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What happens if things don’t go to plan?

No student journey is smooth, there will be bumps along the way, some bigger than others. Preparation is key. Paddy shares some useful information.
open book on brown wooden table
© University of York

Starting university is exciting. Students often have high hopes, aspirations and a well thought-out plan for their academic and personal growth. However, life has a way of throwing unexpected challenges and curveballs. What happens, then, when things don’t go the way you planned them.

In this section, you will find some information on the various ways universities can support you in those times when you need that support, and a guiding hand. It is essential to realise two things:

  • Setbacks and unexpected hurdles are a natural part of the university experience. These challenges can manifest in different ways, such as struggling academically, feeling overwhelmed, or facing financial difficulties.
  • Your university wants you to succeed.

One of the most significant consequences of a disrupted plan is the impact on academic performance. Students might find themselves falling behind in their coursework, which can lead to stress and anxiety. Knowing how the university can help, its policies and processes, can really help you at the times you need it. In the first instance, it is important to talk to your academic supervisor or student support coordinator to get the help and guidance you need as soon as possible.

Exceptional Circumstances

There are times when you are faced with situations outside of your control which could, potentially, negatively impact your academic performance in coursework and exams. Universities call these Exceptional Circumstances and they will have a policy in place that will help cover you in assessments, should you need it, to make sure you are not unfairly penalised.

You must be eligible; exceptional circumstances (EC) can include things like illness or bereavement, for example. It will not cover such things as failing to back up your work on your computer. You will need to provide evidence to support your application, such as a medical certificate from a doctor.

In the event of a student’s application for EC being granted, they may be awarded an extension, deferral or an alternative form of assessment.

The university recognises that sometimes students are unable to sit an assessment for the first time or even have to resit an assessment or two. It is daunting to be in that situation, however, it is not uncommon. You will not be the first student at your university to resit an assessment and you certainly will not be the last.

What is really important is that you keep the lines of communication open with your supervisor, and contact them at the earliest opportunity when you think things might not go as planned. They are there to help you and will understand all the processes in place to help you succeed – even if you have to take a more ‘scenic route’ to get there.

Support is available

Beyond your academic supervisor, remember – as we have noted in other areas of this course – there are other people and services across the university who can help you. For example, at the University of York, each department has a Student Wellbeing Officer you can talk to, and the Study Coaching service is there to help you get back on track should you need that guidance.

Over to you

Life does indeed throw curveballs at us from time to time. And this can lead to overwhelm as we try to juggle everything all at once.

We’ve mentioned numerous forms of support you could expect to find at a university – how many can you remember and what other forms of support might there be? What kind of issues do you think a university would be useful to help with?

© University of York
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