It’s October. The leaves are falling, the football season is heating up, and midterms are approaching. Not surprisingly, this is the time of year when some students start to fall behind. If you’re attending a traditional ground college, you usually have eight weeks to get caught up. However, if you’re taking an accelerated course at an online university, you don’t have a lot of time to make up missing work. Don’t despair!

It’s never too late to make a comeback – here are some tips for getting back on track:

Talk to your instructors and your advisor.

Most online instructors are just like you – they have families, day jobs, and other professional and personal responsibilities that keep them busy.  So, if your kid has a cold, if you have an unexpected death in the family, or you just have one of those weeks at work, reach out to your instructor. 9 times out of 10, he or she will empathize and cut you some slack. It’s also a good idea to reach out to your advisor. If you have a particularly tough instructor, you can you ask your advisor to go to bat for you!

Develop a plan.

As an undergrad,  I spent countless hours directing and acting in various theatrical productions. During the final week of rehearsal, I’d slack off on my homework.  After the show went up, I’d be drowning in a sea of readings, papers, and other assignments that I had neglected the week before. When I looked at the totality of the work I had to complete, I would become overwhelmed. However, if I broke up the work up into small and manageable tasks,  I’d be okay.

If you find yourself falling behind, step back and make a plan. You don’t want to cram two or three weeks worth of work into one evening. Divide the work over several hours. Try to complete one or two small tasks each day. If you’re unsure of the best way to approach your work, email your professor. See if he or she can help you develop a realistic timeline for your work!

Take advantage of helpful resources.

I know I say this often, but online schools usually have a ton of helpful resources. And you know what? Most students don’t utilize these free services! Don’t make that mistake. If your school offers free tutoring and writing support, take advantage of it. If your school offers library support, take advantage of it. If your school has an online student community, join it.  Use the resources available to you.

Don’t give up!

It’s natural to get discouraged when you have a mountain of work to do. However, try to stay positive. Stay focused on the bigger picture. Remember why you’re completing the course. Think about what you’ll gain once you have your degree in hand. To get up to speed, you may have to spend a few nights burning the midnight oil. However, the long-term gains will be worth the short-term sacrifices.