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Getting Caught Back Up After A Long Break From School

Sometimes a child becomes ill or has some other emergency situation that causes him or her to miss an extended amount of school time.  Once the situation has been resolved, the child may come back to school only to discover that things aren’t as easy as they used to be.  He or she may not understand what is going on in class, or he or she may be overburdened with make-up work.

Students can get caught back up after a long break from school by understanding makeup work policies, meeting with a guidance counselor, talking to teachers, asking for extra time, prioritizing current work, taking advantage of available help, and taking an SAT or ACT course.

Prep Expert can help students get back on track in preparing for college.  Sign up today for Prep Expert course in SAT prep or ACT prep.

caught up after break from school


Find Out What the School’s Policy Is

The school’s policy about makeup work is usually located in the student handbook.  Inform yourself about the deadlines before returning to school.

A student with an extended absence should learn the policies related to makeup work before setting foot in class again.  Most of the time, such policies can be found in the student handbook, which is often published online on the school’s website.  The policy for makeup work usually includes some kind of deadline, such as students having one extra day to turn in assignments for each day missed.


It is important that the student knows that teachers are usually bound to follow the school policy. Most of the time, teachers tend towards being lenient with students who are returning from a long break, because they understand that the student may have just experienced some kind of difficulty.  Nonetheless, a student should be prepared to politely remind the teacher of the school’s policies.


Work With A Guidance Counselor

The school’s guidance counselor is often the best resource for helping students get caught back up after a long break.

It’s a good idea to schedule a guidance counselor meeting before coming back from a long break.  Guidance counselors can be helpful for several reasons.  First, the student may have just experienced a hardship that caused the absence from school, and guidance counselors are trained to help in these situations.

Secondly, guidance counselors are probably the most informed people in the school about all the resources available to aid the student, such as tutoring services.  Also, they can email teachers information about when the student is returning to class, how long he or she was absent, and anything else about the student’s situation that would be helpful.  If the guidance counselor is going to email the student’s teachers, make sure to have the counselor mention a date on which the student is going to pick up missed work.


Talk To Individual Teachers

The student should meet with teachers to get makeup work and talk about deadlines.

The student should have a short and friendly meeting with all of his or her teachers right after returning to school. The meeting doesn’t have to be long: five minutes should do it.  The student should have a planner or schedule in hand to write down due dates.

Now is the time to remind the teacher of the school’s policy about deadlines for makeup work, if the teacher tries to cut it short.  Most of the time, teachers won’t do this, and if they do, it’s probably a simple mistake.  In fact, most teachers will gladly work with a student who has missed school time.


Ask For Extra Time If You Need It

A student can usually get a deadline extension when asked in the right manner.

Many teachers will give a student an extension if asked.  They understand that kids who missed school often just went through some kind of difficulty, so they are compassionate towards the child and don’t want to add more stress.  Some teachers may even be willing to accept work after the class has ended, depending on the severity of the situation.

Knowing this, the student can ask a teacher to extend a deadline if he or she becomes overwhelmed with makeup work and current classes.  However, it’s important that the student asks correctly.  The wrong way is to demand that the teacher go along with the student’s request, which is a way to get nowhere fast.

The correct way to ask for extra time is to approach the teacher long before an assignment is due, stand up straight, and bravely say, “I was wondering if I could get one extra week to turn in this essay. I know the deadline is next Friday, but I’ve had to work two hours a night on makeup work. Also, it’s been harder than I expected to get caught up in my math class.  If I had an extra week, it would give me time to really learn the concepts instead of rushing through the essay.”


Prioritize Current Work Over Makeup Work

A student might not understand what’s going on when he or she returns to class.  The student should prioritize getting caught up with the rest of the class over makeup work.

Sometimes a student returns from a long break and he or she can’t follow along in class. Math classes are famous for this problem because concepts build upon one another.  A student’s primary focus needs to be keeping his or her head above water, so he or she can learn in class. If there is a test the next day, the students should study for that test instead of doing makeup work.

The situation is not as straightforward as it seems because doing makeup work should aid in getting the student’s understanding caught up so he or she can learn in class. Therefore, makeup work should all be done, but prioritize current work when a conflict arises.

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Prioritize Core Classes

Core classes, as opposed to electives, should be prioritized because they teach lifelong skills that are essential to academic and career success.

Doing makeup work and learning missed concepts can be overwhelming for students who missed class time. In an ideal world, a student would be able to make up all missed work, learn all missed concepts, and ace the current work and tests as well.  The real world, though, may be different.

Students who are falling further and further behind should prioritize their core classes over electives and non-core classes. In extreme circumstances, a student may consider dropping an elective class if it that requirement can be made up later.


One reason to prioritize core classes is that universities may give them greater weight. Classes such as English and Math might be more important on a student’s transcript than an elective.  Another reason is that these classes teach concepts that will be necessary for another class in the future.  For instance, a student will build upon algebra when he or she takes geometry, but that might not be true for a music or art class.


Take Advantage of Academic Help

Schools often offer help to students who are struggling academically. Take advantage of this help to get caught back up.

Students who are returning from a long break often need extra help to get caught back up.  As discussed earlier, the school’s guidance office is the best resource for finding out how the school can help. Some schools offer free professional tutors that will even meet a student at home.

Other schools have peer tutoring programs.  Still, other schools have a tutorial period when the teachers are available for tutoring related to their class.  A student can take advantage of one, or a combination, of these resources.


Take An SAT Or ACT Course

Students who fall behind in preparing for college should consider taking a course for the ACT or SAT.

A student may come out of an extended absence unscathed, but not without making significant sacrifices of time and effort.  Such a student may get behind in other aspects of preparing for college. Getting good grades in high school is just one necessary step to preparing for college.

Others include standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, and extracurricular activities.  A student who has spent time away from school can get back on track in preparing for college by taking an SAT or ACT course from Prep Expert, which has helped countless students get into a top university.

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Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author
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