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How to Catch Up if You Fall Behind

Learn how to get up to speed efficiently when you are behind schedule with your coursework.

Life is a balancing act. Most students intend to keep up with their studies when classes start, but work and family commitments can cause them to fall behind. However, you don't have to stay behind. Just a few simple steps can get you back on track and ready for what's ahead.

Communicate with your instructor or advisor. If you're falling behind, let your instructor know immediately. If you are enrolled in a self-paced program, speak with your academic advisor. Offer an explanation and ask what you can do to get back on track. If you fall behind toward the end of the semester, your instructor may be willing to give you an "I," or an "Incomplete." This grade serves as a placeholder until you have turned in all of your assignments. Your instructor will probably assign a deadline for turning in your work. Whatever you work out, be sure you understand your instructor's expectations before you end the conversation.

Connect with a classmate. If you miss class, reach out to a classmate to get a copy of their notes. Choose a classmate who is on time and clearly pays attention so the notes you copy are thorough. Also, make copies of any handouts you haven't received. Enrolled in online courses? You can still connect with your classmates via phone, email and video chat.

Get organized. Assess just how far behind you are. Make a list of the work you have to do and then estimate how long it will take to complete each task or project. Prioritize your assignments and then create a schedule. Plan to complete chunks of work each day, but be realistic about what you can accomplish to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Ask for help. If you've fallen behind because you don't understand the course material, ask for help. Talk to your instructor. If they can't work with you individually, they may refer you to a classmate who can help. Your school may also have a tutoring center; if so, take advantage of that great resource.

Deciding to withdraw. Sometimes deployments, family and work obligations can make it impossible to continue your coursework, and you may decide that withdrawing from a course is the right personal choice for you until you can regroup and start classes again. Most schools have a policy that allows students to withdraw from a course with a grade of "W." Students usually need their instructor's permission to withdraw; your instructor may only be willing to grant permission under special circumstances. A "W" will not affect your grade point average, but will likely have financial implications. Be sure you are aware of your school's withdrawal policy and how it might affect you financially before you make any final decisions. Having a "W" on your transcript may also affect certain scholarship or loan eligibility.

For more strategies for keeping up with your studies, visit your installation's education center or speak to an installation employment readiness specialist. To find these local resources, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and select 'Spouse Education, Training and Careers' from the list of programs and services. Next, enter your installation or ZIP code to find a point of contact near you.

You can also contact a SECO career coach by calling 800-342-9647 or using the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website for additional assistance. A career coach can offer personalized guidance to help you get and stay on track.

Catching up on your coursework is not impossible. It takes communication and organization. Work with your instructor to figure out the best approach for your specific situation. Get organized by creating a to-do list and a realistic schedule and remember to use your resources.

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