You asked us:

My midterms didn’t go as well as planned, and I am falling behind. I need to get back on track before finals and I am worried I will never going to make it. My parents keep telling me to just focus and work harder. I am freaking out and don’t know what to do. 


We here you. Paper is due. Exam is at the end of the week. And you haven’t even started. What were you thinking? We get questions like this all the time. It is more common than you think.  Let’s get busy and get this thing back on track. 

No matter how far you have fallen behind. No matter how much work has piled up, there are always a number of things that you can do to get things back on track. Here’s our five-step plan, for pulling your course your turn out of the fire.

#1. Make a plan. The single most important thing to do when you are running out of time is to make a plan that states how you will allocate your time, during the time that you have left. A plan consists of two things, a storyboard, which indicates when you will do different kinds of activities, and a five-item To Do List which tells you how you go about getting things back on track.

#2. Select a study strategy. The single most effective strategy for mastering a body of knowledge even in the last few days is to make flash cards. Making flashcards is a lot of work; however, the research says that even making flashcards once can improve your chance of recall – even better than rewriting notes. You can read more about flash cards here. If you need to get a paper written in a very short period of time, you might consider looking at our checklist for writing papers as well as our guide to writing a great paper in the social sciences.

#3. Fact-check your doubts, worries and what-ifs. Even though it feels like you have run out of time and even if there isn’t much time left, you have not actually run out of time. The paper is not actually due today, and you are not actually writing your exam tonight. Actually, you still have some time. Fact-checking means that you don’t get ahead of your worries. The reality is you’re not late until you’re actually late. Rather than worrying about something that has not happened yet, let’s get back on track work your plan and get as much done as you can now to pull this out of the fire.

#4. Stop – breathe – focus – do. This kind of stress and worry can create a lot of tension and maybe even a panic attack or two. Breathing can relax your body and quiet your mind. Breathing gives you something to focus on other than those worries that have gotten out of control. Breathing can buy you time in a moment to refocus on what you need to do to get back on track. When you start to panic, we want you to stop, breathe for a few moments, focus on your breathing, then on your plan and do what you to get done. Learn more about relaxation breathing here.

#5. Get help.
Think about who you can talk to and ask about getting some help. This is never a guarantee, but research says that people are 50% more likely to grant you a request for help then you think. It might feel shameless, and it might feel like it’s an easy way out. Still this is one strategy that actually might work. You simply have to ask, I’m out of time, don’t think I can pull it off, need all the help you can get, can you help me figure out how to write this paper, how to study for this test that is only days away.

#6. Ask for an exemption. If you are entirely out of time, find out if you can request an evaluation deferral at your college or university. In many instances, you do not even require a doctor’s note for your first deferral request, you just need to notify the university that you would like to request a deferral. The only trick is to find out where to fill out the form online. Try Googling “evaluation deferral request” in the name of your university or college of course.


One of the other main reasons that may make it difficult for parents to acknowledge that one of their children may have a mental illness is a lack of knowledge about what mental illness is or a lack of information about how mental illness is affecting you. 

The lack of knolwedge

There are seven major groups of mental illnesses, including mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders, 
personality disorders, psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia), eating disorders, trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder), substance abuse disorders. Across all seven groups there are hundreds of distint illness. And although there is lots of information about mental illness in the news and online, many people grow up no knowing much about what mental illness is. They may only hear about the most extreme stories about someone with mental illness who injured someone.  As a result, your parents may have grown up not knowing as much as you know about mental illness. 

Got a question? Have a concern?
Ask us. 

We have answered hundreds of questions over the years.  We try to answer as many questions as we can. Please familiarize yourself with our disclaimer policy before submitting a question. 


It is important to keep in mind that our answers, strategies, tips and advice are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  The information that we provide in article, video, answers to Q&As is based on expert opinion and scientific evidence, which we cite at the bottom of every page when used. Please keep in mind that , even the most thoughtful advice or scientifically valid recommendations will not always work. Each persons’ situation is unique and may require a plan that explicitly addresses their own unique challenges, needs and abilities. Only your own mental health professional or other qualified health provider is in a position to fully understand the uniqueness of your situation and the full extent of your difficulties, needs and challenges. You should never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. 

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