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Step-by-step: How to apply for extenuating circumstances

Source: Tim Gouw/Unsplash

With deadlines and exams coming at you from every angle, it can be hard to keep up – especially when things suddenly go wrong. Luckily, extenuating circumstances are there to support you during these situations.

Extenuating circumstances are essentially a safety net there to catch you during your studies, helping you when things beyond your control go wrong. Rather than letting your life snowball and impact your personal, academic and even financial life, universities have structures in place to help you navigate hard times.

The support universities offer will vary depending on the institution and your personal situation but is likely to come in the form of an extended deadline, extra time in exams, entitlement to a transcriber or notetaker, or increased accessibility.

These structures vary from university to university, as do their application processes, but there are general steps that apply across all institutions…

Step 1: consider whether you are eligible to apply

Extenuating circumstances refer to a situation or situations beyond your control that have the potential to severely affect your academic performance.

If you’re struggling with situations beyond your control, extenuating circumstances could help. Source: Shutterstock

This could be:

  • A sudden illness or injury that prevents you from studying for an extended period
  • A serious illness or death of a loved one that affects your ability to study
  • A flair-up of a long-term health issue such as a chronic illness or a mental health condition
  • A detrimental personal issue such as parents’ divorce, an unexpected pregnancy or falling victim to a criminal offence

Some other situations beyond your control typically aren’t considered viable extenuating circumstances. These include:

  • Last minute computer issues that prevent you from completing your work
  • Minor illness or injury that doesn’t affect your academic performance for more than a few days
  • Issues that have been on-going but don’t really affect you during the period in question

If you think you fall into the first bracket of situations, you should escalate your application.

Step 2: gather the relevant evidence for your application

For your application to be approved, you’ll need to provide evidence of your circumstances. While this may seem counterproductive when you’re struggling to meet deadlines, the small effort it will take could really improve your grade.

Compiling the relevant documents and information can help speed your application along. Source: Glenn Cartsens Peters/Unsplash

If your reason for considering extenuating circumstances is medical, you’ll need to provide medical proof of your condition. This could be:

  • A doctor’s note
  • A copy of your medical record
  • A copy of your prescription note
  • A picture of your medication
  • If you’re applying due to personal or family matters, you’re likely to need to provide a written account of your situation or a police report

You may also have to attend an interview with the department to determine whether you’re eligible for extenuating circumstances.

Step 3: submit your application

Usually, you apply through your subject’s department. If you submit your essays online, chances are your extenuating circumstances form will also be online. Other universities may prefer to meet with you in person to decide how to move forward.

Take a look in your student handbook to find the extenuating circumstance procedure. Student handbooks should include everything you need to know about succeeding at university, and sometimes extenuating circumstances are needed to achieve your potential.

Make sure you submit your application in plenty of time to reduce added stress. Source: Kyle Loftus/Unslash

If you’re still confused, try and arrange a meeting with your tutor to discuss your reasons for applying and see what they suggest.

Step 4: wait for approval

After you’ve applied, you’ll need to wait for the decision. Processing time will depend on the institution’s policy, but it’s usually between one and five working days. It’s therefore important to apply as soon as possible before your deadline to ensure you can plan accordingly.

If your application is accepted, you’ll be notified of your new deadline or circumstances either by email, letter or in person. There may be conditions you need to fulfil to ensure you’re not penalised, such as providing a follow-up medical note to update the department of your health after the deadline.

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