Absences and Attendance, Undergraduates

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education
Amended Date

Key Contacts

If you have questions, please contact CLAS Undergraduate Programs.



Policy Purpose and Description


All students are encouraged to attend every class session. Even one absence can mean that the student might miss important participation opportunities and class activities. 

  • Individual instructors, course supervisors, and departments determine the details concerning class attendance and absences.
  • The course's attendance policy should be clearly stated on the required syllabus.
  • CLAS recommends that departments regularly discuss and agree upon, when appropriate, reasonable attendance guidelines for courses depending on the level, scope, and role of the course in departmental curriculum.
  • Attendance policies must be discussed with students during class and throughout the semester as needed, but especially before the due dates of major assignments and before exams.
  • Students must attend courses in the delivery mode listed in the MyUI course description (e.g., in-person, hybrid, online). Faculty are discouraged from making exceptions to the course delivery mode for individual students. 
  • It is the responsibility of each student to know the instructor's attendance and absence policy. Students with questions are encouraged to ask the instructor for clarification. 
  • If an issue arises, CLAS first uses the stated attendance and absence policy on the syllabus to help adjudicate a problem.
  • Absences related to Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodations follow different policies and procedures than those below; visit the related website for more information. Students with SDS accommodations related to attendance should work out an attendance agreement with the instructor at the start of the course using SDS DRADM the form. The DRADM form, which must be completed and signed by both the student and the instructor, should ensure that the student is still able to meet the learning outcomes of the course; if this is based on attendance the student may need to find a different course.

Absences From Scheduled Exams

University policy requires that students be permitted to make up examinations missed because of illness, religious holy days, military service obligations, including service-related medical appointments, or unavoidable circumstances.

  • The attendance policy must provide options for making up exams missed because of one of the above excused absences.
  • Otherwise, instructors use their professional discretion when deciding whether or not to allow a student to make up missed work other than examinations because of the differing circumstances around such situations. Approaches will vary, depending on the course size and other issues.

Short-Term Illness and Mental Health

Students with short-term illness or mental health concerns are encouraged to seek care as needed. Because medical documentation is not generally available for these short-term absences, instructors should not ask for medical documentation and should consider using one of the strategies below for these situations.

  • Instructors should encourage students to communicate with them when they need to miss class, preferably before the class meets.
  • Some instructors, particularly those teaching a larger number of students, give students a certain number of excused absences to be used when the student must miss class, regardless of the reason.
  • Some instructors have short alternative assignments prepared in advance for students who miss an in-class quiz or activity.
  • Some instructors organize a makeup examination session in advance, allowing students to use this alternative test date if approved by the instructor or to choose the test date that works best for them. Different versions of the test are given, but the tests use the same format.
  • There often is a correlation between a student struggling in class and the student’s number of absences. Instructors should discuss the situation with a student individually, especially before an important due date, referring the student to available resources or suggesting other solutions. If a student has stopped attending class without communicating with the instructor for more than a week, instructors of undergraduate courses can also submit to CLAS Undergraduate Programs a Student Academic Concern form. Instructors of a graduate course should consult with their Director of Graduate Studies or their area Associate Dean: Associate Dean for Natural, Mathematic, and Social Sciences or the Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities.
  • Instructors should consider having students complete the absence form to report the reason for the absence and to help the instructor determine whether the absence will be excused or not excused according to their course attendance/absence policy; the form is found on every ICON course site under "Student Tools."

Absences for University-Sponsored Activities

The instructor of a student participating in a University-sponsored activity is usually provided with a letter from the sponsoring department before the absence occurs that includes the specific date(s) and time(s) that the student will miss class. 

Examples of UI-sponsored activities include participation in intercollegiate athletic teams, the marching band and pep band, participation in field trips for UI courses and student shared governance travel of behalf of the institution. Any questions regarding the absence request should be directed to the sponsoring department. 

In these cases, students should be given extra time to submit assignments and be allowed to make up any missed exams. If the course gives students a certain number of excused absences, these University-sponsored absences should not be counted toward that total. 

Activities related to employment, internships, club and intramural sports, fraternities and sororities, or volunteer activities are not considered University-sponsored activities.

Religious Holy Days

Please review the full policy concerning makeup work and religious holy days in the University Policy Manual. Students are required to notify instructors no later than the third week of the semester if they need to be excused from scheduled academic activity and when those absences will occur. Instructors should work with students on a reasonable plan for these absences.

Military Service Obligations

The University Policy Manual states that the University shall make reasonable accommodations for students who are absent from class due to U.S. veteran or U.S. service obligations.

  • Students absent from class or class-related requirements due to U.S. veteran or U.S. military service obligations (including military service–related medical appointments, military orders, and National Guard Service obligations) are excused without any grading adjustment or other penalty.
  • Instructors should make reasonable accommodations to allow students to make up, without penalty, exams and assignments that they missed because of veteran or military service obligations. Reasonable accommodations may include making up missed work following the service obligation; completing work in advance; completing an equivalent assignment; or waiver of the assignment without penalty.
  • In all instances, students bear the responsibility to communicate with their instructors about veteran or military service obligations.

Students who are called for jury duty should also be excused and should follow these same procedures.

Unavoidable Circumstances

CLAS defines an unavoidable circumstance as an event beyond the student's control. It often involves a serious and unexpected hospitalization, a family tragedy, or a related incident. Such circumstances do not include attendance at a wedding, a family vacation, obligations related to work or other such matters.

  • Students should contact their instructors as soon as possible to notify them of the event.
  • Student Care and Assistance provides assistance to University of Iowa students who are experiencing a variety of crisis and emergency situations, including but not limited to medical issues, family emergencies, unexpected challenges, and sourcing basic needs such as food and shelter. More information on the resources related to basic needs can be found at https://basicneeds.uiowa.edu. Students are encouraged to contact Student Care & Assistance in the Office of the Dean of Students (Room 135 IMU, dos-assistance@uiowa.edu, or 319-335-1162) for support and assistance with resources.

Longer Absences for Undergraduate Students

  • A student who is absent for more than five days because of a serious emergency or a severe illness may request that the UI Service Center, 2700 UCC, 319-384-4300, registrar@uiowa.edu, notify each instructor about the absence. See https://registrar.uiowa.edu/absence-class for more information.
  • CLAS Undergraduate Programs, 120 Schaeffer Hall, also may be contacted so that the office can help facilitate communication about the student’s absence. Please email clas-undergrad@uiowa.edu or call (319) 335-2633 if assistance is required. 
  • Depending on the amount of work missed, it may be necessary for the student to drop courses or withdraw from the entire semester
  • An Incomplete may be given by an instructor only when the amount of work not completed is small and the student is in good standing in the course. Please consult with CLAS Undergraduate Programs, 120 Schaeffer Hall, 319-335-2633, if you have questions on this matter.
  • Students who need ongoing academic accommodations for chronic conditions should be referred to Student Disability Services.

Longer Absences for Graduate Students






Absence Form for Students

Instructors may encourage students to use this form to share the reasons for an absence with the instructor. The form also may be found on ICON under the Student Tools tab at the top of the page where course evaluations are located.

Students and instructors are encouraged to discuss the form together so that expectations for work missed during an absences are clear. A copy should be saved for future reference. The form in no way implies the absence is excused; instead, the response at the bottom of the form shows the instructor's decision concerning how the absence will be counted.

Frequently Asked Questions


Related Information

Policy Manual IV.8.

Revision History
Revised 3/2024