What to Do If You Miss Class in College

If attendance isn't taken, do you need to do anything?

Woman lying in bed, turning off alarm clock
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In contrast to high school, missing a class in college can often feel like no big deal. It's rare for college professors to take attendance, and if you're only one student out of hundreds in a large lecture hall, you might feel like no one noticed your absence. So what—if anything—do you need to do if you miss class in college?

Contact Your Professor

The first thing to do if you miss class is to decide if you should contact your professor. If you missed one relatively uneventful lecture in a class with hundreds of people, you might not need to say anything. But if you missed a small seminar class, you should definitely touch base with your professor. Consider sending a brief email apologizing and explaining your absence. If you had the flu, or a family emergency, let your professor know. Similarly, if you missed a major exam or an assignment deadline, you'll need to reach out to your professor as soon as possible. If you do not have a good reason for missing class (e.g. "I was still recovering from my fraternity party this weekend."), you should not mention this to your instructor. You should also avoid asking if you missed anything important. Of course, you missed important things, and implying otherwise will just insult your professor. You don't always have to let your professor know if you missed class, but you should at least think carefully about whether or not you need to say something.

Talk to Classmates

Check in with your classmates to find out what you missed in class. Don't assume you know what happened based on previous class sessions. Your professor might have indicated that the midterm has been moved up by a week, and your friends won't remember to tell you this key detail until (and unless) you ask. Perhaps the class was assigned small study groups and you need to find out which one you're in. The professor might have shared information about material that will be covered on an upcoming exam or announced where the final exam will take place. Knowing what content was scheduled to be covered in class is not the same as knowing what actually happened, so take the time to ask your peers.

Keep Your Professor in the Loop

Let your professor know if you expect to miss class again in the near future. If you are dealing with a family emergency, let your professor know what's going on. You don't need to share too much detail, but you can (and should) mention the reason for your absence. Letting your professor know that a family member passed away and that you'll be gone the rest of the week to travel home for the funeral is a smart and respectful message to send along. If you're in a small class or lecture, your professor might plan class activities differently knowing that one (or more) students will be absent on a certain day. Additionally, if you have something going on that requires more than an absence or two, you'll want to let your professor (and dean of students) know in case you start to fall behind on your coursework. Letting your professor know the reason why you're missing so many classes can help you work together to find a solution; while leaving the professor out of the loop about your absences will only further complicate your situation. If you do miss class, just be smart about communicating when necessary to set yourself up for a successful rest of the semester.