Ask a fifth-year: Choose your health over class

Dear Will,

I’m too sick to get out of bed! I’m really worried that it’s going to affect my academic work, so I’m considering just getting up the strength and going to class. Any advice?

Strep in Sage


Dear Strep,

Let me tell you something that not every student or faculty members realizes here at Lawrence: You are responsible for your own physical well-being, and therefore are the only one who should be deciding if you are well enough to attend class.

Your physical health is top priority, especially when you’re sick. It might not seem like it, but in the grand scheme of things, your academic success is way, way down on the list of priorities. If you’re not taking care of your body and your mind, how do you expect to be successful in your schoolwork?

If you feel that you are too sick to get out of bed and go to class without severe pain or discomfort, then you should absolutely be staying home. Not only is rest an important factor in recovery, it also keeps others from getting sick when you stay in your room.

If you’re in your second day of illness and you don’t notice an improvement in your symptoms, it’s important that you seek medical help. I personally advise against using Lawrence’s health services, based on the sheer number of poor experiences and misdiagnoses I’ve experienced there. There are several urgent care clinics in the Appleton area that I recommend visiting instead.

Again, as much as professors and their syllabuses love to emphasize the importance of consistent attendance, understand that your academic goals always need to take a backseat to your physical health and that, as an adult, you need to be honest with yourself about your abilities and needs. Stressing out about it too much further increases your vulnerability to illness as well, so leave that to when you’re better and needing to catch up.

The key to avoiding this dilemma is prevention. I’ve found that getting daily Vitamin C and sufficient hydration has kept me pretty healthy over the past year. Exercise and a healthy diet also keeps your entire well-being fine-tuned and ready to ward off infection. Finally, the effects of stress can put a strain on your body in different ways, so find ways to manage your schedule and workload efficiently when you’re well.

This is the part of my advice that I give not only to you, but to the Lawrence community at large: Acknowledge weakness. Acknowledge imperfection. We pride ourselves on a rigorous education, but if we are not realizing the importance of physical and mental well-being of students, there will continue to be an unfair problem with academic failures due to illness.