Creating a What-If Plan

I’ll never forget my 2004 Saturn Ion. It was my first new car. It took me on long trips, short trips, got me through snowstorms, and rainy days. It was the best car. However, it had one flaw. On really cold, winter mornings, I could not get my key to turn in the ignition. It felt as though the sun had to shine on the car for an hour before that ignition would turn. At the time, my husband would even hold a flame up to the ignition to warm it quicker. Needless to say, there were many winter mornings when I was late to work because my car was “not ready.” While it wasn’t funny at the time, it became a hilarious tale to students, and a perfect example of why “what-if” plans were necessary. During college orientations, my colleague [the Director of Academic Support] would comically use my tale of woe to express to students the need to imagine worst case scenarios in order to plan for the unexpected.

As you move through your academic career, whether taking face-to-face classes or online ones, it’s important to think of what-if questions for emergency situations. Doing so will keep you better prepared for when the unexpected occurs. Here’s the harsh reality that we all have to learn:

Life doesn’t stop just because you’re having a chaotic moment.

Assignments will still be due and simply emailing your professor will not be the proper solution to everything. Therefore, here are some scenarios to think about as you create your “What-If” plan:

  1. It’s 2am and your child runs a fever and vomits in his room. Your term paper is due the next day. How do you get your paper turned in? What’s your professor’s policy on submitting work? Can anyone else turn in your assignment for you?
  2. You have an evening class and your car breaks down. How do you get to class? Who can you call who can take you to class if you choose to fix your car afterwards? What’s the quickest way to get in touch with your professor or classmates?
  3. You have to upload an assignment by 11:59 pm and your computer crashes at 9 pm. How do you submit your assignment? Who can help you get your assignment in on time?
  4. Your work requirement is to attend a conference, but you’ll have to miss a week of class. How do you still participate in class? How do you get your assignments into your professor?

If your answer to each question was “I just won’t go to class”, or, “I’ll just email my professor”, then you do not have a plan. Think about the people in your support group (partner, friends, parents, colleagues, classmates, academic advisor, etc.). Those are the people who you should be able to call on when you’re in a bind. Take some time and think about those worst-case scenarios and come up with different plans so that your coursework does not take a backseat to emergencies.

*There will definitely be times when emergencies are too great and class will need to be missed. Be sure that you are aware of your classroom and college policies regarding those emergencies (ex. extreme illness, family death, taking a leave of absence, etc.). This way, “minor” emergencies remain covered and easily dealt with while “major” emergencies are handled differently.

Keep moving forward!

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