What Should You Do If You’re Falling Behind At University?

There’s no doubt about it: living abroad as an international student is a pretty exciting ride. However, compared to domestic students, international students have also been identified as being at higher risk of stress due to the extra pressures faced when living overseas. So, if you find yourself struggling and falling behind at university, what should you do?

Recognise that it’s OK to feel stressed

Common anxieties among students include financial difficulties, relationship problems, academic demands and pressure to balance work and study commitments. These can cause considerable stress. Remember that this is understandable. You’re not weak for feeling stressed. Sometimes, you need to ask for help – and that’s OK.

Practise self-care

Remember to take some time out to relax, eat well, wash, exercise and socialise. Yes, you’re here to study. But remember, you’re also here to experience Australia. Success does not always equate to academic perfection. Sometimes, to recover from academic burn-out, you need to make time for yourself.

Think about where you are now

It’s easy to look at all the things you have to do, without looking at how far you’ve already come. Take a moment to reflect upon your achievements.

As an international student living abroad, you’re already doing something incredibly brave. Dealing with culture shock, homesickness and communication difficulties, you’re always challenging yourself a little more every day. This is what makes international students so strong.

Reach out to your tutor

If you’re falling behind in your coursework, make sure you reach out to your tutor. Whilst your tutor is mainly focused on teaching you and grading your work, your tutor is also there to support and help you. Letting your tutor know about your situation early can help them help you. They might be able to offer advice, extra support, or even extensions on work deadlines.

Use your university’s counselling service

Are other stressors weighing on your mind? Australian universities often offer free counselling services to students, which you should definitely take advantage of. They’re relaxed, welcoming and completely confidential, so don’t feel afraid to reach out.

Reach out to other students

Speaking with other students can make you feel less isolated and more motivated to tackle assignments. Ask other students about their approaches to study, as doing so may give you ideas for tackling your own work. Arrange study groups, or discuss and break down topics together.

Talk to friends and family from home

Homesickness may also be a significant source of stress. If you’re feeling homesick, set up a Skype session with family or friends back home, send letters or emails, or share stories with other international students studying in Australia who might be in a similar position.

Create a catch-up plan

If you want to tackle your work head-on, you can create a plan to help you catch up.

1. Make a master calendar

Buy or print a large calendar, and stick it on your wall. Write out every single deadline coming up, and also include key dates such as semester breaks and holidays.

2. Make separate lists for each of your subjects

For each of your classes, write out separate lists outlining the upcoming tasks and projects you need to complete.

3. Combine tasks into one list of main priorities

Look at your subject lists. Of all the tasks on those lists, which tasks and projects need the most attention? From each of your subject lists, pull off the tasks that are the most important and place them on a new list of top priorities. This list will form the basis of your catch-up plan.

4. Create the catch-up plan

Now, it’s time to craft your biggest list: the catch-up plan. Using your list of top priorities, break down each major task into smaller tasks. Work out deadlines for these smaller tasks.

5. Spread work out over a few days

Set aside time each day to tackle each of your smaller tasks, making sure you’re sticking to your deadlines. If you try to do everything at once, you’ll feel overwhelmed.

6. If things aren’t working, try another study method

Remember, certain study methods work better for some people, while others might work differently. If something isn’t working for you, there’s always another way. Check out our exam preparation guides for Emotional Learning and Repetitious Learning.

Remember – you don’t have to be perfect

It’s impossible for any student to be 100% perfect. Do as much as you can and keep your goals in sight. Do a little each day, and you should soon be well on your way to catching up with your studies.

Good luck!