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Taking an incomplete

Drexel can be particularly stressful. With its fast-paced 10-week quarter system on top of co-op and extracurriculars, it can be difficult to find the time for all the homework and midterms that professors pile on.

Luckily, Drexel has systems in place for if the pressure of schoolwork gets to be too much. Up until the end of week seven, you can withdraw from a class with no penalty except for the ‘W’ that appears on your transcript (and having to fit the same class into your schedule again sometime.) And after that, if you’ve done most of the work but can’t quite fit in that final project, you can take an incomplete.

Incompletes are a really appealing idea. You’re exhausted and faced with the prospect of spending the last few days of the term not sleeping, and taking the incomplete would give you a whole year to work on that project and make it great instead of rushing it out at 3 a.m. during finals week. And most people take incompletes with the best intentions — that they’ll finish their work over break, or in the first couple weeks of the new term before pressure piles up.

The truth is, that very rarely ends up happening because in Drexel’s fast-paced environment, there’s always newer and more exciting things to focus on. Whether it’s an honors project in your new class, taking up running because the weather’s getting nicer, or picking up extra hours at work to save for a summer vacation, there will always be a million things that seem more important than an assignment for a class that feels like it’s over.

Currently, I have two outstanding incompletes on my transcript. One of them is from fall term, and I intended to finish my last project (which involves giving a presentation) right at the beginning of winter. The problem is, whenever I email the professor trying to set up a time, she doesn’t reply until after the dates I’ve suggested. And now I’m on co-op working full time, so I can’t go to her office hours.

Every term brings new classes, a new schedule and a new life for both the students and the professors. It can be difficult to remember everything we have to do in the present, let alone still having outstanding work from earlier to focus on. There’s a limit to how much an individual person can do at once, and in my experience, the thing that gets pushed to the side is usually the work from last term’s class that still needs doing.

Of course, there are some situations where it’s okay to take an incomplete. If you have an unexpected illness or family emergency, that can’t be helped, so needing extra time for schoolwork is understandable. But if it’s just a matter of procrastination and bad time management, then the sad truth is that those habits won’t magically change in the new term.

I begin every single term by saying to myself, “This quarter, I won’t be as busy and I’ll have time to stay on top of my schedule and get everything done!” Every term, I turn out to be lying and I know I’m not the only one.

So do yourself a favor and start planning now to get all your work in before spring quarter ends. You’ll thank yourself this summer when you can take a weekend trip to the beach rather than being holed up in the library working on old term papers.