If personal issues are impacting your academic performance, it can be helpful to reach out to your professors to let them know. If possible, don’t wait until the last minute. As soon as you know there’s a potential problem, give them a heads-up by email or in person. That way, if you need to approach them later for specific support, it won’t be entirely unexpected.

Think about what you need.

Identify what you need and commit to asking for it. 

Are you making a request, such as having a due date moved or extra office hours? Or do you simply want to inform them that there’s a reason you haven’t been performing as well as usual? 

Name the situation and its impact.

You have to decide how much you want to disclose about what is going on. You might be most comfortable saying something general, such as “there are some things going on in my life outside of class that are making it impossible for me to be fully present as a student.” 

You can choose to share more if you want—family issues, health issues, mental health issues, etc.—but you don’t need to. 

Even if you don’t want to get into specifics about what is happening, it can be helpful to provide more detail about your situation. Is it hard to get to class? Are you zoning out during lectures? Can’t focus on reading? Missing deadlines?

Ask for what you want—directly and specifically. 

No one can read your mind. Assume that others will not figure out what you want unless you say it directly: 

  • “I’d like an extension on the assignment until [date].”
  • “I just want you to be aware in case I need support in the future.”

You might have to negotiate. 

Reflect back what you are hearing from them: 

  • “I hear that you can’t change due dates for everyone who asks, and it sounds frustrating to be asked. If possible, based on my circumstances, I’m requesting an exception.” 

You might need to reduce your request. Focus on what will work.

It may not work.

Sometimes professors cannot or will not accommodate requests, so be prepared. Don’t make it mean more than it does. It was still a good idea to try.

Thank them.

Even if you didn’t get what you wanted, thank them for hearing you and for their time.

Adapted from: https://www.purdue.edu/caps/covid-19/talk-to-professors.html