How to Know When to Drop a Class

How to Know When to Drop a Class

"Should I Drop This Class?” Is one of the top 5 questions I’m asked as both an academic advisor and college instructor. The desire to get out of a class that is boring, annoying, really hard, or overwhelming can be very strong, but not liking a class is usually a terrible reason for jumping ship.

In this episode we provide 4 questions to ask yourself before withdrawing from a class.

1. What is your grade in the class?

If you are passing and will most likely continue passing, remaining in the class is probably your best bet. The urge to get out can often strike right after earning a grade that you don’t like. But there are usually a lot of things you can do to repair your grade before its time to withdraw from a class. If  a significant number of assignments still remain, chances are you will be able to recover by adjusting your study strategies and using academic support services.

2. Can You Devote More Time to the Class?

Be super honest with yourself. Are you giving this class enough time, energy, and attention? You may have to spend hours outside of class preparing or use academic services like tutoring, supplemental instruction, support labs. If you honestly have the time available, you might need to divert time resources to passing this class.

3. How will it impact your graduation plan?

Before clicking withdraw, meet with your academic advisor to evaluate your graduation plan. Withdrawing from one required class can significantly derail your course sequence and set you back from graduation 1 or more semesters. Ask them how withdrawing from a class will impact your class sequence.

4. How will it impact your finances?

Many universities have moved to flat tuition rates and offer very limited reimbursement for withdrawn classes. This could mean that you will pay for a required class twice if you withdraw only to re-enroll in a future semester. It could also mean paying for additional semesters if your graduation plan gets delayed.   

The Bottom Line

Classes should only be dropped as a last resort. Withdrawal is the academic equivalent to a parachute “ripcord”. You only pull it as a last resort when the parachute doesn’t open on its own.

Withdrawing from classes is a strategy to use if you really need it to cope with a truly poor life choice or personal emergency. It is not a decision you should make on a whim when feeling really tired of going to class or when really annoyed by your professor’s weird face.

Extra Tips:

  • Check your school’s academic calendar to find out the withdrawal deadline

  • Check with your school’s financial aid office about your school’s reimbursement policies and schedules

  • Extra-curricular classes or elective classes may be easier to withdraw from than required classes.

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