Writing Center

A Little Catch Up on Catching Up

Cora Bidwell | Writing Center Tutor

I woke up not too long ago to a reminder announcement on Canvas from my physics professor that the dreaded midterm exam was scheduled for that week. Even though I felt like the semester had only just begun, the looming specter of this exam (and the bright, shining oasis of Spring Break beyond it) reminded me that we were quickly approaching the midway point. The “point of no return” to be suitably dramatic and sullen about it. Yuck. 

So, I began to make flashcards for that exam. More importantly, I looked through Canvas to make sure that there weren’t any materials in this course, or any others, that I had fallen behind on.  

Luckily, this time there wasn’t but as a Senior at Xavier, there have been many times when I have had to frenetically catch up on a class, maybe because I was sick or just struggling with the content. With this experience, I have developed a few steps that always help me to lessen the stress of catching up.  

Step One: 

The first thing I always do is reach out to my professor. Whether I have missed classes because of illness, gotten behind on turning in assignments, or simply do not understand the course material, reaching out to the professor has always been the fastest way for me to start catching up. I like to reach out to them as soon as possible by shooting them an email once I have realized I will need to review material in their class.  

Just recently, I was sick on a day I normally have my physics course. So, that morning I emailed the professor and politely explained the situation to him. Then, I informed him of my desire to stay caught up with the material and asked if he had any advice for doing so. He sent me the slides he used in class and advised me on places to find extra help with the content so that I was able to review the material on my own.  

Also, I find that having someone in the class to reach out to is very helpful in these situations. By introducing myself to the people who sit around me, I can then reach out to them for class notes. For my physics class, I was able to text someone who sits near me, and I received her notes from that class.  

Step Two: 

Once I have notes from the class, I make a plan for how I will review the material. I use the calendar app on my phone religiously, so I mark blocks in my schedule to review material or complete assignments. With Spring Break, it was tempting to leave incomplete assignments or potential studying for after the week off. However, I always do better when I can go into the break with a clean slate. So, I make it a point to create a schedule for catching up in my classes so I can enjoy the respite.  

Xavier also offers tutoring services, like the Writing Center, the Math Lab, and course tutoring, which are incredibly helpful when working through assignments and reviewing course material. This is a busy time of year and using the free services around me has always helped me to push through that mid-semester slump and catch up in my courses. 

Step Three: 

Now, it is time to learn the material. This is, of course, the most time-consuming and, truthfully, tedious part. It can be easy to complete assignments with less than a full effort and move on, but I know that it will be better for me in the long run to fully understand the material. 

So, using the schedule I have created, I will go through my professor’s slides, take copious notes, and practice the material. I will also visit my professor during office hours, review materials for the class that are found on Canvas, receive advice from other students in the class, and, of course, use the resources that Xavier provides through tutoring. It can be very intimidating, but really learning the material is the only way for me to be able to correctly complete assignments, lessen my freakout about upcoming tests, and ensure that I am caught up in my classes to smoothly transition back into the classroom after spring break. 

Step Four: 

Okay, I did it. Whew. Heaps of stress and lots of studying later and I feel confident that I am caught up on the material. So, what now? Well, I check out for a week over Spring Break, obviously. But first, I always email the professor one last time to thank them for any help they have given me and to let them know that I have caught up in the class.   

The midpoint of the semester is overwhelming. It can feel like everything is being thrown at you all at once, from every angle. Catching up is never fun, but having a plan for how to tackle it has helped me more times than I can count as a busy student. 



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