Don’t panic. When this happened to me, my friend and I panicked for about an hour before taking action. But delaying the problem will not solve it.
I think this is the worst that can happen to an international student: missing an exam in their very last semester of their degree. Especially if the student visa expires right after the exams (like in Malaysia). Often, missing an exam is hugely unintentional: it can be due to a sudden illness… or carelessness (for example, messing up the time and date).
Either way, if you are in that situation, here’s what you got to do ASAP.
Step 1: Take A Deep Breath
When you stop panicking, sit down, take a deep breath and face the situation. You’re an adult now. It’s time to collect your thoughts and be clear-minded. Look up what the specific procedures your campus has in place for such a case. Most of the time, you will be able to defer the exam to a later date, instead of having to extend your study period to another semester.
Talk to a friend about it. You can ask advice from people who have been through this too… and I guarantee you there are quite a few. I had at least two people I could call to ask what I should do next and where to get the necessary documents.
Step 2: Get An Exemption Letter
Every school has specific requirements to be eligible to defer an exam. Once you find out what they are, get them ASAP. If it’s a medical certificate or a doctor’s letter that you need, it’s best to get the documents on the same day of the missed exam, or even before (assuming you know beforehand that you’ll be bedridden on that day).
If there are any forms you have to fill, do it. Don’t wait. Get everything ready before submitting your application to defer the exam. You’d want the process to be smooth and successful so you can graduate on time!
Step 3: Go to your school’s management office
Every school or department in a university has its own management office. You’re probably pretty familiar with them since this is where you’d usually go to ask for advice relating to your course. That’s where you should go to hand the documents and ask for more details. They’ll also verify the documents and tell you whether there’s anything else you need to do.
Ask them about the repercussions (if any) of a missed exam, how long the process will take, and any question that’s bogging your mind. This is a pretty stressful situation so this is where you get some reassurance.
Step 4: Go to the student visa officer
If you are an international student and this is your last semester, you have to see the International Students Services office or the one who’s responsible for your student visa. Go as soon as you’re done with your school’s management office and bring all the documents showing you have to defer an exam with you.
You will most likely need to extend your visa. Yes, you will be scolded because last-minute visa procedures are stressful and time-consuming, but swallow your pride and get it done. You’ll probably have to dig into your savings and pay for the extended visa. That’s why it’s important to save money so you can have some extra cash at hand.
You’ll probably have some more paperwork to do; try to do it all in one day so you can apply for your extended visa ASAP. Hopefully, the process will be quick but it may still take a few weeks. Can’t afford to stay in a country illegally.
Step 5: Extend your room’s rental agreement
If you live outside of campus you’d usually have a contract for that, which may put you in a delicate situation. For instance, I had a 1-year contract which was going to end right after the semester. Unless you’re very close and friendly with the owner of the place, it is often not feasible to get a 2-month extension just because of a missed exam… at the risk of losing my deposit.
Besides, you may neither know the date of the exam nor the expiration date of the new visa yet. For how long should you extend your stay?
Fortunately, I remembered I had a local friend who was renting her own house to students. I called her immediately. And because of our friendship and mutual trust, I didn’t have to make any deposit or sign any contract. I duly paid the rent and that was it: I had a place to stay.
If you can stay at a friend’s place, please do. It comes with fewer hassles… and is much cheaper!
Step 6: Already booked your flight? Ask for reimbursement
If you’ve already bought a ticket home, it’s time to contact the airline company and ask to be refunded. Most of the time, the airline will have a refund policy. In my case, I was reimbursed everything except taxes.
If you already know the date of your return, ask to extend the day of the flight. I’m not sure if it’s possible, especially if your deferred exam is going to be at least one month away, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Step 7: Plan your budget
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to spend all of your remaining cash for your leisure before going home like you had planned. Making sure you’ve got enough money for the additional months is crucial. Inform your parents if they are your beneficiaries; it’ll be hard and you’ll probably get scolded, but you do need to plan ahead financially.
If you want to help and feel less like a burden (which most Asian kids feel in such a situation), you can go for cheaper rent like I said above or even get a short-term part-time job. Review your current expenses and make a budget for that unexpected stay.
In the end, after completing all the stressful arrangements, missing an exam led me to have more time to my friends. It ended up being more like an extended holiday!
So don’t worry too much about it. You’ll be fine.
If you’ve been through a similar experience, feel free to share your own tips in the comments below!
D. K. Waye.
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