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Does Stanford have an attendance policy?

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While Stanford has no single universal course attendance policy, the university does have an in-person residency requirement, and individual departments and instructors have the right to set specific attendance policies for their own courses.  

Undergraduate Academic Residency

Please note that undergraduate students are expected to maintain in-person academic residency while enrolled in courses at Stanford University.  Students are not required to live on campus beyond their first year of study, but must live close enough to campus to attend classes in-person on a regular basis.  For more information, see the Stanford Bulletin: Undergraduate Academic Residency.

Attendance and Absences

Generally speaking, you are expected to attend all class meetings for your courses.  Review your course syllabus to find out specific attendance expectations for each individual course.

It’s usually at the instructor’s discretion to decide whether or not to offer you any allowance or exception for your absence.  In addition, some departments and programs have specific attendance policies that instructors must abide by.  For example, in foreign language classes attendance at every class is mandatory, and unexcused absences may result in a final grade penalty. Too many absences might even make it impossible to pass the course at all.

Note that, in general, participating in student groups, club events, or athletic teams (including varsity) does not guarantee you an exception to attendance policies, assignment deadlines, exam dates, or other course requirements.

Illness, Injuries, and Personal Difficulties

If you are unable to attend classes due to illness, injury, or some other significant personal situation, please contact your instructors directly to alert them to the situation.  While we understand that reaching out to faculty can be intimidating, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.  Read our tips on emailing faculty if you’re unsure of how to start.

Depending on how long you are absent, you may have to ask your instructor for academic allowances or exceptions (e.g., extensions of due dates, excused absences). Note: The term "accommodations" is reserved for modifications made by request of the Office of Accessible Education in relation to a student's recognized disability. 

It is at the discretion of the instructor to deem what allowances, if any, are appropriate.  Having said that, it is always worth asking for allowances!  You never know what is and isn’t possible until you ask.  Plus, asking for allowances helps keep your instructor aware of your circumstances.

When granted by the instructor, allowances can provide you with the flexibility to address your life circumstances while maintaining a responsible approach to your academic responsibilities. 

Unexpected Emergencies

We understand that emergency situations can happen without warning.  If you must leave campus immediately for a personal, health, or family crisis, please reach out to your Academic Advisor or your Resident Director as soon as you can.  In certain types of emergencies, Academic Advising or Residential Education can notify faculty of your sudden absence.  We encourage you to contact your instructors as soon as you are able to discuss plans for making up any missed work.

Travel and Absences

Sometimes your travel plans may conflict with an upcoming course meeting.  Please note that travel does not normally excuse you from class or from your course requirements.  (One exception is athletic championships, which are approved as exceptions by the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy.)  We strongly encourage you to discuss your travel schedule with your instructor ahead of time, preferably before the Final Study List deadline.  It’s important that you understand in advance what the consequences are for any missed meetings, and how to make up any work that you will miss.   

Absences for Varsity Athletes

If you are a student- athlete, we recommend that you approach your instructors as soon as you know your team schedule, ideally at the start of each quarter.  Talk to your instructors early on about any upcoming absences or potential conflicts with scheduled class exams.  

Keep in mind that it is up to your instructor to determine what academic allowances for athletic commitments are appropriate.  Talking to your instructor about allowances before the Final Study List deadline can help you decide whether this class is a good fit for your commitments and priorities this quarter.  Contact your Undergraduate Advising Director for Student-Athletes if you have any questions or concerns.

Your Advisors Can Help

When your life circumstances make it particularly difficult for you to focus on your classes, it’s time to talk to an Academic Advisor.  We can help you weigh whether it’s best to drop or withdraw from a course, change your grading basis, arrange an Incomplete, or take a Leave of Absence.  

It’s especially important to consult with an Academic Advisor if your personal circumstances mean that you may not meet the requirements for satisfactory academic progress.  We’re here to support you and can provide you with important information on next steps.

Depending on your situation, your Academic Advisor may also refer you to campus resources such as the Vaden Health Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of Accessible Education, and the Resident Directors. 

Return to the Advising Student Handbook