Cutting class represents lost instruction, money and value, and most colleges have documented guidelines to discourage repetitive absences. However, attendance policies vary by institution and often by majors, courses and professors. Small private colleges tend to have stricter regulations which are readily enforced, while large public universities with greater faculty-to-student ratios are more likely to have looser attendance rules.

Student Handbooks

In colleges large and small, attendance policies are generally outlined in student handbooks. At Boston College, students are warned that repeated absences can jeopardize their ability to fulfill the objectives of a course and their enrollment in therein. However, rather than a hard-and-fast policy, BC merely states that students must “attend classes regularly.” At Endicott College in Massachusetts, specific attendance requirements are left to the individual professors who generally outline their attendance policies in their syllabi. The college does note, however, that accumulated absences can result in course dismissal and expulsion.

Participation

Ten percent or more of a student’s grade may depend upon her participation in class. Attendance is particularly important in small classes where class cohesion and engagement is considered core to the learning environment. There is a vast difference between missing a history lecture with 100 students and ditching out on a freshman philosophy course with 15 classmates. You cannot participate if you’re not in class and professors looked dimly upon repeated absences.

Illness

Professors and colleges understand that students get sick. They do not want or expect students to come to class when they are ill and likely contagious. That is why most attendance policies allow for a reasonable number of excused absences, with supporting physician notes. Additionally, in the event of serious illnesses and accidents, students may be granted extensions or incomplete grades enabling them to finish coursework and forgo normal attendance requirements.

Extra Curricula Activities

As long as the absence is not seen as interfering with a student’s overall academic performance, students are often granted exceptions to attendance requirements for purposes of extra curricula activities. Tournaments, competitions and academic conferences may be considered as acceptable exceptions when professors tally up student attendance. Some professors will even allow absences for travel. However, the common caveat to students is that all professors expect advance notice of an absence unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Senior Exceptions

College seniors are often granted exceptions to attendance policies when they are attending career fairs or job interviews. The occasional legitimate absence related to post-graduation employment potential is often looked upon favorably. However, repeated absences can still jeopardize a student’s graduation and thus his future plans.