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How to apply for extenuating circumstances

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Sometimes, things go wrong. It’s the nature of life. While we can ‘touch wood’ and promote good karma, some things truly sit far beyond our control.

It can be tough when this happens – especially when you have a deadline or two looming. How are you supposed to produce your best work when you’re dealing with a severe bout of depression or dealing with a recent death in the family?

Luckily, most universities have extenuating circumstance schemes in place to support you when things go wrong. 

These procedures serve to help students when inevitable problems crop up, so there’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed to apply.

There’s no need to suffer in silence – your university has procedures that can help you. Source: Shutterstock

Different universities offer different solutions, from essay extensions to extra time for exams. Each university has its own specific criteria, but if you think you could benefit from extenuating circumstances, read our overview on how to apply:

What constitutes extenuating circumstances?

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

This could be:

  • A sudden illness or injury that prevents you from studying for an extended time 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 a parent’s divorce, an unexpected pregnancy or being the victim of a criminal offence.

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

  • Last minute computer issues that prevent you from completing your work.
  • Minor illness or injury that does not affect your academic performance for more than a few days.
  • Issues that have been ongoing but didn’t really affect you during this time period.
We all need a little help from time to time. Source: Giphy

What information do I need to provide?

If your reason for considering extenuating circumstances is medical, you will 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 are 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 have to attend an interview with the department to determine whether you are eligible for extenuating circumstances.

Who do I apply through?

So now you know what you need, but who do you need to show it to? Source: Shutterstock

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.

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

What happens next?

After you’ve applied, you will need to wait to hear the decision. The processing time depends on your university’s policy, but it is 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 EC 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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