Playing Catch-Up: Six Smart Ways to Catch Up In a Class Once You Fall Behind
It’s the first day of a new class—you dutifully read through the syllabus, make plans to get all your homework done and ace every test. Flash forward to a month into the semester—you’re three assignments behind, you’ve missed a couple class periods, and you’re no where near being ready for the midterm coming up in a few weeks. Sound familiar? Getting behind in your classes is something that is easy to do if you are sick, if there is a family emergency or if you simply don’t understand the material. Although you start the semester with the best of intentions, you can easily fall behind. Once you realize you are behind in the class, know that all is not lost. You can quickly catch up by using a few tricks that will get you back on track—fulfilling all those intentions you had in the first place.
Some people tend to fall behind in classes because they don’t stick to, or aren’t aware of due dates. Once you fail to turn in one assignment, you’ll be trying to catch up for weeks. If you write everything down such as homework assignments, test dates and any projects, then you can stay on track with due dates. As soon as you are given an assignment, write it down. If you have trouble keeping all of your due dates straight, you need a planner. Even if you feel like a fairly organized person, you will really benefit from having a student planner that holds all the information you need. If you prefer to have digital records, you can find Eplanners at meridianplanners.com so that you can electronically enter deadlines and set reminders for yourself. You’re more likely to remember due dates, test dates, and assignments if you write them down (or type them out), and you’ll be sure to get things turned in on time if you get an automatic notification about the assignment a few days before it’s due.
Some students think that once they get behind, they have to figure out how to catch up on their own. Depending on your reasons for missing class, some professors might not be willing to give you any leeway with due dates. However, if you are falling behind because you don’t understand the material, many college professors will be more than happy to help you catch up on any work as long as you let them know. They often have office hours when you can meet with them before or after class. Take examples of the work that you don’t understand so that the professor knows how to help. Don’t wait until the last minute because semesters in college are only for a short amount of time, and a professor will be less able to help you catch up right before the final. Some students are intimidated by professors which is why they don’t ask for help. Granted, your professor might not being friendly, but if you genuinely need help and come to them with questions, they should be willing to help you.
If there is a group of people in your class who doesn’t understand the material, then start a study group. You can quiz each other before tests and ask each other questions about parts that you don’t know. One person might be able to grasp an idea better than someone else, and you can start to teach each other. This is a way for several people to stay on top of the class instead of falling behind. You might find that you will retain the information better if it is learned with a group of peers instead of from a teacher. You can form a study group at any point in the semester, but getting people together right when you start falling behind will give you a better chance of catching up.
Some students fall behind because they don’t have enough time to grasp the concepts being presented before the professor moves on to the next chapter. If you find yourself falling behind, you can help your brain retain more information by creating flash cards that will help you with memorization and review. These are a great way to study for a test or quiz. When the class starts, you should make flash cards of any definitions that are given, important dates and names and other events that you know will be needed later in the course. Keep the flash cards in one place, and make a point to study the cards through the week, especially before a test. If you learn the information through the year, then it will likely stick with you instead of trying to re-learn or learn these concepts for the first time right before the test. The great thing about flash cards is that you can carry them in your jacket pocket, purse, or backpack without having to bring all your notes or books with you everywhere. This will allow you to review terms and definitions while you’re on the bus, during your lunch break, or waiting for your oil to get changed.
Assistance from the Assistant
Depending on your particular university as well as the course you are taking, you might find that your teacher has an assistant or “teacher’s aid” to help grade papers or prepare lessons. Many of these teacher aids have taken the class before and are willing to offer help to current students who are studying. This is a great option to help you catch up if your professor is too busy to tutor you or address your questions outside of class. Talk to the assistant about any classes that you have missed as well as any information that you don’t understand. Some assistants will set up private tutoring sessions, or group sessions before big tests to help students who need a little extra tutoring. If going to your professor for help is not an option, consider seeking out the teacher’s aid, or even a student who has taken the class before.
Make a Schedule
As discussed, you’ll usually get a syllabus or some sort of schedule at the beginning of the semester. Your teacher might print out a list of assignments and due dates, but many schools do this electronically these days. Aside from getting a planner that lists your due dates, you need to make a study schedule. If you don’t set aside time to study, work on projects, or complete assignments, they often won’t get done. Some students they will get these things done whenever they get time. The truth is, if you are a busy college student, you will have a lot going on besides your classes and your homework might take a backseat if you don’t space out specific hours to get things done. Look at your schedule and find an hour a day that you can work on homework. Or maybe you can get all of your work done on your day off of work, or on the weekend. Just know that planning to do your homework “whenever” is not promising if you want to get things done on time.
Whether you are in college or just starting school, you can incorporate ways in your daily life to stay in top of your work. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can fall behind in a class if you aren’t careful. However, you’ll be even more amazed at how easy it is to catch up if you simply use the resources available to you. As a college student, you’re likely taking several classes, so once you get behind in just one class, you might see it as a death sentence. Before you completely give up, look around you and take advantage of all of the people and tools available that can help you catch up before your grade goes completely down the drain.