How To Be the Exception

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As an academic adviser, students often came to see me because they needed my signature. Sometimes they needed to register for classes after being on academic probation. Sometimes they needed verification that they’d met the prerequisite for a particular class. It was usually because of a college policy that they came to see me in search of the necessary signature.

I was usually happy to assist. Often, I just had to check the student’s record to verify the needed information or talk to them about making the best choice. Occasionally, however, students were looking to me for an exception to the rule. I’m not a complete stickler, and I believe that exceptions can be made. Follow these tips if you would like an exception to school policy to be made for you.

Don’t Feel Entitled

Remember that you’re essentially asking for a favor. If you need a signature or approval from an adviser, administrator, or professor, it’s unwise to go into the conversation as if you deserve to have accomodations made for you. You may disagree with the policy in question or feel that it doesn’t apply to you, but that’s not enough reason for someone to grant your request.

Convince Them

In order to bring someone to your way of thinking, you have to give them good reason. Convince them that there’s justification for making you the exception to the rule. For example, if you want to skip Spanish I because you’ve had four years of Spanish in high school and traveled to Spain as an exchange student, explain this to your adviser and ask if there is anything you can do to prove your knowledge. It’s likely you can take a skills assessment or can speak with the course instructor to receive permission to take the higher level course.

Read this post by Dr. Wizard, a college professor who gives down-to-earth advice to students about getting through college. He tells how one student was able to convince him to let her in his already closed course. She had to prove her worth and show that she would be an asset to his class.

Attitude Is Everything

Many of the points I made about starting a new semster apply here as well. Your attitude is important. Don’t beg. It won’t help. Don’t get mad. It won’t help either. And, for goodness sake, don’t threaten to go above your adviser or professor’s head. In most cases, the person is simply following policy and is doing all they can.

Be Realistic

I often had students come to me wanting to be signed into courses they didn’t have the prerequisite for. Once, a young man wanted to take Algebra I when he’d just failed Prep Algebra. His reasoning was that he had a friend in the Algebra I course who would tutor him. Turns out his “friend” was actually his girlfriend, and I wasn’t convinced this tutorial relationship would make the difference in his learning of algebra! Be realistic about your abilities and what you can handle. If you think about it, you may realize that you’d be better off not having an exception made for you.

Keep these things in mind should you find yourself wanting to get around campus policy, and best of luck to you.


[…] can’t help it. I’m going to nag you about seeing your adviser. Over and over again. After all, I was a college adviser. Remember? As an adviser, I’ve seen countless […]

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