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Going Back To Class? Use These Tips For Struggling Students

Going back to class after a long break isn’t usually something that students look forward to. In fact, you may dread the new school year because you dealt with stress or other mental health challenges last year. You may be concerned because your grades were very low during your last school year. Or maybe you have been unable to access additional learning resources over the summer and you feel behind. You are not alone! The current generation of teens is showing the lowest math and reading test scores in decades, thanks to the negative impacts of the pandemic on learning, access to resources, and mental health concerns. 

Thankfully, there are ways you can start the new school year on good footing. Here are some tips for going back to class with the skills, support, and resources you need to succeed.

going back to class

Know What You Need

Even if you remember the classes you had last year, you may have forgotten exactly what you struggled with. Review your old assignments and assessments to identify the topics and questions you found difficult. For instance, maybe you had a hard time with functions in algebra, structuring research papers, or recalling the details of historical events. If you can’t remember what exactly you struggled with, ask your parents, peers, counselor, or past teachers for their insight. You can also check your state’s education standards to see what you were expected to learn in your classes from last school year. Focus on big concepts, like writing a bibliography in APA format, synthesizing primary sources into an argument, or making a geometric proof, instead of specific, niche topics. Then assess your mastery of those concepts using past quizzes and tests to see if there is anything you need a refresher on.

Now that you know what you need to catch up on, find out what you will be learning in the new school year. Look online or ask students older than you for the syllabi from last year. Highlight the big concepts and think about what resources you will need to be successful in learning them. For example, maybe you should plan to get a tutor, join a study group, or order review materials. Being proactive in setting up what you need will reduce stress later on. 

Also, take note of what else worsened your struggles. If you found that the workload was too heavy, consider dropping an extracurricular activity. If you faced difficulties at home or school, look into mental health assistance. If you felt overwhelmed, consider ways that you can make time for yourself during the school year so you don’t overwork yourself, such as giving yourself free time on certain days of the week. Having a plan will help you avoid the issues you faced last year.

Seek Adult Support

Research shows that the benefits of a childhood mentor include higher academic performance and being more likely to achieve leadership roles in the future. An adult mentor can hold you accountable for getting your work done on time, provide additional academic resources as needed, and provide emotional support during difficult times.

An ideal mentor is a tutor who specializes in subjects you have trouble with. Subject-specific tutoring is beneficial to help you gain a deeper understanding of the content in your classes.  Alternatively, if you tend to struggle with skills like organization and time management, then an executive function coach would be a great fit. Executive function coaches can help you improve your soft skills to manage daily life so that you can avoid emotional distress related to schoolwork. If you are facing other emotional challenges outside of the classroom, such as bullying or family trauma, find a counselor or therapist you trust. A mental health professional can help you regulate your feelings and behavior so that it doesn’t affect your learning.

If you come from a low-income background and you live in Illinois or Texas, you can find adults who will help you with all three: academics, executive functions, and mental health. The tutors at Educate. Radiate. Elevate. are more like mentors because they take a holistic approach, focusing on building a personalized toolbox of advice and resources to assist their students with all facets of life. E.R.E.’s tutoring program is free for students who qualify. Nominate yourself or a fellow student on the student nomination page.

going back to class

Work With Other Students

Research shows that students with support from peers have better coping abilities and stronger academic performance than students who do not. Because you and your fellow students are going through the same program with the same teachers, you can share advice and tips that work. You can also provide each other with emotional support and encouragement, uplifting each other in times of stress or overwhelm.

So, if you notice that other students in your class are struggling, offer your assistance. You can share your resources, tutor them one-on-one, or set up a study group. Working collaboratively with peers may help you get a new perspective on problems, educate other struggling students, and strengthen your social bonds with your classmates. If you are the one who is struggling, ask if your school has a peer mentor program. It’s possible that students a grade level or two above you will be willing to tutor you for free, and can give specific advice for that class they also took recently and suggest other helpful resources available in your school.

Access Accommodations

Maybe you’ve recently been diagnosed with a learning, intellectual, or developmental disability such as ADHD, dyslexia, or autism. Or perhaps you suspect that you may have an LD or IDD, but have not received a diagnosis yet. 

Begin by speaking with a parent, teacher, or counselor to access a referral for an evaluation, either before or just after going back to class for the first time. This person should also be willing to advocate for you to be re-evaluated in case your application is turned down. Once approved, you will receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to give you personalized accommodations to assist with your learning, as well as access to additional tools and services, like tutoring, devices, and software. Fortunately, the stigma of special education has been steadily disappearing as society is finally recognizing that we all learn differently – and that’s okay! You should feel confident in accessing what you need to learn best, and not worry about what others may think.

going back to class


Going back to class after a long break can be challenging. Thankfully, with some planning, you can set yourself up for success in the coming school year. Start by reflecting on what you struggled with last year and preparing what you need to maximize your learning this year. Seek tutors, trusted adults, and peers to help with your academics. And don’t be afraid to get additional accommodations as needed.
One excellent resource for helping struggling students is Educate. Radiate. Elevate. Our non-profit organization is dedicated to uplifting students from underserved communities. Our tutoring program is free of charge and uses a holistic approach, including academic lessons, executive function development, and cultural and trauma-informed teaching. Our proven-effective methods ensure that students can succeed academically from the first day of the school year onwards. Support E.R.E. by donating to our mission or volunteering.

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