Credit to Author: Geneviève Beaupré and Susan Qadeer| Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2022 18:58:58 +0000
Many students manage to sail through their post-secondary years without too much difficulty, both academically and personally. Others, especially international students, can face challenges that can range from family crises, political turmoil, and personal, financial or health problems. This can interfere with the ability to concentrate, attend classes or find the time to study.
What can you do?
You can make a request for flexibility when faced with major problems beyond your control. You might find your professor or school willing to provide some accommodations. Most schools and faculty recognize that students dealing with crises may need extra time to complete their work, and others may even need to withdraw from classes or an entire semester.
Schools differ in their stated rules, and they also vary in how much they may even adjust those rules for extenuating circumstances. Usually, professors have some discretion on what is possible. It would be useful to know what has been done for other students in similar situations before formally asking for help. Counsellors, advisors and student advocates may all be able to advise you.
Students can do several things to lessen the academic impact of a very difficult time. If problems may be resolved in a few days or weeks, you could approach your professor for an extension on papers or assignments. If it is a medical problem, a letter from a physician may be required.
If you know ahead of time that the semester will be difficult for you due to personal problems, you may want to take a break from school or register with a reduced number of courses. If you are currently a student experiencing ongoing problems and believe you won’t be able to fulfill academic requirements, you may want to explore the possibility of being given extra time beyond the end date of a course to complete the work required.
Again, whether this is granted will depend on many factors, such as the school’s policies, how much work is left to do, and the nature of the assignments. For example, if the course involves group work, a high degree of participation or hands-on work in class, it may not be possible to make up the work. Some accommodations cannot be granted, and the only option is to retake the course. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask or even appeal a decision if you feel your case is strong.
Most schools have deadlines for students to drop a course without any academic penalty. If it is early in the semester, you may even be eligible for a partial refund of tuition fees. Make sure you familiarize yourself with your school’s important dates. If you need to drop a course past the deadline, you might appeal that to the school administration and provide some documentation to support your situation.
What you probably shouldn’t do
Sometimes plowing through difficulties works, but sometimes these issues can impact your current and future life. When major problems interfere with a student’s ability to attend class, study, concentrate or participate, expect that academic performance and grades may suffer. This will be reflected on a student’s transcript (i.e. the academic record) and could disadvantage further studies or graduation. When the situation is legitimate and the request is reasonable, students may save themselves from academic hardship.
When students are having a very difficult time, walking away from school and not telling anyone is not a good idea. Seeking advice, discussions with a counsellor, and documenting extenuating circumstances, may all serve to protect an academic present and future. Most schools are equipped to respond to international students seeking help.