Credit: AJ Duncan

Extension tension

By Nell Westbrook

Necessary lifeline or procrastination reflex?

Illness, bereavement, injury, medication side effects, jury duty, other: reads the list of ‘why are you applying for this extension?’ dropdown options. I search for the one offering the most plausible reasoning and least required evidence. Illness is a safe bet, I think, having left myself three hours left to type 2500 words. I did have a bit of a cold last week. Surely they won’t ask for a doctor’s note? I submit my request form. I close my laptop and decide this extension has now made those 2500 words next week’s problem.

The dependable nature of gaining a deadline extension is something that most students have relied on at one point or another in their university career. Extensions remain an important option for when life takes priority over assignments but does this dependability entail a lax attitude towards assignments? Is the voice in the back of your mind telling you it’s fine, you can just get an extension, one advocating for being kind to yourself, or one creating lazy habits?

The availability of a deadline extension is absolutely a necessary option every institution ought to be providing. A non-negotiable feature able to encompass any unexpected circumstances. Extensions cover major injury, bereavement, mental health struggles, disability challenges, and go as far as being sympathetic to jury duty, special employment circumstances, or housing difficulties. From bad timings to unexpected tragedies, university should be far from your first priority in life, and ‘being selfish’ is often not selfish at all.

However, anecdotally, the reasons people seek extension requests do not fall into any of the above categories, and there is no mistaking the casual circumstances they are often rolled out in. Once in a while, you just need the extra five working days to compensate for – a bad week, a busy week, a birthday week. Or perhaps you worked as hard as you could but time for one more library sesh is crucial. Being kind to yourself and knowing when you need a break is important to recognise and it is important that an extension is available when this might be the case.

However, the ease of gaining extension deadlines has the potential to lead to too much of a good thing. If you are using extension deadlines frequently and self-justifying their use to yourself when you truly know they are not necessary, it might be time to evaluate. Self-motivation and the ability to work independently are two key skills which university teaches you outside classes. These skills are vital to securing future jobs, making deadlines for applications or internships, general personal time management, and progressing in life post-university. Recognition of when you need the extra time versus when you are being lazy – harsh, I know – is key in aiding your future self and becoming the best version you can be.

The necessity of extension deadlines is undeniable but you yourself know better than anyone if they are necessary for your situation. Be kind to yourself but also consider your future work ethic. Longterm, kindness may come in the form of five extra working days or in the form of a drawn-out-all-nighter to scrape it in just as the sun comes up.


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