Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Ending the stigma of mitigating circumstances

Mitigating circumstances can often feel like a dirty phrase, a cop-out for students who can’t achieve the grades they need and thus require extra consideration. As somebody who has to applied for mitigating after a difficult year, I feel as though I am a failure.

For those unfamiliar with the term, mitigating circumstances is a process that a student applies for in order for special considerations to be taken when assessing a student’s performance at university. The decision is taken by a Board of Examiners, usually comprised of senior academics and external staff. Beginning with a meeting with their personal tutor, a student is required to submit evidence of ‘special circumstances’ for example, medical records. If accepted, mitigating circumstances will not change a students grade, but rather, make exceptions for students who are on the border of a grade boundary.

I still feel like I am undeserving of mitigating circumstances because my condition isn’t visible

There are many different categories that a student can apply for in order to qualify for mitigating circumstances. When applying for mitigating circumstances at Warwick, there is no discrimination between a mental and physical illness – they are both as detrimental as each other. Knowing this was a big factor in my decision to apply. Regardless of the perceived equal treatment of mental and physical illness, I still feel like I am undeserving of mitigating circumstances because my condition isn’t visible.

I applied for mitigating circumstances under the grounds of ‘a deterioration of a pre-existing condition’. Despite mounting evidence, and a personal email from my tutor urging me to apply due to missing many lectures, I was extremely apprehensive about applying. There is no guarantee that the Mitigating Board won’t look at my claim of depression and reject my claim. If this were to happen it would confirm my worst fear – that my conditions aren’t valid.

Tutors can’t see what’s wrong with you, it’s your word against theirs

The complex aspect of anxiety and depression are intense feelings of negativity and self-judgement, so in some ways, the fear of not being believed was an ongoing fear throughout the process. I can’t help feeling like those with a mental illness, something invisible, are in a disadvantageous position. Tutors can’t see what’s wrong with you, it’s your word against theirs. I have been very fortunate that the tutors in my department are extremely understanding and have given me immense support throughout the mitigating process and my entire second year.

While I may have been proactive with the deterioration of my mental health and acquired an appropriate amount of evidence to validate my claim, for those in a similar position to me dealing with invisible illnesses don’t always have the evidence required. For many, walking out their bedroom doors to attend lectures or concentrating on essays is a monumental task, acquiring evidence of their condition is the furthest thing from their mind. For these individuals, they have a very valid claim for mitigating circumstances, but it might be rejected due to insufficient evidence.

It can sometimes feel like a losing battle to manifest physical evidence for a condition that has no tangible appearance. Despite this, students should not feel discouraged to apply if they need it. At very least your tutors will be made aware of personal circumstances and direct you to the correct support services to assist you through your studies.

Many situations that require Mitigating Circumstances are not always visible, but, just because you cant’t see them, doesn’t mean they are not valid

Mitigating circumstances for those who truly need it feel like a comfort blanket. It won’t change our grades massively, but does allow you not to worry as much. The application process is draining, as you are opening yourself up for scrutiny by giving others permission to judge you personal situation.

At the University of Warwick, there are measures in place to help those who need it, so don’t feel ashamed to ask for extra considerations. Many situations that require Mitigating Circumstances are not always visible, but, just because you cant’t see them, doesn’t mean they are not valid.

 

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