Missed Classes and Withdrawals

Sick Notes

Instructors or Academic Heads can modify or alter course requirements (e.g., midterms, assignments) for special reasons, such as illness, or personal issues. They may request a “sick note” (aka “medical note”) to help them make their decisions; however, the final decision about whether a modification of course requirements is required or will be permitted rests with the instructor, regardless of what may be stated on any medical note. The physicians at Health & Counselling (HCS) or anywhere else do not have the authority to exempt students from exams, assignments, etc. 

Do I qualify?

We encourage all undergraduate students to review the SFU Student Services withdrawals policy, and to discuss extensions, deferrals, and withdrawals with your professors and/or teaching assistants before requesting documentation from staff at HCS.

Supporting documents are provided at the discretion of the professional staff member when:

  • You are a patient/client of HCS
  • HCS professionals are familiar with your situation and how it affected your ability to work/study/write exams
  • Retroactively, if you were a regular user of the HCS services during the time of difficulty and there is enough supporting information in your file to validate your request
    (If you need a letter to support a request for retroactive withdrawals, please make an appointment with your counsellor.)

In addition, you need to demonstrate that you have a relevant issues management plan for the future. Not to worry—HCS staff can help you develop your strategy and resolve your problem creatively and definitively.


Where a requested change to course requirements relates to the impact of a permanent disability, as opposed to routine illness, students are required to work with the Centre for Students with Disabilities to address their needs.

FIC Students

Fraser International College's policy states that you do not need a sick note from a doctor for minor, short term illnesses (like a cold or flu) that prevent you from attending class or writing an exam.   

Graduate Student?

Students in graduate studies often have complex responsibilities outside their life as a student. Work, family, and health can all require attention, and may interrupt a student's program of study and research. Accordingly, we have instituted a number of policies to help students manage their complex lives.

Please note that, in order to be fair to all students, we keep strictly to rules and deadlines when implementing these policies.

We also suggest that students inform their graduate programs and their senior supervisors of impending problems and interruptions. Please review the graduate students leaves and withdrawal policy for further information.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Dean of Graduate Studies Office at 778-782-3042.


If your instructor has not outlined a process to follow and you find yourself unable to meet your course commitments due to something beyond your control you should do the following:

  1. Contact your instructor immediately using the contact information they provided to you at start of the course.  If you can not find this, contact the academic department and request a message get to the instructor and that they respond.
  2. Provide the instructor the reasons for your absence (e.g., routine illness or chronic illness) and expected return date.  Find out if any documentation (i.e., medical note) is required at this point.
  3. Follow up with your instructor when you are able to return to class by making an appointment with your instructor and discussing options to make up missed work.
  • If you have a family doctor it is always good to see them for your assessment. If you do not have a local family doctor or cannot get in to see them, come to HCS. While seeing your doctor do not forget to ask for a note if you will be missing commitments.
    *Please note: Absolutely NO medical notes will be written by an HCS physician for a past illness if you were not assessed at HCS for that illness or occurrence.
  • Pandemic Situations: SFU may change overall policies related to sick notes during an official pandemic situation (such as the H1N1 pandemic of 2009). In the event of a pandemic, a campus-wide notification will detail any temporary change in practice.
  • Documentation: If a medical note is appropriate, please bring a Certificate of Illness (Health Care Provider Statementto your physician for completion, especially if it is required for midterms, term papers and final exams.
    The completed note should state the limitations caused by your sickness (e.g. requires bed rest, will not be able to sit for extended periods, cannot concentrate, etc). 
  • HCS staff cannot validate notes from external clinics.  If your instructor is not satisfied with the sick note you have provided, you need to return to your treating physician. 
  • Drop-Ins: Due to the high volume of drop-in patients we encourage you to arrive as EARLY as possible on the day that you are ill and seeking a medical note. You can also try calling our clinic at 9am for an emergency drop-in appointment.
    No medical notes will be issued once the clinic is closed for the day or if you were not seen on the day that documentation was required.
Related Links
  • Medical Services Plan of B.C.(BC MSP)
    BC MSP is required for all SFU students. It provides basic health insurance and covers the costs associated with visiting a physician and the hospital. The website above provides details regarding coverage and the application process
  • Appointment Guide***
  • International Services for Students - Health Insurance
    Welcome to Canada and SFU! Health insurance for international students is available in many forms. This page has general information, health insurance options, as well as costs and the various applications processes.
  • Advising Services – Academic Difficulty
    If you are having difficulty with your courses at SFU, you should make an appointment with an academic advisor for guidance. This website will give you an overview of the different academic standings and how they affect you, as well as the policies associated with academic difficulty.
  • Withdrawals under Extenuating Circumstances
    If a medical condition will prevent you from completing a course you might consider applying for a withdrawal with extenuating circumstances. Learn more at the website above. 
  • Centre for Students with Disabilities
    Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities act as liaisons between students and faculty in the implementation of disability related services and accommodations. Find out more about what services they offer, their hours, and their contact information at the website above.
alert Please note:

Health & Counselling staff can only provide supporting documentation. Any decision to authorize a withdrawal or deferral is made by the instructor or departmental chair.