How Long Should You Wait for a Late Professor?

Is it Okay to Leave a Class When the Professor's a No-Show?

(PNC / Getty Images)

No matter how great your college, it's bound to happen: a professor is going to be late to class. But how long should you wait for them to show up? Ten minutes? Fifteen? The entire 50-minute class period? Do you tell someone? When is it okay to leave? These are common questions and the answer is not easy.

Rules of Thumb

At most schools, there are rules of thumb about how long to wait if your professor doesn't show.

Fifteen minutes seems pretty common, although each campus has its own variation. Some students believe that 10 minutes is long enough.

Few schools—perhaps none—have a written policy about how long to wait for a late professor. How long you hold out depends heavily on many factors, including the campus culture and your own attitude (and patience) as a student. When faced with a late or just-not-showing professor, consider the following factors and context when deciding whether or not to leave the class.

Is It Normal for the Professor to Be Late? 

Professors are people, too, and some of them have a habit of always running late. If your professor is one of them, you might want to consider staying awhile on the chance that she'll show up sooner or later.

Is Your Professor Never Late? 

Some professors are extremely punctual and expect you to be on time, too. If that's the case, and your professor hasn't appeared after 15 or 20 minutes, you may consider their tardiness a sign that something is awry.

Your professor's punctuality is an important pattern to consider when you're trying to decide what to do if and when he is late to class. 

Is It a Guest Professor? 

Perhaps your regular professor is out of town and someone else is supposed to be teaching today. If that's the case, you should definitely wait as long as possible.

The guest professor could be lost, looking for parking, stuck in traffic, or dealing with unexpected issues. If you (and other students) leave before the guest professor arrives, your absence could reflect badly on the school.

Are Other Students Complaining About Traffic? 

If students who live off campus are talking about a bad backup on the freeway or other event snarling access to campus, your professor might be facing the same situation. Consider what he might be facing during his commute when deciding whether to stay or wait.

What's Happening in Class That Day?

Is it the first day of class and you need to make a good impression or get a signature to add the class? Is there a major assignment due or an important exam scheduled? If so, leaving early might be a bad idea. In some circumstances, being one of the last students to leave the class may be your better option.

What Do You Do Next?

If your professor is late and you decide to leave, what should you do next? If it's really out of character for her not to show, consider stopping by the registrar's office and letting them know. Also, consider sending an email, letting her know you were in class and are checking in. Was the class supposed to meet somewhere else?

Did you miss an announcement? It can happen.

And Finally...

There's no magic number about how long you should (or shouldn't) wait for a late professor. It all depends on your campus culture, your professor's habits and expectations, the situation, and what you are personally comfortable with. Given all of that, however, it's important to remember that your education is what you make of it. Leaving or staying is a judgment call you'll have to make. 

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "How Long Should You Wait for a Late Professor?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 1, 2017, Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2017, September 1). How Long Should You Wait for a Late Professor? Retrieved from Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "How Long Should You Wait for a Late Professor?" ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2018).