Ask Emma: How do I catch up after my COVID-19-related absences?

Check syllabus before approaching professor with questions; schedule time to meet during office hours, outside of class



Catching up from school after a COVID-19-induced absence can be stressful, but Ask Emma has some helpful tips that will help you get back on track.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Dear Emma,

Last week I tested positive for COVID-19. I missed all five days of class (and, of course, it was our first full week of school). None of my teachers are offering a Zoom or hybrid option, but some of them record the lectures and post them to Canvas later. I’m particularly struggling in two of my classes: one is a lab, and the other is a lecture. 

I know I need to reach out to my professors, but I’m so behind that I don’t even know how they could help me. I’m also really scared they won’t be able to help or won’t want to. 

Any advice?

Behind and Bewildered

Dear Behind and Bewildered,

I’m sorry you feel so behind right now. I can almost guarantee that you are not the only person going through something like this, so don’t fret (yet)! We are still early enough in the semester for you to catch up and crush all your classes!

First of all, go through the syllabus for the class or classes you are most behind in. Having been a teacher’s assistant for a few semesters now, I know that a lot of students — and I’m not saying you fall into this category — never actually read the class syllabus. This can make it particularly frustrating for instructors because they have to keep repeating the same information that is already available. 

The syllabus will tell you all the information you need to know, including what assignments you missed, any exams that are looming and when you can find your professor in their office hours. 

Use the syllabus to make lists of topics you are confused about or assignments you missed. This shows initiative when you approach your professor for help. 

Hopefully, your professors will have Canvas updated with any assignments you missed. This might be the case for your lecture but not your lab. If you can’t find something, double-check the course space before asking. 

Once you feel like you’ve found everything you can on the syllabus and Canvas, set up a meeting with your professor. Depending on their preferences, they may have established office hours each week, or you might need to email them to set up a meeting.

This is the intimidating part, but you’ve made it this far. You can do it! Your professors want to help you pass, and you are not going to be the only person who needs to catch up after a long absence.

In the meeting with your professor, let them know that you’re doing your best to catch up. Be sure to take notes about the advice they give you — that will likely come in handy later. This is also a great time to mention any assignments you can’t find on Canvas or topics that haven’t been clicking. 

If you need more help, you may have to schedule another meeting with them later. Catching up on schoolwork isn’t a one-time thing — it’s an ongoing process. The more you invest in that process now, the better off you will be for midterms and finals. 

I sincerely hope everything goes well and your professors can help you get on track. However, if that doesn’t happen, or you feel like your professors aren’t making reasonable accommodations based on your absence, consider reaching out to the department chair, college dean or Provost’s Office. 

I hope this helps! Best of luck getting caught up.