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Don't Make Excuses
The best way to avoid making excuses is to not get in a situation that necessitates them. Even the greenest college professors are likely to have heard every excuse in the book, so you probably aren't going to pull a fast one. From technical difficulties (broken printer, dead hard drive) to forces of nature (dead relatives, illness, house burned down), here are some steps you can take to prevent yourself from losing your professor's respect - or suffering far worse consequences - by taking important precautions.
Don't Wait Until the Last Minute
Whether your printer is actually broken or you're just lying to buy yourself more time, you wouldn't have to try to weasel out of a deadline if you'd given yourself enough time to finish and get your work printed without having to rush. Giving yourself plenty of time can actually help you do better quality work, which will help you earn better grades. And getting in the habit of doing work without the pressure of necessity is a good habit to get into before entering the professional world, where excuses rarely fly and the stakes are a lot higher than doing poorly in a class.
Back Up Your Work
If you have a big paper due, or something even bigger like a thesis or dissertation, you'll get nothing but empty sympathy if carelessness leads to you losing your only digital copy of your work. It is essential to make multiple digital copies of your work and keep them in different places. For example, if you have the ability to save your work to a server at school in addition to your own computer, take advantage of that space. For really important things, look into additional back-ups like online storage or an external hard drive. Get in the habit of saving your work to all of your backup resources every time you make a change, so you'll be sure to have your latest version at your fingertips no matter what disaster strikes your personal computer.
Write Down Due Dates
Keeping a schedule of what's due when during assignment pile-on times like finals week or midterms is a great way of avoiding a due date mix-up. Few professors are going to care that you accidentally showed up at the biology exam room when you were supposed to be turning in your English lit paper. Write down all of your due dates in the same place, where you can see them all at the same time, to avoid confusion. Whether you use an online planner or a piece of paper, make sure you know where your schedule is and how to access it. Double check it regularly, even if you think you have it memorized.
Provide Valid Proof
Unfortunately, the fates sometimes conspire to make the worst things happen at the worst times. If a serious event does take place before an important deadline, including the death of a family member or a debilitating health issue, explain the situation to your professor and provide some proof. It may seem a bit unfair to have to provide proof, but 'my grandmother died' or 'I had pneumonia' are depressingly common lies students tell to get deadlines extended. Explain the situation to your professor in person, if you can, and provide a doctor's note, obituary or phone call from a doctor or a parent to make it clear that there are extenuating circumstances preventing you from meeting a deadline.
Tell your professor when you expect to be able to make up the work. If you have already started work on a paper, or made a study guide for yourself, you might also offer to show this to your professor as proof that you are not simply trying to shirk your responsibilities. This offer will likely be declined if you have already provided proof of hardship. Though they're not often tolerant of genuine B.S., most professors are sympathetic to the unfortunate realities of life.
If you find yourself worrying about the impact a missed deadline will have on your grade, check your syllabus. That document might assuage your fears - or confirm them.