My mother is very sick with colon cancer and I am living with her and also doing online classes at a private university in California. I felt depressed and had a lot on my mind and ended up falling behind in one of my classes, but I am on schedule in the rest with only two classes remaining. The bad part is that the class I failed says it will not be offered again until a year and four months from now, I was supposed to graduate this August. My school's catalog does say something about offering extended time for assignments in some situations, but I am missing 7 weeks worth of assignments for the one class. My school has these account representatives that call you to check in periodically, but she made it sound like the only option I had was to wait a year and four months to take the class again. I can try asking the department director to help, but I am wondering if anyone has any advice?

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    I don't know the rules in your university and whether your case qualifies (so, as the comment above says, ask your undergraduate office), but "taking care of a sick relative" is often a good cause for all kinds of leniency towards a student.
    – Dmitry
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


Since your situation is unusual, the university, through the department head, might be able to arrange a special solution. The first option that comes to mind is an Independent Study course with some faculty member who will provide some guidance and a grade for the missed course. These are common enough that it is worth talking to the department head and/or the faculty member that normally teaches the course.

Good luck with all the travails.

You might also look to the "student counseling" office, if any, to find ways to avoid depression, which can slow you down or provide a block.


Situations like yours are common, and universities have policies for them. In a population of several thousand students, every semester a percentage of those students will have a family and/or medical emergency. The call you received sounds like from a "student retention" office (or whatever the name for that office at your university.) However, the most likely person to help is the chair of the department. It varies among universities, but chairs usually have broad authority to help students in cases like yours. These include allowing a late medical/family withdrawal from the class, offering a special topics course that later is made to cover for the class you failed, negotiating with the faculty member a grade of incomplete, and other options. Besides the chair, every university has a disabilities/accessibility office or a person at the assistant/associate dean level (sometimes called undergrad coordinator) that is tasked with helping students in your situation. Again, the actual title of the person varies, but every institution has one. Just inquire about the appropriate channel at your institution, and follow their instructions. Good luck.

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