Calling Roll: An Explanation of Attendance Policies

Every college professor is different. Some have six-page syllabi, while others’ syllabi are 60 pages long, detailing every class and assignment throughout the semester. One thing that the majority of professors make clear in these syllabi, however (no matter how long they might be), is their attendance policy. 


Attendance policies, like the professors themselves, vary. Professors tend to write these policies out so that students know exactly what they need to do if they have to miss a class, or, in extreme cases, how they will be penalized for missing many classes. 

Some professors factor in attendance as part of a students’ grade—essentially giving them free points just for showing up and participating in class. Others will deduct points from a student’s grade only if he or she misses x number of classes. Some may even lower students’ letter grades if they habitually skip class or come late. Students should speak to their professors at the beginning of the semester if they have any questions about attendance policies. 


Excused absences are a different matter entirely. Missing class for a doctor appointment, an illness, a death in the family, unexpected car trouble, or to participate in a university athletic event are some examples of absences that are, generally, excused by professors. Students should communicate with professors as soon as possible about any conflicts they may have, to work out ways to make up class material. 


As long as students keep the lines of communication open and do not miss classes unnecessarily, professors tend to be both helpful and forgiving. Some drop a certain number of quizzes at the end of each semester, in case students miss one or two, so that they do not have make them up. Others ensure, through the distribution of their points, that missing a class on a rare occasion will not make or break a students’ grade. 

Bottom line: try not to miss classes! But if you have to, check in with your professors on why you missed, what you missed, and how you can make it up.

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