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7 tips for what to do when the unexpected happens

by Monica Smith

Mar 09, 2021, 12:00 PM.

How online students can gain support when things do not go as planned.

Despite the best intentions and planning, unexpected life events may work to derail studies and graduation. Whether it’s an illness, a family emergency, a basic need like food or a computer, or even mental health, FIU’s online students have options that can help them stay the course.

Regardless of location, FIU’s online students have access to the same university resources as on-campus students, as well as additional support made available exclusively for fully online learners. While there are many university resources available, the following seven can help with the most common issues.

1. Success Coaches

A unique feature to FIU, all fully online undergraduate students are assigned a success coach that will help them adjust to their new fully online learning experience. Success coaches help students create a plan to work toward goals, while maximizing the resources and services available to them.

“We get a lot of questions, but we love helping students succeed especially because we get to do it from their first day until they graduate,” said FIU Online Success Coach Shequesta Scott. Success Coaches help online students set goals. We also connect students to the university resources they need.”

2. Professor

Professors can be extremely helpful with making arrangements for students when unexpected things happen. Maria Gallo knew she needed to tell her professors at the start of class that she was pregnant with a delivery date that fell during final exam week. She made arrangements in advance and said that her online professors were very supportive. 

“I was going to make it work and finish the summer goals I set for myself. My online professors really helped,” Gallo declared. Her advice is to communicate your needs early, if you can.

3. Disability Resource Center

Online students can communicate directly with the Disability Resource Center to help coordinate academic accommodations, which are determined on a case-by-case and highly individualized basis. The center encourages students to make an active decision about the use of accommodations at the very start of each semester. 

When Priscilla Ferreyra became ill with breast cancer, she knew she would need help with sorting out her studies and treatment. She reached out to the center to gain guidance on next steps for accommodations and even pausing her education and gained a wealth of knowledge from a staff member who also was a cancer survivor.

Hearing from him was eye opening. It was nice to see him overcome the disease—you see so much negativity online,” she noted.

4. Counseling and Psychological Services

From some, when unexpected things occur, it can be difficult to maintain mental health. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides therapy to online students and their families with an digital or face-to-face services provided through WellConnect. These mental health services are covered by the student health fee, so there is no additional cost. 

“We are living through a uniquely difficult time,” said Todd Lengnick director of Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), “but we are here to help and offer hope. We’ll get through this together.”

Students simply call 866-640-4777 and mention FIU as the school code or visit and log in with their FIU credentials to start taking advantage of the services.

5. Student Food Pantry

FIU is concerned with helping its students in need, including those who are online. The Student Food Pantry can help. The pantry is available to all currently enrolled students. No proof of need is required, and students can access the pantry once a week taking up to 10 pounds of food each visit. Students simply need to fill out a form on the pantry’s website and bring their FIU One Card ID.

6. Computer labs

If you suddenly need a computer, FIU’s computer labs can help. The university’s computer labs are open to currently registered students. Students will need to sign in and provide a valid Panther ID for entry. Students have access to a variety of discipline-specific software for Windows and Macintosh.

7. Ombudsperson

When you don’t know where to turn, and you need help identifying options and to resolve student issues, online students can connect with the university’s Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson may resolve problems through various methods, including making inquiries or referrals to the appropriate University department for review.

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