What To Do When You’re Sick

There are supports in place for U of A students needing to miss class or deadlines due to illness.


Fall in Alberta seems to pass with the blink of an eye. While this fall semester at the U of A still isn’t quite what we’re used to, some things never change. Before we’ve even realized it, October is over, midterms are upon us and instructors are giving us not-so-subtle reminders about final exams and projects.

This year, the pandemic has meant we have all had to be extra cautious as a community about taking care of ourselves and one another. With most classes in full swing and our semesters full of in-person activities, we must take the proper steps to keep ourselves and our campus community healthy. You know you should stay home when you feel sick, but what comes next? What does this mean for our classes and deadlines? I sat down with Kevin Friese, Assistant Dean of Health and Wellness, to talk about what students should do when they're sick. 

What should students do if they feel unwell?

If you're not feeling well, focus on getting well. That means staying home, taking care of yourself, making sure that you're getting lots of rest and focusing on getting over whatever symptoms you may have. By staying home, you're taking care of yourself so that you're healthy enough to focus on your academics and the other responsibilities in your life, and you're helping keep the community healthy and safe. 

If I can’t come to class, what should I do?

Always reach out to your instructor first and have a conversation. Say, 'here's the situation, I'm sick, I can't be in class today.' Many instructors post notes online, or it could also be as simple as just working with a friend to coordinate them, passing along notes and information to you.

What happens if I need to miss an assignment or an exam?

It’s important to talk with your instructors about a missed exam or missed assignment so you can work with them to explore possible options. If students don't feel like they have options, they are going to end up coming to class sick, and instructors don't want that; the rest of the class doesn't want that either. We all have a role to play in this. It's incumbent upon our instructors to also consider the options they can make available for people who can't be in class because they're sick. 

Do I need to provide documentation when I’m requesting support from my instructor?

The university will not require documentation if someone has been legally required to self isolate because of COVID-19. They want to remove as many barriers as possible to ensure that individuals can self-isolate and maintain that isolation period while they're symptomatic.

For non-COVID-19-related circumstances, instructors can require a declaration and appropriate documentation from an individual to help inform whatever steps are going to be implemented to assess the situation. I always encourage students to first start with a conversation with their instructor.

I’m uncertain about what I should do or how to approach my instructor. What next?

If students struggle with navigating those conversations with your instructor or need extra support or assistance, they can always reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students through our general email account, dosdean@ualberta.ca. The Office of the Dean of Students regularly works with students, instructors and faculty to identify solutions and work collectively to navigate those conversations.

What other resources at the university are available to help students out?

The Office of the Dean of Students and our related services are here to help support students. I call it a “net of support for students,” at this time of year. Whether it's the Academic Support Centre, the Wellness Supports Team, the University Health Centre or Counseling and Clinical Services, those resources are always available to you if you need to reach out.

What else should students keep in mind?

We know there's high anxiety as students go into midterms and look ahead to finals down the road. I really encourage students to make sure that they are taking care of themselves, starting with getting enough sleep, making sure that they take time out to decompress and using whatever coping strategies make the most sense for them. Whether it's going out and getting some exercise, going for a run, connecting with friends or painting, or whatever your jam is, it is critically important to decompress.

In addition to the everyday stress that many post-secondary students are experiencing, we know that the pandemic and related circumstances have further amplified those concerns and anxieties for students. It's really incumbent that we are watching out for each other, that we're checking in with each other and checking in with our friends to see how they're doing. Helping support each other and creating a community that cares is really critical right now.

If you have questions about health, wellness and academic support services available to students, refer to the Current Students website or contact us by emailing dosdean@ualberta.ca. If you have questions about the U of A’s COVID-19 safety measures, get in touch by contacting phrtinfo@ualberta.ca

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

about-sabrina.pngAbout Sabrina

Sabrina is an after-degree student majoring in Media Studies in the Faculty of Arts, with a keen interest in fans and fandom studies. When she's not knee-deep in coursework or pop culture news, Sabrina is an avid writer and moviegoer. In her free time, Sabrina can be found in the kitchen trying out a new recipe, or enjoying an afternoon curled up with her dog watching K-dramas.