Are College Attendance Policies Really Necessary?

On the first day of class many students hear about their professors' attendance policies as they go over the expectations for the semester. Education Insider takes a look at whether schools really need attendance policies or if students should be left to decide on their own how many classes they can miss.

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By Jessica Lyons

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School Attendance Policies

Most schools expect students to attend all of their classes. After all, what would be the point in enrolling students to get an education and then figuring they didn't need to actually show up? Specific attendance policies can vary from one school to another or even from one class to another. For example, at Siena College each professor creates his or her own policy. Some schools might consider missing class to play in a sports game, take part in an academic competition or go on a field trip an official excuse and could therefore be more accepting of the reason. Professors might also be more understanding of absence due to illness and many of the decisions on what kinds of absences and how many are acceptable could be completely up to their discretion.

The Responsibility of Students

There are many reasons why students might miss class, ranging from flaky reasons like they overslept or didn't plan for enough time to find parking to more legitimate reasons like being sick or having a family emergency. Part of being an adult is knowing how to prioritize your life and manage your time so you can meet all of your obligations. If a student decides that something else is more important than attending class it becomes his or her responsibility to make up the work and find out what was missed. The student may also have to speak with his or her professor after class or during office hours to talk about the situation because it shouldn't be the professors' responsibility to seek out all students who missed classes and get them caught up.

The Consequences of Too Many Absences

At Siena College, students deemed to have 'excessive absences' could end up receiving a failing grade for the class. As another example, students who miss too many classes at Rhodes College could be removed from the course. Rhodes College students who are removed from two or three of their classes within a single semester because of their poor attendance could even be asked to withdraw from the school.

Even not going to a single class means that students are robbing themselves of something extremely important - their education. Getting a degree is not a cheap endeavor, so it's a waste of money to skip classes and not learn everything that you can. You're at college to learn and that can be hard to do if you don't actually go to class.

Being Treated More Like an Adult

Enforcing attendance policies could actually be treating students more like adults. Once students graduate and enter the workforce, their job will typically only allow them a certain amount of absences or vacation days, just like colleges might only find a small number of unexcused absences acceptable. And similar to in college, there are real world consequences for missing too many work days, like loss of pay, being put on probation or even getting fired. If colleges are supposed to help prepare students for the 'real world,' attendance policies are one way they're accomplishing that goal.

Along with helping reinforce a sense of responsibility in students, these regulations can also encourage students to develop other qualities that will be important even after they're done with school. To make sure they get to class while meeting all their other obligations, students will have to perfect time management skills. In the process of learning how to balance all their responsibilities, students could become better at multi-tasking as well.

How to Avoid Attendance Problems

If you're worried about falling victim to attendance policies, here are some tips that can help you stay on the right track and hopefully avoid some problems.

Only miss class if you absolutely have to.

It can be very tempting to decide to skip class in favor of sleeping late, hanging out with friends or to get caught up on homework, but really it will only make things harder since you have to try to find out what you missed and complete a homework assignment without having actually heard the material covered.

If you have a legitimate reason for being absent, talk to your professor.

Are you going to need to miss a few classes to help a sick family member or because you have your own health needs to take care of? Speak to your professor in advance if possible to let them know the situation and show them that you're not just flaking out. They might actual be sympathetic to your situation and willing to work with you so you won't fall behind.

Don't schedule vacations when you have class.

As vacation time gets closer, you might want to try get in a few extra days by missing some class, or maybe the people you want to take a vacation with have a different schedule than you. Resist the urge because a class is still important no matter how close it gets to a vacation period.

When you're in class, participate.

Participating could show your professor that you take the class seriously and are learning the material, which might make him or her a bit more forgiving if you do happen to miss a class.

Need to talk to your professor about a class you missed? You might want to take advantage of their faculty office hours.

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