I am an undergrad about to graduate this month. I've been dealing with post-traumatic stress and severe depression for almost two years now. This time of year is especially difficult for me due to when the trauma happened.

My professor would like us to work in pairs for our upcoming final exam (which is more like a take-home project - we have a week to complete it). I worked alone on the last exam, ended up having to turn it in late, and got a C. I'm in worse shape now than I was then, and now that I've just moved home (which is where everything with the trauma happened, so there's lots of triggers here), things are more likely to get worse before they get better.

So I'm scared I'm going to drag down whoever I get paired with. I am obviously going to try my best, and hopefully things will go better than I'm expecting! But I also want to be realistic since my ability to function will now impact someone else's (final!) grade as well as my own. If I crash and burn, I want to be the only one doing so!

I am planning to talk with my professor about this, but I'm not sure how to approach it. Would it be appropriate to ask to work alone? Since the exam is pretty involved they said working in pairs makes it both easier on us, and easier on them to grade. I don't want to cause more inconvenience for them, especially since they've already been super understanding about my situation.

tl;dr: My professor wants us to work in pairs for our final. I am struggling with major mental health issues and am worried about dragging my partner under with me if I can't pull my weight. How should I approach this when talking with my professor?

  • 1
    Do you have any say in who your partner will be?
    – Buffy
    Dec 1, 2020 at 16:52
  • Did you talk to the professor after the previous exam? You could frame it as “What accommodations or extensions might be possible for someone in my situation?”
    – Dawn
    Dec 1, 2020 at 17:21
  • First of all, my respects for a responsible and fair attitude to your future work partner. This is not at all self-understood. Now, many universities have mechanisms in place to protect people with problems of various kinds. Is there such a support at your place? Or is at least the culture conducive to discussing such things, at least with a person that has your confidence? In such an institution, it could be appropriate to ask the prof directly what to do, because they are sensitized to such issues. Dec 1, 2020 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


It is possible that there are an odd number of people in the class and that someone might need to work alone. Put in a request to be considered for solo work, giving your reasons.

But, there is value in joint work and your professor may be depending on this being a valuable lesson for everyone.

And, to be honest, I'd much rather have a partner who was worried they wouldn't be able to do their part than one who wanted a free ride on my hard work.

If you can't make it happen, just do your best. It is all anyone can do, after all.

  • In some cases, the one might be grouped with another pair to make a group of 3. This will, of course, depend on the class.
    – Daveguy
    Dec 2, 2020 at 17:00

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