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Balancing college classes, extracurricular activities, and a part-time job can be stressful by itself, but then you get the call that there’s a family emergency that needs your attention. You’re able to travel home from college to spend time with your family, but that means you’ll miss a couple days or even a few weeks of class. In high school, you would probably have a parent to call in and report your absence from school, but what do you do now that you’re in college?

Here are some tips to help you plan after a family emergency occurs:

Contact Your College’s Academic Advising & Counseling Office

Academic advising isn’t just for deciding on a major and setting you up with tutoring services for your tough calculus class. Your academic advisor should be one of the first people you contact if you need time away from class due to a family emergency. They will be able to explain your college’s process to follow if you need to miss class. The advisor or another staff member from the office might contact your professors to let them know you will need time off from your classes and/or extensions on your class assignments.

Email Your Professors

Although the academic counseling offices may send out their own message to your professors about your current situation, it doesn’t hurt to send a brief email yourself. Check your class syllabus to see if your professor has a policy on student absences. When you have time, come up with a plan for how you will make up the coursework you missed and when you’ll turn in any big projects that were due while you were absent. This will show your professors that you’re serious about doing well in their class, and make it easier for you to catch up on your assignment when you are able to start working on them. If you’re working on a group project when your crisis occurs, let the other group members know how your absence will affect the completion of the project.

Don’t Be Afraid To Talk To Somebody

College can be emotionally draining without the addition of a family emergency. It’s OK to want to talk to a counselor or therapist about your family’s emergency. In general, colleges offer their full time students a set amount of free visits to their counseling office each semester or academic year. If you are in need of long term services, the office will be able to refer you to other resources. For student who live in on-campus housing, your residential advisor (RA) is another resource if you need someone to talk to about your situation.

Return To Class At Your Own Pace

If you can’t afford to go home to your family, ask your academic advisor if they know of any resources to assist students with returning home. Some student who can’t return home may want to continue attending class to take their mind off of the situation, while others will still want to take some time away from classes. Decide what is best for your situation. If you end up needing to take an extended amount of time off, such as the rest of the semester or a full academic year, contact your academic advisor about your school’s process. It can be hard to focus on anything expect your family when an emergency occurs, but taking the time now to learn how a leave would impact your education such as financial aid or graduating in 4 years will leave you better prepared.

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the author

Cara Claflin is a senior who attends a public school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Even though she plans to stay in Minnesota, attending college in a state that doesn’t have snowstorms in May is starting to sound appealing. She hopes to double major in journalism and marketing. Cara loves helping high school students make the most of all the resources available to them. At school, she is an editor for her school’s newspaper and takes part in a leadership group. When she has some free time, she enjoys dancing, listening to music, reading, and watching music and dance competition reality shows.

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