Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Daily Email Edition

Get MN Daily NEWS delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday!


The University should add periods to the list of legitimate excuses.
Opinion: Period predicament
Published November 27, 2023

Opinion: Are deadline extensions holding you back?

Grandma can only die so many times.
Image by Wejdan al Balushi
ADHD diagnoses are growing four times faster for adults than for kids.

Ah, the coveted deadline extension. There’s nothing quite like the relief of an inbox notification from your professor giving you the go-ahead to prolong your suffering for a few more days. 

I’ve perfected the art of begging for mercy over the course of my academic career. I am among the ranks of women who struggled with undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) throughout childhood. After finally meeting with a doctor who took my complaints of trouble focusing seriously at 20 years old, my condition has improved significantly. But being able to say that did not come easily. 

According to a study in the 2021 Journal of Global Health, ADHD diagnoses for adults are growing four times faster (123.3%) than ADHD diagnoses among children in the United States. This is largely because its diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), were developed for children, meaning we are still in the early stages of learning how to manage its impacts.

I enrolled at the University of Minnesota two years after receiving my diagnosis. My therapist told me about the Disability Resource Center on campus, where I met with the lovely staff who explained the accommodations available to students with ADHD. Among the many options presented to me was a letter that I could present to professors that included flexible deadlines.

It felt too good to be true!

As long as I presented the letter at the beginning of the semester and requested the extension as soon as possible, it was covered as part of my accommodations packet. I excitedly raised this option with my therapist and was eager to move forward with the process. 

The first question she asked me was how I would manage the temptation to extend when I began to feel task-avoidant, as people with ADHD often do. I didn’t have a response. 

There have been so many instances where I have been granted an extension independent of any formal accommodation and I still managed to put the task off until the very last second. By reflecting on that pattern of chaos that showed up in my earlier years of schooling, I was able to realize that the deadline wasn’t the issue. It was my time management skills that needed to be strengthened. 

Executive function is the part of our brain function responsible for time management, task prioritization and organizational activities. Its counterpart, executive dysfunction, is commonly associated with ADHD.

While entitlement to deadline extensions sounded heavenly to me, would it inadvertently enable my proclivity to procrastinate? 

Deadlines are legitimately challenging for my ADHD-riddled psyche. But so is arriving at the end of the semester with an insurmountable pile of assignments and an unsympathetic professor. I’m personally glad that I chose the latter.

“In the context of ADHD, the intention to give extra time is good as long as the person is not overwhelmed and … have some skills and supports to utilize that extra time effectively,” said Dr. Lidia Zylowska, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University. “If they’re overwhelmed, the extension can prolong that state.”

For some, flexible deadlines allow them to move through material at a slower pace. For others, a simple extension will leave them seeking other avenues of support, Zylowska said. 

Access to a trusted therapist is optimal, but accessing that care is difficult for a myriad of reasons — another rant for another day. If you aren’t able to work directly with a trained coach, try to lean on other accountability partners like a trusted friend, parent or mentor to help you stay on track. If you take a deadline extension, you can also build a structure with your professor by meeting regularly and agreeing to set smaller check-in points to ensure that you are still flexibly meeting your goals. 

“It’s common that when you get to be avoidant, you have a type of paralysis that can cause you to withdraw. You don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to deal with it, and it’s a setup for a new deadline to come in and it’s very stressful to be in that place,” Zylowska said. “Avoidance has relief in the moment, but it doesn’t stop adding to the stress.” 

Another support Zylowska suggests is psychoeducation so that, especially if you were diagnosed later in life, you can begin to identify the behaviors causing the cycle to continue. Reading publications like ADDitude or checking out the Attention Deficit Disorder Association can help build your understanding and find a community that understands your specific challenges and can share tricks that work for them. 

Symptoms of ADHD vary widely from person to person. Our solutions should mirror that reality. 

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Accessibility Toolbar

Comments (1)

All The Minnesota Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Maria T Lechtreck
    Oct 26, 2023 at 2:42 pm

    Yep! (I was diagnosed in my 40s, right before going to graduate school.)