, of the best excuse I’ve ever received from a student for missing an exam.   I dug around and found it.  It begins with my apologies for not getting to my Mailbag as much as I should, as it grows longer and longer.  The apologies still apply!  And the excuse remains the best I’ve ever gotten.  Here’s the post:


My sincere apologies to any- and every-one who has asked me a direct question that I have said I would devote a post or more to.   The list of questions that I need to address is as long as my arm, and in many cases I suppose people forgot that they even asked!  But if you asked and are waiting – apologies.   I still have the questions and I will get to them, slowly.  But I find that once I start answering a question, to cover the issues thoroughly ends up taking several posts and I get sent down some byways.  But that’s OK, in my opinion; I tend to think that makes the blog a bit more interesting.

Anyway, below is a question (out of order in which I received it, I’ll admit) that I thought was pretty good.  It is about my syllabus for my course, where I indicate that my deadlines for assignments are set in stone and late papers will be penalized.  Here’s the question:



“Both deadlines are firm.”  Any chance you will do a post on some of the better excuses you’ve got for overdue assignments over the years?!



Ah great question!  In fact, I almost never get any good or memorable excuses for late papers.  But I’ve gotten some *amazing* responses in the past to explain why a student did not turn up for the midterm or final exam.   You’d be amazed how many sick and dying grandmothers a single student could have!

My all-time favorite excuse came…

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Visiting the Monastery at Mount Sinai: A Blast From the Past
Balancing the Scholarly and the Popular



  1. Avatar
    Kitty2Shoes  July 6, 2018

    I went to a commuter university and on the night before the finals it snowed hard and then frozen over. DC and the Federal gov’t was shut down completely. I spent all morning trying to shovel my car out, but the street was frozen solid in our subdivision. I received a call from my professor at home asking me why I didn’t make it in for the final that day, apparently the fact that the university was official shut down wasn’t good enough.

    The professor explained everyone else made it for the final – but they all lived on campus and could walk. The Professor lived close to campus as well. He sighed and said ‘if you would just live on campus and not at home, we wouldn’t have this problem’ and told me that as soon as my car was dug out to call him to retake the final. I took it the next day and aced it. Took me 2 hours going 15 mph in the snow and ice to drive to building, but I did it.

  2. Robert
    Robert  July 6, 2018

    Should have asked to see the newspaper accounts. Then check his driver’s license to verify his address. Then, when he can’t produce that, drive him back to his house to meet his roommates. Only for the pure entertainment value of seeing him make up more complex versions!

  3. Avatar
    yenci  July 6, 2018

    I can’t imagine the amount of strength it takes to keep a straight face when listening to such an unbelievable excuse.

  4. Avatar
    lawecon  July 6, 2018

    Many decades ago, I taught at a “university” (liberal arts college) in mid-Ohio. The student body was comprised of the children of upper executives of Fortune 500 companies.

    Several days after the first major exam in one of my courses I had a student come to my office and request a make-up exam. He gave the following explanation:

    “Well, Doc, you’re new here, so you probably haven’t heard of our Ohio Jumping Trees. The night before your exam, I borrowed my roommates Saba for a trip into Columbus (about 30 miles each way). One of these Jumping Trees jumped right out in front of me, and I badly dented the front fender. My roommates’ father was due for a visit and would have been furious if he had seen the damage. So I had to stay up all night on the phone getting a replacement fender flown in from the factory in Sweden. I was too exhausted to attend the exam the next morning.

    Despite the fact that I generally did not give make-ups for less than confirmed medical excuses, he got a make-up.

  5. Avatar
    ask21771  July 6, 2018

    What is the significance of the items listed in Revelation 18: 12-13

  6. Avatar
    anthonygale  July 6, 2018

    I bet you’ve also had students come up with interesting answers to questions and present some off the wall ideas. Any good examples? Not to trash someones idea, but to share an answer or argument that was funny, perhaps even intentially so. Along the lines of the “is hell exothermic or endothermic” essay a student once wrote (you can google it if you never heard of it).

    • Bart
      Bart  July 8, 2018

      Ah, I never saved any. But yes, there have been some amusing ones from students who had no clue about a correct answer but had a sense of humor about it.

  7. Avatar
    fishician  July 6, 2018

    I think that student would have done well as a gospel writer. Don’t let reality get in the way of a good story!

  8. Avatar
    ardeare  July 6, 2018

    And to think it all began with, “My dog ate my homework.”

  9. Liam Foley
    Liam Foley  July 6, 2018

    I’m reading this and thinking….that would make a funny movie! If you ever want to take a break from writing trade books you could write a movie script!

  10. Avatar
    JUMA  July 7, 2018

    after all these years have you gone back to see if his stories were true, especially the last one.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 8, 2018

      There’s no way to check, though he did tell me at the time that I could read about it in the local newspaper!

  11. Avatar
    rivercrowman  July 7, 2018

    It was a miracle!

  12. Avatar
    Tricia  July 7, 2018

    My favorite “worst” is students who missed the previous class and then come up and ask, “Did I miss anything?”

    • Bart
      Bart  July 8, 2018

      Yeah, happens a lot. Sigh….

    • Avatar
      ailith  July 10, 2018

      When I was in college I ditched a lot of classes because, if you can read, the answer was “no”. ‘Classes’ of more than 100, that always seem to be taught by people who have never done so, shouldn’t exist. They serve both students and teachers who are effectively students themselves poorly. Easy classes tho, just read the textbook and show up for the final. The blatant waste of my time and sheer extortion of my money still offends me 8 years later.

      Then again, I never asked the teacher if I missed anything.

      Of course in a proper class the answer is always “yes”, anything from general discussion to whatever the professor says that isn’t in your books.

  13. Avatar
    mannix  July 7, 2018

    I suspect he is on a first name basis with first responders somewhere else today.

  14. Avatar
    wgmccollum  July 8, 2018

    Ah, the shame of it. I used the old “Grandpa had a heart attack” once after missing an 8 am final. Same prof. taught the same class at 9 am. Why I gave such a lame excuse when I could’ve just come clean and taken the same final an hr later I can only chalk up to youth and stupidity.

    • Avatar
      wgmccollum  July 8, 2018

      By the way, he didn’t betray anything in his expression. Stone-faced. A true professional, with many years of having shite talked to him by idiot students.


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