Not feeling up to class? Be sure you communicate well with your professors. Image courtesy of Flickr user Alicia Nijdam and licensed under CC by 2.0Erin Breedlove is back again with a follow-up to her last guest post about surviving college when you’re sick, be it a cold or chronic illness.  Remember to check her out at her blog: Healthy, Unwealthy, and Becoming Wise.

Last week, we discussed surviving school in the face of sickness, but what happens if you are really just too sick to go to class? What do you do?

For me, and I’m sure many other college students, communication with professors has always been crucial when I’ve got what seems like a crisis situation. But how do I write that e-mail, make that phone call, or show up at that office door confident that the professor will understand the situation? Here are four simple steps that may help you to easily communicate with your professors to, in essence, avert your “crisis”.

Keep in mind whether or not the “crisis” is a recurring issue. If the situation you’re dealing with causes you, or will cause you, to miss class frequently or regularly, be prepared with background information for your professor. Expect to give some anecdotal information and recount experiences where the current issue has previously affected your academic performance. Ask about ways that you can compensate and make the “crisis” work for you, despite academic requirements set forth by the professor in the syllabus or otherwise? For example, if a class meets Monday and Wednesday, and you’ve got an assignment due Tuesday, it may be possible for you to turn in the assignment on Wednesday at the beginning of class if that works for you and for the professor.  The key here is to simply be as flexible as possible. Understand that any accommodation your professor allows is, in most cases, in concordance with the law, but often, it’s an act of generosity.

Tune in to the professor’s every word. Make sure that when you are communicating your needs, you completely understand what will be required of you (and of your professors!) when he/she makes an accommodation for your situation. Ask questions if you’re unsure. This sounds simple, but look engaged, pleasant, and grateful. By understanding that you want to do well despite struggle, your professor is more likely to work with you. There may be times where your professor wants to write things down while he or she talks. Watch them write. Listen to their every word and make sure you keep anything that they give you in an agenda, planner, or otherwise safe place until the assignment is due or completed.

Find something in common with your professors. Communication is a two way street. He/she talks, and you listen, but you talk, and he/she listens.  Just like anyone else, professors love making personal connections with their students, so if you have something in common with that professor outside of academia (You’re a twin, too?! No way!), strike that. Ensure that you bring those things to the table when you chat with them.  Just like you and me, they don’t always love talking about work, though you do hope that they enjoy their job, and they’re more likely to remember you by way of the personal connection you have established. It also comes in handy after the semester is finished and you’re no longer their student. Asking for a recommendation letter suddenly got easier.

Learn the requirements of the class. This may sound simple, but the more familiar you are with the requirements, the better prepared you’ll be to present your case to a professor about how long you’ll need, accommodations needed to complete the assignment, and so forth. Plus, it will help them to see that you really are making a conscious effort to be fair, to be productive, and to be considerate of your needs, his/her needs, and the needs of your classmates.

What types of strategies have worked for you when communicating needs to your professors in the past? Let us know in the comments!