We’re only a few weeks away from Spring Break, which means plenty of students have already fallen behind on their coursework. It’s important that you evaluate how your grades are right now. Don’t wait until two weeks before your final exam to calculate your expected grade and realize you need to make a 110 on the final to pass the class. It’s still early enough in the semester for you to course-correct and possibly greatly improve your grade, as well as learn the material better.

Just as I said in my blog “How to cram for final exams,” I don’t recommend you get to a point where you need to catch up. If you work diligently from the very beginning and manage your time well, you should be fine. But I know that life circumstances – sickness, family emergencies, and more – can intrude and disrupt even the best-laid plans.

So my advice is always to stay ahead, but I asked a few of our HBU faculty and staff members what advice they had for students who were behind. Their wise answers come from years of experience teaching and mentoring students.

Don’t panic. Commit to catching up instead of giving up.

Refuse to panic or throw in the towel! – Dr. Katie Alaniz, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Just do it…stop putting it off. – Dr. Lesli Fridge, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Build a strategy for catching up.

 1. Evaluate the situation. How far behind are you?

Make a list of all the coursework you need to catch up on. Prioritize this list – take into consideration due dates, major assignments, tests, and coursework that is weighted heavier than others. Check your syllabus for this information! – Cassie Sorrell, Campus Recreation

 2. Talk to your professor.

Reach out to your professor to explain the circumstances that contributed to you falling behind and collaboratively create a plan to catch up on missed assignments.  – Dr. Katie Alaniz

Students should always speak with their professors early if they find themselves falling behind. This is a compounding problem and even though students do a great deal of work, they often find they can’t ever catch up. Your professor should be able to help you come up with a plan. – Dr. Matt Boyleston, School of Fine Arts

 3. Set achievable goals for both your time and assignments.

Try to estimate the amount of time it will take to catch up, and break that amount of time into daily quotas to try and achieve. – Dr. Saul Trevino, College of Science and Mathematics

Set small goals. Instead of trying to complete all assignments for every course, focus on a few assignments. Start with the assignments that are worth more points and that will best prepare you for exams. – Dr. Lisa Ellis, College of Science and Mathematics

There is an old saying “Bean by bean the barrel gets full.”  I always think of this when I am facing a task or assignment that seems too big for me. Try to look at all the parts of the assignment and then prioritize what are considered “low hanging fruit,” meaning those things you can complete in a short amount of time.  Two things then happen: (1) you can see progress, and (2) you see that other parts can be tackled, and a sense of accomplishment overrides the fear of dread. Ephesians 3:20 hits the nail on the head by saying,

Now glory be to God!  By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.

It is so sweet when you see the “barrel get full” or the project completed, knowing that you, through Christ’s mighty power, have accomplished something great! – Colette Cross, Spiritual Life

 4. Be disciplined with your time.

Set a time each day that you dedicate specifically to working on getting your coursework done. Get to a place where there are no distractions. Do not cave and do something else with this time…have a friend/parent hold you accountable if needed! – Cassie Sorrell

Reflect on some aspects of life that you can sacrifice for now, such as the hours you spend watching TV or engaging with social media. Instead, devote this additional time, energy, and effort to catching up.  The sacrifice will seem minimal when you receive your grades at the end of the semester! – Dr. Katie Alaniz

Build a plan of study that (a) schedules sufficient study time to get caught up, and (b) identifies specific activities you will limit or eliminate until you are caught up. – Dr. David J. Davis, School of Humanities


These tips are not limited to undergraduate classes. They can be implemented and adapted to high school, graduate school, and your professional life. Times come when we find ourselves behind a deadline, and we need to move quickly. Don’t panic. Don’t give up. With a level head and prayerful heart, look at the situation through clear eyes. Ask for help; set goals you can achieve; and commit to spending your time wisely.

Thank you to the Houston Baptist University faculty and staff members who contributed to this blog.

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Blog edited by Joannah Buffington

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