Today I write this from the comfort of my bed, where I have spent the last week suffering from illness. As someone with a weak immune system, an inability to absorb b12, and chronic mental health issues, missing class is a thing I have to deal with. I’d like to think I can give tips on how to catch up and stay on top of things when you’ve been ill. This is in no way going to help if you’re just missing class because you’re hungover (not that I’m not guilty of that occasionally). I don’t endorse that, and besides, unfortunately catching up does take work – if you can make it to class in the first place it will be easier for you in the long run.
While you’re ill
- Go to the doctor. You probably know yourself and your body well enough to know what’s going on. If it’s not, get your butt to your GP. They know what they’re doing, and you’ll probably get much better a lot faster. It’s nice to have a professional validate your illness so you feel less guilty about going to class.
- If you can, talk to your friends on the course about what’s going on. Having your mates on the same course is a godsend for many reasons. When you’re ill, ask your friends what the focus in the lab was, or what questions were covered in tutorials. When you’re reviewing the content guidance from your friends will be time-saving and life-saving.
- Keep an eye on assignment deadlines. It’s not realistic to catch up with every single thing you missed. The best use of your time is to stay caught up on what content is going towards your grades. Course organisers are reasonable with allowing extensions, but a couple of extra days doesn’t always alleviate stress. This is particularly true if you have a few assignments with similar due dates. Planning for your assignments while you’re ill makes it less terrifying when the due dates approach.
- Look after yourself. I should probably put this higher, it’s super important. Coming to university and having to take care of yourself when you’re sick, maybe for the first time, is hard. Stock up on painkillers, throat lozenges, soup, and good foods. Then get into bed with a big bottle of water and rest and rehydrate until you’re back on your feet. If it’s mental illness preventing you from making class, consider self-care techniques that you know work for you. In both cases be good to yourself by not beating yourself up for missing class,. Instead using that energy to get well, and do what you can from home.
When you’re back on your feet
- Prioritise and plan what you need to catch up on. Look over the course objectives, assignment criteria, and any notes your friends have helped with while you’ve been gone, to help work out what you need to put the most effort into now you’re feeling up to it. What’s coming up soon, what do you have more time for, what readings are the most relevant to the content. If you’ve been sick for a week or more it’s pretty much impossible to catch up on every single thing, knowing the most important stuff will be hugely beneficial for you time management.
- Use office hours. As much as talking one on one with your lecturer can be a bit scary, and you always feel like you should be super prepared with an exact question, it is really helpful. We’re lucky we get this time to chat with our professors. They will almost always be understanding, particularly if you’ve been ill. There is probably nowhere better to go than directly to your lecturer if you want an idea of what you’ve missed and what you’ll need to know.
- Don’t miss class to use the time to catch up on the class you’ve already missed. This is a trap I’ve fallen into too many times. ‘Oh, I can’t make it to stats today because I need to use that time to go over last weeks stats lectures’. Nope. You’re falling further behind, and 9 times out of 10 you don’t use that hour as effectively as you thought you would. There are very few cases where missing a class to do other work pays off. Try to avoid it, whether you’ve been ill or not.
- Look after yourself! Same as before but still ever so important. Do your best to reduce your chances of getting ill again, and make sure you feel good. You will do better and be more productive. You’re more likely to kick ass when you’re back if you’re minding your health. Catching up, and staying on top of things, is easiest when you’re feeling your best. You can’t help being ill, but in between times make sure those bacteria, or viruses, or … chemical imbalances in the brain I guess, know that you’re a force to be reckoned with.
I hope you’re all feeling wonderful and well and looking forward to the festival of creative learning. Perfect opportunity to use some spare time to catch up on any class you’ve been missing!