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Falling Behind in College and How to Get Back on Track

At some point, you will likely experience unexpected events that result in you falling behind in college classes. In fact, falling behind in college coursework happened to me more than once when I was a student at the University.

There are many events that cause significant delays in completing the coursework required for your classes, including:

  • Illness
  • Military deployments
  • Major family events
  • Stress caused by balancing too much responsibility
  • Procrastination

For many college students, it is a struggle to manage all of their class assignments and other daily responsibilities. Many of our students are also working adults with family responsibilities and other commitments that interfere with the time needed to complete papers, presentations, and other work.

To Avoid Falling Behind in College, Organization, Time Management and Prioritization Are Vital

Time management is essential to avoid falling behind in college, and there are various time management apps available to help you.

Organization and time management skills are essential to prevent yourself from falling behind in college classes. From my experience, I have found it helpful to have a time log that accounts for each hour of my day. By monitoring exactly how I spend my time, it becomes easier to spot activities that do not contribute toward getting my classwork done, such as time spent on social media or watching television shows. You may have to temporarily set aside activities you enjoy to create time for all the work you’ll do.

I have also found it helpful to prioritize daily activities to ensure that I had enough time for my coursework and complete it before the due date. This prioritization was helpful when unexpected events occurred because I was already caught up on my work and helped me from falling behind in my college classes. Communicating with family and friends about my educational goals and the need to limit distractions during my study time was equally useful.

RELATED: How to Avoid Procrastination and Other Research Problems

Develop a Plan and Talk to Others If You Fall Behind on Your Coursework

When you fall behind in college classes – for whatever reason – have a plan to get back on track. Typically, one of the best ways to get back on track is to communicate with your professor. Sometimes, a professor can grant an assignment extension to help you catch up if you let that instructor know the reason why you fell behind and need an extension.

Speaking with your academic advisor is equally useful; that academic advisor can point you toward helpful school resources. For example, you might be able to receive support and disability accommodations from the Disability Services Accommodations Office.

Sometimes, you may fall so far behind due to uncontrollable circumstances that the only available option is to withdraw from the course. However, your academic advisor is the best person to provide that type of advice.

In other circumstances when you fall behind in college classes, it may be necessary to steal time from other activities. For instance, you might need to use holidays to catch up on your class assignments.

Another strategy to use once you have fallen behind in college classes is to work with a tutor. A tutor can help you learn faster, so that you can get on track more quickly.

RELATED: Life after High School: Preparing Children for College

Avoiding Frustration and Remaining Motivated Helps You Stay on Track in Your Classes

Overall, it’s crucial to avoid frustration when you fall behind in college. Instead, remaining motivated, critically thinking about why you fell behind and understanding what resources are available to help you remain on track will be helpful.

Jarrod Sadulski

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies and has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. For more information on Jarrod and links to his social media and website, check out

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