Students should be able to pick due dates

I don’t know about the other students around here, but November has absolutely pummelled me into its cold, snowy ground. I would have fought back, but the month pulled out its deadliest weapons: assignments, assignments and more assignments. I didn’t, and still don’t, stand a chance.  

As I drag my beat-up body and mind across the ground, getting knocked back over every three days with another 10-page paper, I wonder: is there a way we can prevent this semi-annual traumatic experience from happening?  

Yes. Yes there is. I believe with all my heart that students should be able to develop their own due date schedule at the beginning of each semester.  

Here’s how it should work: 

The syllabus for each course would list all of its assignments, the minimum number of hours each assignment should take to complete and each project’s grade weighting. By the end of week one, students would submit their chosen due dates for each assignment in the course to their professor.   

Letting students develop their own schedule provides many benefits:  

  1. Students can disperse their assignments throughout the semester to avoid getting hit with four or five big assignments at once. Ultimately, it reduces stress levels. 
  2. It allows students to put more effort into their work. When a student has too many projects due the same week, it is likely they will not give those projects their best effort.  
  3. It’s an advantage for professors because then they don’t have 70 papers to mark all at once.  

Students would not lose the opportunity to practice time management because they’d still have to hand projects in on time. It might even strengthen organizational skills because students would be encouraged to strategically plan out their semester so they can keep assignments evenly spaced out. 

Some people might argue that students should plan ahead and start doing assignments early if they realize they have a heavy week coming up. However, professors don’t start talking about and explaining assignments more thoroughly until about three weeks before the assignment is due. Sometimes that’s too late. The storm of school work has already hit, especially if it’s November.  

Syllabus week is a breeze and all classes end early anyways, so the professors might as well fill the time by giving an overview of the assignments instead of talking about them later in the semester. That way students have the freedom to get the assignments started, done and handed in whenever they want over the next four months. 

There have been three situations where I have been granted the independence to set my own deadlines. In high school, there was a rule within the school board that disallowed teachers to give late marks, so technically we could hand everything in whenever we wanted. Last year I took a directed study and could hand assignments in at my convenience. The third situation was this past semester, when my Child and Youth Health professor gave us due dates, but made it clear that if a date didn’t work for us, we could email her with an alternative date we would have the project in by. 

I can confidently say school is much more enjoyable when I have the luxury and freedom of developing my own schedule. It’s paid off too. My grades did much better whenever I was able to construct a schedule that was right for me. I could focus on one assignment at a time without letting the stress of others get in my way.  

For students who don’t care to plan their own semester, it would be good if professors could set a default due date for each assignment like they normally would.  

There is no empirical evidence to show this whole idea for sure works better for students, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a shot. There wouldn’t be anything to lose.  

Because of how heavy the end of the semester gets and the amount of stress people experience, I think letting students schedule their own due dates would be extremely beneficial for their GPA and overall health. 

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