Getting a support letter from a counsellor

Sometimes it’s necessary to obtain a letter from Psychological and Counselling Services (PACS) explaining to your lecturers or school why you weren’t able to complete an assessment on time, study at a full load, or complete every unit within a semester. Read on to learn what to do in each circumstance.

Assessment extension

Extensions for all assessments – including assignments, tests and exams – need to meet Curtin’s detailed criteria. An example of this (for exams) can be found here.

To obtain support for an assessment extension from PACS, your circumstances will need to meet the “exceptional circumstances” referred to in Curtin’s Assessment and Student Progression manual (page 24). Only some of these circumstances are relevant to PACS and therefore assessable as to whether support can be provided for your extension. These are:

  • Any mental health related illness or condition;
  • Personal unforeseen circumstances resulting in undue stress or hardship;
  • Family issues such as an injury, illness or bereavement to a loved one.

Please note: You will need to bring verification of your circumstances before any support can be provided. If you are unsure what qualifies as verification, come along to see the triage counsellor to discuss this with them. However, without such verification, it is unlikely support for your requested extension will be provided.

Please further note: You do not need to attend PACS if any mental health related concerns have already been assessed by a GP or Psychologist external to Curtin University and you have received supporting documentation from them.

As a guide, the following are circumstances PACS does not provide letters of support for:

  • Purely medical conditions (please see your doctor for support);
  • Commitments to participate in elite sports or emergency services (please obtain verifying documentation from the team/club/organisation you are involved with); or
  • Unavoidable and unexpected work commitments (please obtain verification from your employer).

You can find the official application form for extension here.

Refund and remission of fees

Under certain circumstances, Curtin recognises that students are not always able to complete all of any of their enrolled units for a semester. If you believe this applies to you, your first step is to read through Curtin’s official process for applying for a refund or remission of fees.

PACS is one place where you can receive support for your request for a refund or remission of fees. Support from PACS may be provided if you have experienced:

  • Serious psychological illness causing a serious loss of study time and preventing attendance at classes;
  • Personal or family circumstances, including the death or serious illness of a close relative, that significantly affected your study; or
  • A change of employment conditions that could not have been anticipated before the last date for withdrawal.

Please note: You will need to bring verification of your circumstances before any support can be provided. If you are unsure what qualifies as verification, come along to see the triage counsellor to discuss this with them. However, without such verification, it is unlikely support for your refund and remission of fees application will be provided.

Please further note: You do not need to attend PACS if any mental health related concerns have already been assessed by a GP or Psychologist external to Curtin University and you have received supporting documentation from them.

As a guide, the following are circumstances PACS does not provide letters of support for:

  • Purely medical conditions (please see your doctor for support);
  • Commitments to participate in elite sports or emergency services (please obtain verifying documentation from the team/club/organisation you are involved with); or
  • Unavoidable and unexpected work commitments (please obtain verification from your employer).

International students requesting to enrol in less than 100 credits

Though international students are normally required to maintain a full-time enrolment, they can seek to reduce their load under certain circumstances, including due to extenuating medical reason (for which they should see their doctor) or for extenuating personal reasons.

In this latter case, PACS may be able to assist you in your application by providing supporting documentation. You will need to provide verification of your circumstances, so please bring this with you when you visit the Service to make your request for supporting documentation.

Please note: According to the Department of Home Affairs, financial hardship and poor English skills are not considered valid reasons for reducing study load and support will not be provided when these are the only relevant circumstances.

See the student administration forms page for the official form to apply to reduce your study load.

Leave of absence for international onshore students

Though international students are generally precluded from taking a Leave of Absence (LoA) due to their visa conditions, there is provision for this to occur where there are compassionate or compelling circumstances. Examples of such circumstances include:

  • Serious illness;
  • Serious illness of a close relative;
  • Bereavement; or
  • Pregnancy.

PACS may be able to assist you in providing a supporting letter for this application. You will need to provide verification of your circumstances, so please bring this with you when you visit the Service to make your request for supporting documentation.

See the student administration forms page for the official form to apply for a leave of absence as an international onshore student.

Appeals against status

PACS does not normally provide supporting documentation to students who have been terminated or placed on conditional status. The exception to this is if you are ongoing client of the Service undertaking personal counselling, your case may be considered. Please talk to your counsellor about this if you have been terminated from your course.

If you are not an ongoing PACS client, but have been terminated, see Curtin’s help with academic status page, which details what to do once your academic status has been changed from “good standing”.

PACS does, however, provide personal counselling if you’re experiencing acute stress after receiving your results, or are needing therapeutic help regarding the circumstances that affected your study. See how to make an appointment.

Statutory declarations

Often written verification will involve the need for you to complete a statutory declaration. This is a document which becomes legally binding once it is witnessed by an eligible individual, and on that basis can be used for or against the person making the declaration in a court of law.

You can download a statutory declaration to print off and complete from the WA Police website.