How to Catch Up When You’ve Fallen Behind in Classes

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Procrastination is the main obstacle that a college student should learn how to beat. When your unfinished assignments start to pile up on your desk, and your calendar notifications are going mad about the number of deadlines that you have already missed, then you know that you should put yourself together. There are many unexpected circumstances that might lead to falling behind on your coursework, but procrastination is the most common reason. So, let’s fight it together and try to fix the problem with lots of homework to do.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to catch up and save your grades.

Assess the Situation

The first thing you should do when you’re trying to catch up is figuring out just how far you have fallen behind. Take a look at your syllabus or course planner and determine exactly what coursework is overdue, as well as any assignments that are coming up. Make sure you account for everything, including written assignments, tests or quizzes, reading, and so forth. Understanding the workload you’ve fallen behind on will help you determine all the steps you’ll need to take in order to catch back up.

Make a Plan

Once you’re done assessing the situation, the next thing you should do is make a plan. The biggest part of planning to catch up on overdue work is setting priorities.  You need to determine what work you need to complete. You will also have to determine work such as reading or homework assignments that are of lesser importance to save for later. Finally, you also need to determine what work is either so late or so inconsequential that it is not worth doing at all.

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Once you finish prioritizing your work, you will need to plan exactly how you’ll catch up. In some cases, you may need to allocate additional time to read, study or write. If you missed quizzes and tests, you’ll have to determine the best time to take them. You may also have to contact teachers to make up for the missed class time. Tutors may also be available to assist you as well.  If your teachers are unable or unwilling to provide you this type of support, you may be able to get notes from classmates who attended the classes you missed, too.

Talking to teachers, guidance counselors or other faculty is crucial while you’re planning to catch up. If people know you are making an honest effort to catch up in a class, they are more likely to provide you support.  They may even be willing to be more lenient with you and grant you extensions for turning in work, let you re-take quizzes and tests, etc.

Tip: Use our guide on how to write an email to your professor if you are going to ask for an extension or extra credit via email.

Set a Schedule

Once you have a plan, you need to make a schedule to help you implement it.  A schedule will allow you to determine exactly when you need to take action, so you can use every second you have to catch up on any classes you’ve fallen behind in. There are several different options for setting a schedule. Some of the more popular choices include:

  • Bullet Journal. Bullet journaling is a popular, low-cost analog planning method that really helps students achieve their goals and keep track of everyday tasks. You can basically use any kind of notebook for your bullet journal. Bullet journals use a systemic collection of abbreviated notes, dates, and references to organize tasks and the time allocated to do them. There is a great deal of flexibility with bullet journal formats; people who swear by them for organizing their lives have entire Pinterest boards and YouTube videos devoted to them. If you are creative, a bullet journal may be a great way for you to organize your time to catch up with all of your classwork.

  • If you’re not up for learning a new skill like bullet journaling, you could just use put everything on a standard calendar. Datebooks or standard wall calendars may be just what you need to record all of your tasks and when they’ll occur. You can use the calendar’s margins to capture extra information, such as key information about the work you’re making up, locations of classes, key phone numbers, and emails, etc.
  • Apps. There are dozens of apps out there that allow you to log in and then track key events. For example, Google Calendar allows you to log key events on any device; the event is then visible on any other device you use to access your Google account. You will also receive alerts when the event is getting ready to start, which can help keep you on track. If you don’t use Google, we have a complete list of the best planning apps for students; find one that is right for you.

Once you determine your system for tracking time, you should place as many of the events you know about in the system as you possibly can. Doing so will turn your calendar system into a powerful tool that will allow you to keep track of your progress. Plan on looking at your calendar a few times each week, so you can see how well you are doing as you attempt to catch up in class. Doing so will help you anticipate problems, so you can make any necessary adjustments to your schedule. When things are going well, it should also be easy to see on your calendar, too; this will help to keep you motivated, so you can keep doing what it takes to make up all of your coursework.

Tip: You can also use your calendar to avoid burnout as you work hard to catch up in class. Use your calendar to schedule much-needed breaks and rests as you make up work that is overdue. A few well-placed breaks can keep you fresh, so you have the energy and motivation to finish the job and catch up in all of your classes!

Do the Work

Once you have a plan and you have input all of your key catch-up tasks on a calendar, you will need to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Doing the actual work is the part of catching up that will take the most grit and discipline. If you don’t stick to your schedule or adjust it when you aren’t able to do the makeup work you had planned to do, you will never get caught up. Here are some helpful hints to help you stay focused and get the work done, so you can catch up in your class:

  • Safe Space. Find a place to make up your work that is free of distractions, so you can make the most of your time. A quiet room in your house, a secluded table in a library, or even after-hours time at your school are all good options. Freeing yourself from distractions will help you be more productive.
  • Phone-Free. When you’re trying to catch up when you’ve fallen behind in classes, it is easy to get distracted. An easy way to avoid the siren call of the internet and social media is by powering your smartphone down or leaving it at home. If you have to use your computer, do your best to avoid the Internet unless you need it to do your work.
  • Little Victories. Catching up when you’ve fallen behind in class is going to be a long, hard slog. So, when you accomplish something, even relatively minor tasks, make the most of it. For example, every time you cross ten things off of your calendar, treat yourself to your favorite snack or go out to eat for a change. Doing so will help you keep moving forward with your eyes on the prize, so you can finally get caught up!

  • Find Friends. Sometimes it helps to surround yourself with people who are also trying to catch up, or who do well in your areas of study. So, search for study groups at your high school or university. Having other people to work with and commiserate with can help you get your work done and understand the course material better. It can also help to motivate you, and you might make some great friends in the process as well.
  • Seize the Day. Make the most of fleeting opportunities when you are working to catch up in class. For example, if there is a snow day or classes are otherwise canceled, use the extra time to study and do work to catch up. Additionally, if a teacher offers you a way to do extra credit to make up for a quiz or test you missed, take it. Don’t ever let a chance to make up for work that is late or missing to pass you by.
  • Ask for help. If you can’t put some urgent assignment aside neither can complete it now, delegate it to a service that will nail it.

Catching up when you’ve fallen behind in classes is never easy, but you can do it if you try. Just follow the advice here, be ready to work hard, and you’ll be on the path to catching up in no time at all. Good luck to you as you begin bouncing back!


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