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Cross the line and you are risking your life.

The origin of the word "deadline" was indeed a matter of life or death. It's believed that the word originates from the Civil War when a line was drawn that prisoners of war could not cross without risk of being shot.

Fortunately, today, deadlines aren't usually a matter of life or death, but deadlines are nonetheless important. For those of us who work in financial aid, we're used to working with all kinds of deadlines. However, the students we work with are sometimes not. In fact, some may even think deadlines are negotiable.

It can be a challenge to communicate the importance of deadlines to students, but here are a few tips:

  • Be very clear in any messaging about the deadline. Include it in the subject line or bold it in any email or printed communications.
  • Don't request something "as soon as possible." Your definition may not be the same as your students.
  • If there are multiple deadlines, put them in order with what is due first at the top of the list. (I almost missed a deadline once because on a list of to-do items, a project which had the earliest deadline was placed third or fourth on the list.)

Finally, remind students of what they will lose if they don't meet the deadline. It won't be their life, fortunately, but it could be something very important.

By Catherine Mueller


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