flu during finals blues
December 16, 2010 3:48 PM   Subscribe

Is it appropriate to ask for an extension on a final exam due to flu?

I managed to develop a pretty severe case of the flu (constant fever, meh!) during the reading days leading up to my final exams. I've already completed a take-home test, and have a language exam that is non-negotiable tomorrow. But it's my third exam, for geography, that I'm most concerned about.

Would it be reasonable to e-mail my teacher requesting that she let me take the exam from home in a couple of days? I haven't been able to do much reading or studying on it over the past few days, so it will almost certainly go badly if I take it with a fever. My prof is nice and down-to-earth; however, I don't want to appear to be taking advantage of her laxity. I would need to complete the exam from home, so I would suggest e-mailing it back to her in the same period of time afford for the exam period on sunday morning.

posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (28 answers total)
If you are very sick, yes. If you can get a doctor's note, then you have a much better case.
posted by brainmouse at 3:51 PM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

You were sick. It was out of your control. I urge you to ask.
posted by inturnaround at 3:52 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, absolutely.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:53 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ask her and see what she says. Get a note, and tell her you have a note from campus health/your doctor testifying that you are actually sick and not faking.

The sooner you ask the better. Email her *right now* and ask if there's a way to delay.

(If she can't give you a delay, don't take it personally, there may be logistical factors in her decision that you're not aware of.)

"Dear Prof X,
I have been sick with the flu for x days [etc, explanation]. I can provide a doctor's note confirming all this.
I am wondering if there is a way I can take the exam later?"
Your full name"
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:53 PM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think especially after the whole H1N1 thing schools are relatively receptive to flu-related requests... Do try for the doctor's note first though
posted by MangyCarface at 3:53 PM on December 16, 2010

My college always asked for confirmation from a Dean - that will bolster your case as well.
posted by awesomebrad at 3:56 PM on December 16, 2010

Most instructors will let you make up a final if they have advance notice, but you may not have quite as much luck in persuading your instructor to let you do the exam as a take-home. Still, it can't hurt to ask.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:56 PM on December 16, 2010

With documentation the make-up aspect should be a non-issue.However, I would never let one of my students take an exam from home if the rest of the class didn't have that option. You should do your best to make it up on your Prof's time. I assure you that s/he is busy too. Send an email asking to make it up at a time that works for your teacher.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2010

Two things -

1 - Definitely get a doctor's note. I have never been in a situation in which I needed an extension/make-up and did not require medical documentation.

2 - Check your syllabus/department policy re: missed exams. Most likely, your prof will not be able to deviate from said policy.

Hope you're feeling better soon!
posted by purlgurly at 4:15 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

The biggest problem will come from timing. Grades may be due very soon, and if you can't take the final before then, you might have to take an incomplete, or whatever the comparable grade is for your school. Getting the exam as a take-home may be a bit much, but that depends on your school's honor code and the professor's preferences.

I'd send an e-mail tonight, offer documentation, and see what happens. Check your student handbook to see if there's a procedure you have to go through for this.
posted by SNWidget at 4:18 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

It can't hurt to ask. It's not an unreasonable request in light of a bad case of flu with a constant fever, but either "yes" or "no" could be a reasonable answer.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:29 PM on December 16, 2010

Professor here. I would most likely allow you to take it, but I would never allow it to be take-home, given that none of the other students had that option. Is there a *reason* you can't go to school to take the test?
posted by media_itoku at 4:30 PM on December 16, 2010

Some of the most unreasonable professors I've taken have given extensionson finals when students have been sick. Definitely ask.
posted by DMan at 4:36 PM on December 16, 2010

You could certainly ask, but I'm going to argue against it. If you're not contagious and *able to take your other exams*, I'd suck it up and take the test. Asking your teacher for an exception because you wanted to reserve your energy for more important exams won't win you any points. I don't doubt that you are sick and feel awful and unprepared, but sometimes life asks you to perform under suboptimal conditions, and this is good practice. You might surprise yourself.

I say take the test. Get it over with so you can relax and get better. I promise it won't ruin your life.

(The only exception would be if you're in danger of losing your financial aid eligibility because of your grades--in which case I say game the system any way you can, because none of it matters if you can't stay in school--but you haven't mentioned that, so I don't think that's a concern.)
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:39 PM on December 16, 2010

Absolutely reasonable and worth asking for an extension or to take it in a different room, but I'm another instructor who would never agree to let one student take an in-class exam as a take-home.
posted by amelioration at 4:47 PM on December 16, 2010

Also reasonable, and responsible: ask your language instructor (with documentation in hand) to take that exam in an alternate location as well. Email tonight, again with the offer of documentation. Don't risk getting your classmates sick!
posted by amelioration at 4:49 PM on December 16, 2010

Experience from this situation when I was at Ohio State: Get your doctor's note. Notify your professor. If your prof says "no, you must take the exam, policy blah blah blah" it's because they are lazy and don't want to put up with anything. The office of student disabilities had a different story in my case, and forced the professor to delay the exam due to medical need. My other two professors that quarter let me take them later during office hours under the eye of a TA without questioning it beyond requiring a copy of doctor's note.

You need to do everything by the book. Communicate with everyone involved. Communicate via e-mail, have things signed, etc. etc. etc.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:54 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I work at a university. Your school probably has a set policy about this. Call your Registrar or Dean's Office and ask. It's likely they'll just want you to bring in a doctor's note, and probably the student clinic is fine and free. Doctors and clinics are used to doing these notes. Generally schools don't want students taking exams when they're sick b/c a) they'll do worse on the exam and b) they might get other student sick. Especially in winter we have dozens of students getting sick and are used to helping them reschedule things.
posted by davextreme at 5:12 PM on December 16, 2010

If I were your prof, I would tell you:

(1) To grant any accommodation, I would need documentation from a medical worker.
(2) Not that it's any of my business, but if you're feeling bad enough to miss an exam, you should go see a doc anyway.
(3) Directly from me, you have a choice of 3 accommodations with documentation. First, you can just punt the final and I would compute your grade over the rest of the course, but this only works because my "finals" only cover the last section. Second, you can take the exam on campus anytime before $DEADLINE, so I have time to grade your exam and get the grades in. Third, I can assign you an incomplete and you can take the exam in the spring.
(4) I am not comfortable with the accommodation you request. If you really want that, talk to the disability-services people (who know way more than me about what's appropriate) and try to convince them; I will do anything they tell me to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:52 PM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am in law school, and I remember things being relatively similar at my undergraduate institution. Here they make a very very big deal about NOT taking exams if you are sick. As in, they repeatedly remind us "DO NOT TAKE AN EXAM IF YOU ARE SICK" and tell us what to do if that happens, even up to and including once an exam has begun and one might take ill. There's a procedure in place where you need to notify the Dean of Students or proctor, etc, etc.
Email your professor, but also check the course catalog or wherever your institution keeps its policies for you to access-maybe somewhere online? It probably does have a procedure for such a situation. Follow and/or know it and you'll win points from everyone involved.
posted by atomicstone at 7:02 PM on December 16, 2010

It is totally appropriate, but you need to make the request before the exam. If you skip it due to your illness and then email the professor, she will not be sympathetic. Not at all. In the latter scenario, if you do not have a doctor's note, then you will likely be denied the opportunity to take the exam at all.

If you do get in touch with her ahead of time and can provide documentation of your illness, I can't see why she would deny you your opportunity to take the exam. However, I highly doubt she'd let you complete it from home, even if she seems "nice and down-to-earth". She'll probably let you take it in her office while she's finishing up grades at the end of the semester.

Most university professors are reasonable (regardless of what first-semester freshman want to believe). However, we don't like being taken advantage of by students who don't realize they aren't in high school anymore. You don't sound like one of these students at all. Get in touch with her immediately.
posted by King Bee at 7:19 PM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I did this once for a final. I got an Incomplete on my report card and I had X days into the next semester to complete the exam or the grade turned into an F - all of this was university policy and worked exactly like it was supposed to. I actually dragged my carcass into the professor's office to ask for the extension because I worked for the department and he knew me, but I was perfectly willing to get a doctor's note.

There is most certainly a policy documented somewhere. If you're sick enough to affect your performance, even just a B instead of an A, go ahead put the wheels in motion.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:21 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't let a student take an exam from home. This is the sort of situation incompletes are designed for. Email as soon as you can if you want there to be any hope of consideration---but it's likely if you talk to your profs ahead of time.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:20 PM on December 16, 2010

You can email your professor, explain the situation, and ask if there's anything that can be done to accommodate you. Don't try to dictate the terms (i.e. asking to email it to her, etc) she'll want to be the one to decide what's appropriate. And yes, as King Bee says, this needs to happen in advance of the exam.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:14 AM on December 17, 2010

I will note that some Health Services will not document illnesses, just that you went -- that's for student privacy reasons. Don't freak out about that -- if that's how your school functions, that will be part of the protocol.

Your professor may not have authority over final exam retakes; it may be required that such things are dealt with through the Dean. Again, don't panic. I'm just mentioning it so that you don't assume you're screwed if your prof. refers you up the command chain.
posted by endless_forms at 8:29 AM on December 17, 2010

CALL your professor on the phone, don't just send an email. Try to call during office hours. You'll look like a much more responsible student.

Professors are held to deadlines for submitting student grades by a certain date, and usually that date is Monday or Tuesday after finals week. They have to grade their finals a lot faster than they grade their midterms.

Let her know that you are aware that grades are due very soon, and don't want to put her in the position of having to give you a make-up exam and grade it in a time crunch... BUT you are afraid your flu will affect your exam-taking. Be prepared for her to say that she'll have to give you an "Incomplete" because of school policy on getting the grades in. It may not be until early next term that you finish the exam and get your Incomplete fixed. Or it might be easier for you to just go and take the exam. But if you're that sick, Incompletes are for you. (My husband has students who have been constant no-shows ask for Incompletes, and he has to say no, per university policy, Incompletes are for illness and emergencies.)
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2010

CALL your professor on the phone, don't just send an email.

This is not universal advice. I'm a prof and much, much prefer email.

A benefit of email is that you can send an email at night, as soon as you realize there's an issue, and I will get it earlier and be able to decide how to deal with it (maybe I have to call the dean to check, etc) before getting back to you.
General rule is -- the sooner you can get in touch with me with requests for extensions, etc, the better.

I assume that you have already taken action, OP, but if not you can check your syllabus to see if your prof gave you any indication of what communication method she prefers.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:10 PM on December 17, 2010

Response by poster: thanks for all the replies! helpful to hear so many perspectives. I ended up e-mailing the prof with the request, as per Lobster Mitten's format. (should have cited "Lobster Mitten" at the end). she responded much later last night approving an at-home retake, which was really kind. in the morning, however, i was feeling slightly better and in the mood to study intensely for five hours and just get it over with. so even though I got the approval, ended up taking the test and potentially aceing it! the email unintentionally served as a nice construct of "yes, I could do this another time, but by sheer force of will it will be now rwaaaar!" for myself, haha. effective! so thanks.
posted by elephantsvanish at 9:30 PM on December 17, 2010

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