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Is University Still Worth It?

The Weirdest Excuses College Students Give Their Teachers

"I'm sorry I didn't make it to the presentation, but my house was surrounded by a giant swarm of bees"

Illustrations by Dan Evans

This post originally appeared on VICE UK.

When life gets in the way of studying, students will go to great lengths to blame anything other than themselves for leaving work to the last minute. Sadly, saying your grandma died to avoid an exam isn't nearly as plausible as you might think—your professors have heard it all before.

I wanted to hear the worst of the worst, so I hassled a bunch of college teachers and asked them to share some of the crappy excuses they've had to pretend to believe over the years. (I did try to keep it gender balanced, but I guess female teachers are all way busier than their male counterparts because none of them would speak to me.)



Myles Russell-Cook, Lecturer at Swinburne University

In my first year of teaching I had this student and she had to do her final assignment for this class on research methods. All of her classmates turned up for the group presentation, except her. She sent me an email afterwards saying, "I'm sorry I didn't make it to the presentation, but my house was surrounded by a giant swarm of bees, and I couldn't leave." So I said to her, "photos or it didn't happen!" But of course she didn't have any photographic evidence, because it didn't happen. It was her final project, so it was a pass-fail assessment for the whole class, which is why her excuse really made me laugh. In the end I let her get away with it and present the next week even though I wasn't supposed to let anyone do that, but I did because it was such a funny excuse.

I'm pretty relaxed when it comes to excuses. I even tell my students at the start of the semester that if they're going to be late with something, they just need to give me an excuse. Then I'll be able to give them an extension. If they don't give me an excuse, I can't do anything.

I don't remember if the bee girl got a good mark for that assessment specifically, but I do remember she didn't get a very good mark for her other assignments. She wasn't a particularly good student, but at least she was creative.


Richard Burton, lecturer at City University London

I had one student a long time ago where a friend made an excuse for her on her behalf. This girl didn't show up to class and her friend came up to me and said she was really sorry, but she'd got on the wrong bus. She was saying she was a bit ditzy and all the rest of it, and just jumped on the wrong one by mistake. Before she knew it, she was going the wrong way. So I said to her friend, "it's really funny, that, because I too was on the wrong bus—the bus that dropped me right outside the front." The student who was on the wrong bus was completely unaware she'd sat in front of me the whole journey over. I think I said something like, "no doubt we'll both be getting the right train back and arriving in the wrong place yet again." I made a big thing about what she did the next week, so she got her payback.


THE Mystery Needle

Richard Burton, lecturer at City University London (again)

I did have one guy as well, who said he woke up a couple of hours before class in the middle of a road with a needle lying next to him. He said he wasn't sure whose it was or how it got there, but he needed to go check himself out. I didn't quite know what to say to that one.


Edmundo Bracho, Lecturer at the University of Westminster

I had a student who said he couldn't hand in his final assignment because he had a Red Bull overdose while he was working on it over the weekend. I asked him if he was taken to the hospital and he said, "well, you know, I felt like I was having a heart attack, I'd had too much Red Bull and I just collapsed." So I asked him to provide proof, or even witnesses who could say they saw him lying on the floor having a panic attack, or whatever, but he didn't provide any of that.

About three days I was walking by the university library and I overheard some of his friends talking about his reputation as a rave organizer, so he'd clearly been out partying. At the end of the day he had to resubmit that assignment. I try and help students, even if they're blatant compulsive liars. That assessment had a strong weight; I think it was about 60 or 70 percent of the module. If you submit something late it's capped, so he could only get 40 percent by the end of all that. Had he really had a Red Bull overdose and been taken to hospital or had some people helping him, and those people could serve as witnesses and give a testimony, it would be a different story, but I could tell he was lying; I could see from his eyes when he was talking to me that he was still under the influence of whatever it was he took or did on the weekend.