Uni Life

Studying when you’re ill

Blood pressure test

During our time at uni, we don’t always have the luxury of sick days. It is your responsibility to keep up with your studies and although there are resources available, it is always up to you in the end. This semester, I’ve learned something valuable from having a run in with a quite debilitating although rather harmless illness and I thought I’d share my experiences. No matter if you have a very stubborn cold or something more serious, I hope you’ll find something useful in here.

So, how do you balance studies with looking after your health?

1. Talk to the pros

No matter if it’s a doctor, a psychologist, or a counsellor, seek professional advice. Not only can they help you obtain the important paperwork needed for extensions or special considerations, but they have probably advised other students in the same position. They might be able to give you the blueprint to recovery and give you a few hints as to how to handle your studies.

It’s also worth mentioning that it might be a good idea to speak to your lecturers and/or tutors. If you have a tute where participation is marked, you might want to mention that you’re not able to participate in the way you usually would and that the miserable look on your face is due to illness and not boredom. If your lecturer has decided that pop quizzes are the way to go, you’ll want to speak to them about the fact that you might not be able to attend every lecture

2. Learn to prioritise

You need to realise that you won’t be able to follow the same study routine that you always have before. You also have to understand that you won’t be able to dedicate the same amount of time to your studies as you perhaps would have liked. Therefore, it’s essential to prioritise. There are things you’ll have to cut from the list and things you’ll need to sacrifice. This semester, I unfortunately had to rely on Lecture Capture for the subject I found the most interesting due to only being able to make the journey to uni a few times every week.

By prioritising and planning, you know where to start and what to give up on. Perhaps your GPA will suffer a bit, but it will suffer far more if you don’t recognise that you are ill and can’t give every assignment 100%.

3. Stop blaming yourself

Sometimes, we fall sick. It’s not fun, but it happens and there’s usually not much we can do about it. I spent the first five weeks of the semester stuck in bed with a high fever. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t will it to go away. If you need to rest, rest. If your doctor tells you to rest, rest. If you get stuck in a cycle of guilt and blame, you’ll recover more slowly and your studies will suffer even more. Allow yourself to be sick when you really are.

4. Be smart

Like all students, you want to receive maximal output for minimal input. By this, I don’t mean being lazy or cheating. You have to be smart about the choices you make. Is there a large overlap between two subjects? Do the readings for one of the subjects and attend the lecture for the other. Can you choose similar essay topics for two subjects? Do so.

Today, we were given the general topics for eight essay questions that will be on the final exam for one subject, out of those eight, I’d written assignments on three within the past year. By going back and reading my assignments as preparation, I’ll most likely remember things I thought I’d forgotten and save time compared to if I’d tried to study for three questions I’ve had less experience with. Struggle to do the readings? Read the summaries.

5. Master procrastination.

Procrastination is often considered the enemy of student success. However, if used creatively, procrastination can be a pleasant tool in your studies. Find YouTube channels that are entertaining and informative (and hopefully related to your studies). Make a list of movies and documentaries that relate to your studies. Even if they aren’t always 100% correct, they often provide a chance to see things from a different perspective.

It may be a stretch for a politics/international relations student to call watching the West Wing or Game of Thrones studying, but these two shows offer very different perspectives on both domestic and international issues that are in line with two major perspectives in International Relations. If you study a foreign language, I wholeheartedly recommend listening to Disney songs in that language. To be honest, any music in that language will help, but Disney songs tend to be comforting when you’re sick.

– Ida



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  • Joh
    March 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I suffer from fibromyalgia plus I’ve got a virus atm, can’t tell you how much this helped. Thank you so much, I’ve bookmarked it for future reference. Thanks again.

  • Harish Joshi
    January 30, 2018 at 12:05 am

    I’m suffered from fever since last 2 days & when I try to study, it seems impossible & I feel that I’m wasting a lot of my time in bed. What to do ? I’ve my Physics exam after 5 days.

    • Avatar photo
      Guest Blogger
      January 30, 2018 at 10:44 am

      Hi Harish, please discuss your options with your course convenor. Regards, Bronwyn.