Dean’s Excuses: Policies and Requests


I. Yale College Policy Governing Dean’s Excuses:
A Dean’s Excuse is a written form signed by the residential college dean that authorizes the postponement of written work or exams during term-time. 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.

Every semester, many students have questions about the circumstances in which it is appropriate to request a Dean’s Excuse. To that end, please consult the basic policy governing Dean’s Excuses, which can be found in The Yale College Programs of Study, Section H, “Completion of Course Work” (available online here:  

According to Yale College policy, there are three kinds of late or postponed work:  (1) work missed during term time; (2) work incomplete at the end of term; and (3) postponed final examinations.  During term time, course instructors may give students permission to make up late or missed work, provided that such work is submitted before the end of the term. While instructors may require that students obtain a Dean’s Excuse in order to postpone an assignment deadline as part of their individual course policies, they also have the authority to grant a postponement themselves. It is important to be aware of instructors’ authority to postpone work during term time, since a Dean’s Excuse can be issued ONLY in the following instances:

(1) Incapacitating illness (NB: this does not mean a bad cold, fatigue, lack of sleep, etc., but an illness that seriously disrupts one’s ability to attend class and complete assignments)  

(2) Death of a family member

(3) A comparable emergency

(4) Observance of religious holy days (for exams, quizzes, or in-class written work only)

(5) Participation in varsity athletic competitions (NB: NOT practice, or club sports; same as above: for exams, quizzes, or in-class work that is affected by absence for the event).

This year is going to provide many 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 jobs, internships, graduate school, etc., 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.  No matter how compelling the circumstances may be, I cannot write Dean’s Excuses for reasons that do not fall into the categories outlined in the YCPS.

This is also an opportune moment to point out that 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 difficult 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. The same thing goes for computer malfunctions: back up your work and make hard copies for your files. I cannot authorize a Dean’s Excuse in case of a technological malfunction. Finally, it is important to know that Dean’s Excuses can only extend deadlines: Dean’s Excuses cannot excuse absences, whatever the reason.

One last but essential remark about postponing work: at the end of term, everything changes. Only residential college deans can authorize extensions for outstanding work or make-up examinations after the close of the teaching term. I will circulate relevant information about extensions for end-of-term work and make-up final exams by email at the end of the semester. For now, please note that, after the close of regular term time, without written permission from me, you will not to be able to postpone a final examination or any other end-of-term project, or regular course work due during the term itself, regardless of instructor permission.

II. How to request a Dean’s Excuse:

Since instructors have the authority to postpone assignments during term time, it is best to contact your instructor first to request an extension, and then to follow up by requesting a Dean’s Excuse if needed. Please note, however: if you are experiencing a sensitive medical situation or an issue that otherwise qualifies for a Dean’s Excuse, but for which you would prefer not to disclose the reason for your extension to your instructor, please contact me first before you notify your instructor.

If you find yourself in one of the situations listed above and require a Dean’s Excuse as a result, please email me ( as soon as you know that you need a postponement of written work, explaining your reason for requesting a Dean’s Excuse. In your email request, please also include the following information:

1. Course title and number

2. Name and contact information of your instructor(s) and TA (if applicable)

3. A detailed description of the assignment

4. The original deadline of the assignment

5. Your proposed deadline for the assignment

6. Whether you have requested an extension from your professor

Except in circumstances in which it may be impossible to meet with me in person before I approve a Dean’s Excuse, you must also contact Jen (203-432-0520; as soon as possible to make an appointment with me so that we can discuss the Dean’s Excuse, determine an appropriate revised deadline, and make a plan to get back on track in your coursework if necessary. If you are unable to come to my office in person for an appointment, please contact Jen nonetheless, either to arrange to speak with me by phone, or to make a phone appointment if I am not immediately available.