Dean’s Excuse

Dean’s Excuse Request Form

*Please note: This is only the request form, not the actual dean’s excuse that you will submit to your instructor.

There are three kinds of late or postponed work: (1) work late during term time; (2) work incomplete at the end of term; and (3) postponed final examinations. INSTRUCTORS OF COURSES MAY, DURING TERM TIME, GIVE PERMISSION TO MAKE UP LATE OR MISSED WORK, PROVIDED THAT SUCH WORK IS SUBMITTED BEFORE THE END OF TERM.

It is important to be aware that instructors have authority to postpone work, As your Dean, I am only able to grant Dean’s Excuses in certain circumstances, which are outlined in the Academic Regulations of Yale College, here: The circumstances in which I can approve a Dean’s Excuse are limited to the following:

(1) Incapacitating Illness

By definition, an incapacitating illness requires immediate medical attention. Your health should be your first priority, not your schoolwork. After you’ve seen someone at Yale Health, come see me as soon as possible to reschedule the work you missed. Timeliness matters: I want to hear from you as soon as you are able… not three or four days into your recovery. No dean feels very comfortable with the proposition of retroactively awarding a Dean’s Excuse.

(2) Death of a family member

Contact your instructor and see me immediately.

(3) A comparable emergency

Specifically, an emergency comparable to either the death of a family member or an incapacitating illness. Aunt Betty’s birthday? No. Computer crash? No. Brother’s wedding? No. Job interview? No. Death of best friend from home? Yes.

(4) Observance of religious holy days

If you have to take a test or hand in work on a religious holy day, come see me.

(5) Participation in varsity intercollegiate events (not practice and not club sports).

If you are a varsity athlete who must represent Yale at a competition and you have to miss a test or deadline because of it, come see me well in advance of the event.

Here is where they don’t work:


Dean’s Excuses revise coursework deadlines or test dates in certain, narrowly defined circumstances, and they cannot be used to excuse absences. In some cases, your instructor will ask you to get an excuse to cover an absence, for example a foreign language class where attendance counts towards your grade. This is usually a scenario where you must work out directly with your instructor how and/or if your absence will affect your grade (and it very well may). In this situation, there is absolutely no role for a Dean’s Excuse. If your instructor has questions about this policy, you should refer him or her to the YCPS and me.

Work overload:

It’s bound to happen, because you’re a Yalie: you’re going to get swamped with work, especially during midterm and the end of the semester. Again, there’s no role for a Dean’s Excuse here. If you haven’t done so already, you need to start planning for peaks in your workload now. Good tip: plot all your course syllabi on a single calendar. If reviewing the result completely freaks you out, come see me.

Extracurricular activities (including job and fellowship interviews):

Snag a lead role in a Drama show? Pressed into bitter servitude by an a capella group? Going to a medical school, job, or internship interview? Tremendous! You can ask your instructor for an extension for late work, but not me: a Dean’s Excuse cannot be offered for such reasons.

Be especially careful of situations in which your instructor says to you: “it’s fine with me as long as you get a Dean’s Excuse.” If the situation is not one of those listed above, you will not be able to get a Dean’s Excuse.  The same thing goes for computer malfunctions – back up your work, and make hard copies for your files. It is important also to know that Dean’s Excuses can only extend deadlines for written work; they cannot cover class or section absences, whatever the reason.

This year is going to provide many of you with fantastic opportunities that may, unfortunately, become obstacles for handing in work on time. Participation in dramatic events, singing groups, and non-varsity athletics will in many cases compete for time that might otherwise be used for studying, writing, or attending classes. In addition, every year many students must attend interviews for medical schools, brokerage houses, and the like, and these commitments may also interfere with class work. It is precisely in such circumstances that you should be aware of the authority of your instructor to postpone work; it will be your ONLY means for turning in late work without penalty. I can’t write Dean’s Excuses for reasons that – no matter how compelling they may be – do not fall into the categories mentioned above.

Certain times in the semester (such as midterms and finals) will often place heavy demands on your schedules. It is essential that you anticipate and coordinate these difficulty periods; problems that arise from not having enough time to complete papers or prepare for exams are specifically excluded from reasons eligible for Dean’s Excuses.

One last but essential remark about postponing work: at the end of term, everything changes; extensions for outstanding work or make-up examinations can be issued ONLY by me. Beware of getting permission from instructors to turn work in after the end of the term. Without WRITTEN permission from me (a Temporary Incomplete for a final term paper or an ABX for an examination), you can only receive a grade for work submitted before the end of the term.

How to request a Dean’s Excuse:

Since instructors have the authority to postpone assignments during term time, you should first contact your instructor to request an extension, and then to follow up by requesting a Dean’s Excuse from me if needed.

Please also note that Dean’s Excuses are not retroactive, please do not contact me after you have missed a deadline, assignment, exam, etc. for a dean’s excuse – it will not be approved unless there are mitigating circumstances for why you could not email me beforehand (i.e. hospitalization).

If you find yourself in one of the situations listed above and require a Dean’s Excuse as a result, you must contact Ashley (203-432-0701; copying me ( as soon as possible to make an appointment with me so that we can discuss the Dean’s Excuse. In your request for the appointment and as soon as you know that you need a postponement of written work, you should include in the email clearly explaining your reason for requesting a Dean’s Excuse.

If applicable, I (or Ashley) will direct you to fill out a ‘Dean’s Excuse Request Form’. After you have filled out the form, you can bring it with your to your meeting with me.

My very best wishes for a healthy and happy year!

Warm wishes,
Dean Barlow