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During reading week, you wake up with a case of the sniffles. You brush it off as nothing, but then your throat gets itchy, your body feels achy, and before you know it, you’re too tired to get out of bed. The whole semester has been building up to finals, but nature decided to throw a curveball at you and bam, you’re sick. What should you do??

First, don’t panic. You can’t control when and if you get sick. All you can do is ensure that everyone who needs to be aware of your situation is in the know. Alert them as soon as you can, as it’s a lot easier to plan in advance than to frantically email your adviser at 4 a.m. the day of your final. (I speak from personal experience.)

Alert your adviser and professor

Email your adviser ASAP. Let them know that you’re sick, and which finals would be impacted. They’ll probably tell you to contact your professor.

What your professor ends up telling you is a case-by-case issue. They might let you make it up later (meaning next semester), they might let a midterm replace your final grade, or they might tell you that you must take the final to receive a grade. Make sure to be courteous and provide the professor with all the information they need to make a decision. If you want to be really legit, tell them you can provide a doctor’s note.

If they let you make up the exam later, you’ll be given a mark of incomplete for that class, but that’ll disappear once you take the exam in the fall. For Columbia, you’ll also have to submit a petition to the Committee on Academic Standing in the Division of Student Affairs explaining your sickness (with documentation). For Barnard, you’ll have to get approval from the Office of the Dean of Studies. (You can schedule an appointment with them here, or call them at 212-854-2024 to explain your sitch. Expect to have to provide documentation.) Then, you’ll make up the final at the beginning of next semester.

See health services

Make an appointment with Columbia Health Services or Primary Care Health Service. Not only will they be able to properly diagnose you and get you the medication you need, but they’ll also lend credibility to your illness when you communicate with your adviser and professor. A note from your doctor is proof that you’re not just making up your sickness because you didn’t have enough time to study.

If you can’t get an appointment with your school’s provider, you can also go to urgent care clinics in the area—the closest are CityMD on 104th Street and Broadway and Care Urgent Care on 103rd Street and Broadway. Urgent care clinics are always walk-in, so you don’t need to schedule an appointment—just make sure you bring your insurance card and cash or a credit/debit card to cover your co-pay, and make sure you don’t leave without asking for a doctor’s note!

Take care of yourself

It’s really stressful to be sick on top of having to deal with finals. Make sure you get the proper medication and rest you need. It might be tempting to push yourself to keep studying through your illness, but that’ll probably make you sicker. It’s better to pause studying and try to get healthy.

As finals approach, make sure to keep yourself as healthy as possible. Drink fluids, get enough sleep, and do whatever else you need to make sure you don’t get sick.

Have any other tips for keeping yourself well during finals? Or questions about what you need to do if you fall ill during finals? Tell us on our Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Victoria Yang is a SEAS first-year and Spectrum staff writer. She took three finals with the flu before succumbing to chem last semester. She 10/10 would not recommend. Reach her at

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