Extenuating circumstances… sometimes they’re SO necessary

So, although the exam period has already begun and applications for extenuating circumstances will have been submitted by now I thought I’d give people a heads up for next exam period (even though that seems a whole lifetime away [and I’m a final year so I’m never going to have one ever again])!

I think my first piece of advice would be if you are struggling to complete any form of assessment for any reason that is beyond your control (i.e. not that you’ve made your social life a priority/ Netflix has released a new series that simply must be binge watched within a week), any genuine reason, then let your personal tutor know. It is their job to help you with whatever problems you are facing, so let them do their job. Even if you have never even thought of asking for extra time as being an option – I think there is some stigma regarding receiving extra time, it’s almost seen as cheating – but if you can get it, you deserve to have the time to complete your assessments to the best of your ability.

I’m going to tell you the anecdotal tale of my January exam period just to demonstrate the impact being granted extenuating circumstances can have and to explain in my own terms how the system works. So, first thing to mention is why I thought I required extra time… well I didn’t. It was my friends that encouraged me to email tutors and ask for advice. Basically, long story short, I suffered with eczema as a child and this past year it has come back with a vengeance – I think this is partly my fault, lots of travelling around on my Year Abroad and new environments for my body to deal with, definitely didn’t help if it didn’t directly cause it. Anyway, me and my boyfriend went away for new year and whatever devilish detergent the hotel used did NOT agree with my skin and around 70% of my body was covered in eczema by the time I arrived home, just before January exam period – great! I couldn’t sleep, I struggled to wear clothes, I couldn’t wear underwear, I was hot to touch all over and to make it worse I was stressed (a known cause of eczema).  My friends and family finally convinced me to email and apply for extenuating circumstances, but it was just eczema, no one was going to give me extra time for that, surely?

I am a dual honours student and so I had to apply to two different departments who had different procedures so it’s very essential you look up on your departments homepage the process of applying. Within the hour I received an email from one of my departments saying that I could have an extra week to write my essay. A little less stressed, I went back to the doctors. I was prescribed strong medication that suppressed my immune system, increased my appetite, gave me LOTS of extra energy, interfered with my concentration but that ultimately did help with my eczema.

However, I only received confirmation from one of my other departments that I could have an extra week around three days before the deadline and so with the majority of it completed, I submitted a day or two after the deadline to try and minimise my stress levels slightly. I took my time with my second essay and did a few hours each day – when my concentration levels allowed me to sit and write an essay – and handed it in a week later. After a stressful exam period my skin calmed down and I now follow lots of preventative measures so my skin will NEVER be as bad as it was this Christmas EVER again.

Upon receiving feedback for my two essays I was astonished at the difference the extra week gave me. The essay I completed whilst I was stressed and in and out of the doctors, I received 56 – not a great mark at all for someone who is in their final year of a four year course. However, in my second essay that I took my time with and completed whilst I was getting better I was awarded 69 – a significant difference!  Looking back on those couple of weeks, in hindsight, I can’t believe I didn’t apply for extenuating circumstances sooner. I was not in a fit state to be writing essays and on top of that it was aggravating my condition. But, that’s the problem with students – we’re know it alls – too stubborn to ask for help. Always thinking “Oh I don’t deserve extra time, there are definitely people who are more deserving of extra time than me.” The thing is – they are probably already getting extra time and you just don’t know about it…

So if the thought ever crosses your mind, you may as well just ask. There is no harm in doing so and the worst that can happen is that you don’t qualify and your deadlines remain the same.

So heed my warning and keep your personal tutors or academic tutors up to date if you’re having any difficulties. From my experience they are always more than willing to offer you time, help and advice.

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