Taking involuntary time off uni – what should I do? – OurWarwick
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Taking involuntary time off uni – what should I do?

Hey everyone! Hope all of you are having a brilliant start to a new term. Unfortunately for me as I’ve had some surgery done at my local hospital, I’ve had to delay my return to Warwick by a couple of weeks until I’ve fully recovered. Of course sadly this means I will be missing Welcome Week and seeing my friends for a short while, in addition to my first round of lectures, seminars and labs for this year.

Though this isn’t the most ideal situation I wanted to face, it has made me think about the subject a bit more. As surely this can’t be such a rare issue and others must have similar experiences. Which raises the question, if you have significant health or personal circumstances which affects your ability to be at university or school –  what do you do if you have no choice but to take time off?

When your absence is to be expected

Right now I fall under this category, as my hospital first discussed with me about having this operation a year ago in advance. Sadly due to scheduling, the official date couldn’t be moved any earlier to avoid taking time off.

If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, make sure to contact your department and tutors as soon as you can and let them know about it. That way your department can flag your absence and can provide you with additional support – whether that’s sending/recommending certain resources, extending assignment deadlines for you, or negotiating with lecture organisers to make your return as smooth as it can be. 

If you know you’ll eventually have enough energy to work (though make sure to focus on getting better first), try to put an action plan together for covering any missed course material. Note down the content or sessions you’ll be missing and gather some resources – such as lecture notes, lecture capture footage, library e-books, etc – that you can use to catch up. If you’re worried the work load simply isn’t feasible, remember to let your department know about this so they can help you. 

Apart from the studying side, being away from the university scene can feel a quite disconnecting at times (I’ve felt like this a bit over the last few days) especially if there are a lot of events going on. So if you’re well enough to do so, try messaging a friend there and ask how they’re getting on. That way you can avoid feeling like you’ve been completely cut off from the outside world. Plus your friends are probably eager to know how you’re doing!

When the unexpected arises

Sometimes they may be a rare occasion where you need to take things easy, particularly when life throws the unexpected at you – the death of a loved one, sudden illness, being involved in an incident, domestic circumstances, etc. 

During my A-Levels I too had to experience with abrupt change. Before my Y13 mocks and submitting my UCAS application, I suddenly fell seriously ill and was diagnosed with acute appendicitis, which nearly turned fatal. Fortunately I got this treated and was under hospital care, but I had to spend at least a month at home to fully recover. At the time school and exams were the last thing on my mind, but with my UCAS application deadline looming and course content being missed – I couldn’t help but panic.

If you find yourself in a similar, tricky situation, again try to contact your department or school as soon as possible, so they can advise what action you can take and support you while you’re going through this difficult time. Don’t worry about trying to sort out admin or play catch-up straightaway though. This moment in time is likely to be quite an emotional rollercoaster for you, so make sure to take that necessary time off to recover and spend time close with loved ones.

As mentioned before, I would highly recommend staying in contact with friends if you can, especially if this is a sensitive moment for you. Your friends and family are the sturdiest support network you could ever ask for, so having that extra reassurance from a person to turn to will help you feel more resilient and get things back to normal. 

I’ve missed something major! Help?!

If you miss an assignment or an exam, the first thing to do is not panic. Your department or school should have some sort system to account for these type of circumstances. At Warwick, you can retrospectively complete a mitigating circumstances form, which is acknowledged by the examination board when they meet up at the end of year to finalise students’ grades. 

If you get in touch with your department, they may even be able to tweak your assessment weightings for specific modules, such that your final grade isn’t unfairly jeopardised. The bottom line is there are ways round this, but it’s crucial to try and contact your department as early as possible so you’re not disadvantaged!


So to summarise, whether your absence is to be expected or not:

• Don’t panic

• Contact your department

• Stay in contact with friends and loved ones

• Make a sensible catch-up plan (only if you’re able to work)

• Put your recovery first

That last point is the most important. Even if you’re worried about falling behind, don’t rush into things too quickly, as this will only delay your recovery. Take things gradually and you’ll soon be back before you know it.

Have you had to take major time off school or university? If you’re comfortable sharing your experiences, please leave a comment below if you have any pieces of advice of your own.

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