We’ve all been there before. You didn’t leave yourself enough time, there aren’t enough hours in the day, you procrastinated with the flourish of a professional or perhaps you accidentally went out and needed a full 48-hour recovery. Whatever the reason, somehow you have ended up staring at a blank screen the night before a deadline wondering how you got there and how you are going to fix it. Lacking the ability to type like Bruce Almighty, some deadlines seem impossible. The simple truth is, there is no one to blame but yourself. However, too often the go-to fix for a situation like this is to apply for an extension.
Abusing a system which has been set up to allow students who are genuinely struggling due to mental health, family problems or other personal issues turns the entire scheme into a joke. To combat fraudulent claims for special circumstances, stricter regulations would need to be applied which could see those who require the help to be overlooked, rejected or harassed for proof of their legitimacy. It should be the responsibility of the individual not to falsely claim they need special consideration, not the university to determine whether a student is telling the truth or lying. Moreover, the unfounded acquisition of extensions is unfair to all the students who managed to work within the allocated timeframe and hand in something that represented their effort. Many times I have had to hand in work that I was not satisfied with, or which I believed to be unfinished, due to running out of time for reasons that did not warrant an extension. While I have accepted this as the best I could have done, it frustrates me that people may have applied for an extension and written a better essay therefore shifting my level of work further down the curve.
University students seem to have manifested a culture in which extensions and special consideration is normal. There is a disturbing consensus that claiming mental health is the ticket to success, with no respect for the cost of their fellow students or more importantly to those who legitimately manage life with mental health issues. It would be entirely absurd for someone to claim, for example, cancer as an excuse, but simply because there is no scan or blood test for depression or anxiety it seems as though it is okay to undermine the entire problem and use it for self-benefit. Extensions and other methods of help are not an advantage of mental illness; they are there to level the playing field to allow students to all have an equal chance of success. By manipulating the system to benefit yourself, you are shifting the scale back to an imbalance where you are more likely to succeed. These systems are set up for a reason and to equate mental health problems to laziness or poor time management is a narrative that this society most definitely does not need.
Importantly, while it may seem advantageous applying for deadline extensions and graduating with a degree fuelled by excuses, by doing so you are disadvantaging yourself and becoming victim to your own crimes. University is not meant to be easy, and rational stress or anxiety to a certain degree is a normal part of being human. Blurring the line between rational and irrational emotional responses creates a poor understanding of mental illness and excusing normal behaviours can lead to an inability to deal with stress, which is ubiquitous in our society. Developing coping mechanisms is fundamental to success both internal and external to your university degree. The chances of your future employer hiring you on the basis of your expert knowledge on the politics of Istanbul between 1905-1909 are pretty slim. The reason why a degree is so valuable in many sectors is not because of the content but the skills which are required to achieve the diploma. Responsibility, time management, organisation and resilience are skills required in almost any career you pursue. Robbing yourself of the chance to develop them is only doing yourself a disservice. Take mental health, your fellow students and yourself more seriously and accept that sometimes you just messed up.