Guidelines for extended deadlines for assignments

Some students have disabilities that can impact their ability to complete assignments by the due date, including, but not limited to, students whose conditions are (1) episodic in nature, (2) change and may result in problematic symptoms, or (3) require treatment and in some cases hospitalization. One such accommodation is extended deadlines for assignments, which requires communication between the student, the Disability Resource Center, and the faculty member. The following guidelines are provided to assist with that process.

Procedure and Responsibilities

Disability Resource Center (DRC)

  1. Through an interactive process with the student, DRC will determine if an extended deadline accommodation is warranted. If it is, the DRC will authorize Extended deadlines for assignments as an accommodation.
  2. This information will be included in the Faculty Notification Letter, which outlines all accommodations for each course, which is sent to the faculty member at the student’s request from the DRC.
  3. Upon request by either the student or the faculty member, DRC will mediate concerns about implementing the accommodation. This includes questions regarding how the accommodation interacts with essential elements of the course and determining if or what adjustments are educationally feasible

Student Responsibilities

  1. The student should request Faculty Notification Letters for each class in which they are needed. These will be emailed to faculty members from the DRC upon the student’s request.
  2. Extensions are not automatically granted for work that is due. It is the student’s responsibility to discuss extensions on assignments with the faculty member before the assignments are due.
    • If such extensions are deemed possible by the faculty member, the student should notify the faculty member when there is a need for an extended deadline for a specific assignment.
      • The student should save the email that outlines the specific agreement with the faculty member. The student should keep a record of any agreed-upon changes to the plan.
      • The student should adhere to the agreed-upon plan and complete the work within the alternate timeline. The faculty member’s class policy on late work (e.g., 10 points off a grade for each day late) will remain if the student fails to meet an agreed-upon disability-related extension or misses deadlines for unrelated reasons.
    • If the faculty member says extensions on deadlines are not possible, the student may request a consultation with the DRC.

Faculty Member Responsibilities

  1. Upon request from a student, a faculty member should be available to discuss the accommodation with the student and/or should consider adjustments to assignment deadlines or the class policy on accepting late work that do not result in fundamental alterations to the course design or essential components. The faculty member may assess the degree to which strict adherence to assignment due dates is an essential part of a class by following these questions, which are provided by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
    • What do the course description and syllabus say regarding late work?
    • To what extent does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon completion of assignments within a specific time frame as an essential method for learning?
    • Is the completion of an assignment within a specific time frame a critical component of an assessment activity?
    • To what degree does a student’s failure to submit timely completion of assignments constitute a significant loss of the educational experience for other students in the class?
  2. The faculty member should determine if an extension is possible or if it will be necessary to first consult with DRC. The faculty member should respond to the student as soon as possible in writing (preferably by email).
    • If deadline extensions are possible, the faculty member should work with the student in good faith to determine a reasonable amount of time and verify, in writing, the specific plan or agreed-upon alternate deadlines. It is important to provide the student – in writing and clarified as needed through further discussion – with clear expectations of how deadline extensions will be handled.
    • If the faculty member believes extending assignment due dates results in a fundamental alteration of the course, the faculty member should request a consultation with the DRC. Faculty members should never unilaterally deny a student’s eligible accommodation.

Determining the Reasonableness of an Extension

In general, extensions on assignment due dates may be considered reasonable in an academic setting. However, an extension would not be a reasonable accommodation if it would result in a fundamental alteration to the course (defined as a change that is so significant that it alters the essential nature of the course).

There are some classes or instances in which assignment due dates cannot be adjusted for an individual student without resulting in a fundamental alteration to the course. Such classes might include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • those that rely on project-based learning where sequential assignments strictly build upon the material learned from the previous week(s), or
  • classes where students are expected to work as a group and failure to complete an assignment or project on time would compromise the educational experience of other students.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has provided specific questions to assess the degree to which strict adherence to assignment due dates is an essential part of a class (see Faculty Member Responsibilities). Faculty members who, after going through these questions, believe that deadline extensions for assignments would cause fundamental alterations to their class should direct their concerns to the DRC. Faculty members should never unilaterally deny a student’s eligible accommodation. Faculty members should be prepared to provide a rationale if they believe that extending assignment deadlines is not educationally feasible; that is, how it would result in changes to essential components of the course.


This accommodation is not intended to cover the following:

  • Unlimited acceptance of late work.
    Agreed upon extensions should be specific and limited to a specific amount of time.
  • Retroactive requests.
    Providing an accommodation letter does not reverse any previously missed deadlines.
  • Failure to follow agreed-upon plans or alternate timelines.

For students who experience regular difficulty with meeting assignment deadlines in a class (versus episodically or occasionally), it may be appropriate to request a Course Withdrawal or an Incomplete Grade from individual faculty members for consideration. An Incomplete Grade may allow an opportunity to complete course requirements beyond the end of the semester on a date agreed between the student and faculty member. Students who have missed (or anticipate missing) too many assignment deadlines may find that a make-up plan is not workable.