6 Ways to Avoid Falling Behind During Winter Session

The winter courses offered by your college or university are a great opportunity to get ahead in your major or to catch up on electives. The potential downside, however, is that winter classes cover in 2-4 weeks what normal courses cover in 15-16. Avoiding falling behind requires an attitude and approach tailored to a more intensive, faster pace.

While some support will be provided by the structure of the course itself, it’s essential to look ahead and to incorporate certain strategies in order to succeed. Ways to avoid falling behind during winter session include attending class, communicating with your professor, and dedicating time outside of the course to assignments.

Excited for winter session, but looking for ways to stay on top of your coursework? Here are six.

1. Be realistic about the time commitment winter session will demand

A significant portion of winter session success is developing realistic expectations with regard to the intensity of the class and the amount of work required. Review the syllabus immediately, and create a calendar that notes any:

  • Assignments

  • Exams

  • Readings.

Try to assess how much time your coursework will take—how many hours of work should you expect to put in per hour of class time? Being honest with yourself about what the workload will look like will help you avoid underestimating the needed effort and falling behind.

2. Prioritize your winter session course in your schedule

Wherever it’s feasible, cut back on other commitments for the duration of winter session—or at least don’t agree to anything new. A winter semester is not the time to pick up extra work shifts or to agree to taking care of your neighbor’s dog. Make sure your class remains the priority.

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3. Treat winter session like a job

Once you have a realistic idea of the amount of time required for the class and your other scheduled commitments, build yourself a daily schedule for completing coursework and reading—and then treat it like a job. Show up for your scheduled “shifts,” and work to the schedule, rather than to the assignments. If you finish early for the day, stay until the “shift” is over and work ahead.

4. Go to your winter session class periods

This may seem fairly obvious, but short semesters mean attendance is even more critical than usual. Attending class is more efficient than trying to catch up on your own. Maximize your efficiency by committing to attending every class and engaging fully. Also, keep in mind that with a stricter attendance policy comes harsher consequences if you miss classes. Missing more than the allotted number of classes may end up being reflected in your final grade.  

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5. Put extra effort into winter session

If you do fall behind, be prepared to accept the consequences of either extra work or lower grades—but don’t quit! What’s most important is not to turn a mistake or mishap into a failure by throwing in the towel when you miss an assignment, fall behind on readings, or have to miss a class. Don’t throw away potential success because you can’t achieve perfection—just put in the extra time.

6. Communicate with your winter session instructor

Be sure to attend office hours and to stay in touch with your professor. It’s easier to get help with assignments if you have a pre-existing relationship, and the instructor is aware of how hard you’re working. Helping students succeed is part of their job, so feel free to count on them.

The rigor and intensity of a winter session course can feel intimidating, but adequate preparation and the right attitude will mean you can take advantage of its benefits. Just make sure you truly understand what’s required of you, create a plan, and are prepared for any unexpected setbacks with good communication and a little forward thinking.

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