When Is It Okay To Withdraw From A College Course?

Withdrawing from a college class leaves a big "W" on a student transcript. Does that matter in the long run?

Withdrawing From a Class | Admissionado

W” can be such a nice letter, so many great words start with W: Wonderful. Watermelon. Wasabi.

Sadly, in academia, there’s also the word “Withdraw.” Withdrawing means you drop a class after the allowed add/drop period ends. You won’t receive a grade for the class, but a “W” will show up on your transcript, indicating that you were not doing well in the course and essentially quit the class. Why would you do this?

A couple scenarios when a student might elect to withdraw from a course

Scenario 1:You have an extra elective slot to fill. You see that class in the coursebook, something like “Poststructuralism in 20th Century Science and Literature,” and think it sounds interesting. You sign up. The class turns out to be incredibly hard, but you try to stick it out. Add/Drop period passes, and you’re failing. Now you’re worried that it’s going to bring down your GPA.

Scenario 2: You decide to take five courses instead of four this semester to get ahead, maybe graduate early. You’re doing pretty well in everything, except you’re barely getting D’s in Economics, and it’s required for your major. You’re worried it will bring down your GPA. You keep hoping you would get a handle on things, but the Add/Drop period has passed and you’re still not doing well.

So, is it okay to withdraw from a college class?

Use these questions to help you decide.

1. If you stayed in the class, what would the damage be to your GPA?

Are you totally failing? Is the grade going to be a C? Is the grade going to be in the B range? What grade is acceptable to you? Calculate what would happen to your GPA.

2. Are you a freshman?

YES: Then it’s probably okay. Employers tend to look at your more recent grades rather than your early grades, since they know that the beginning of college is an adjustment period.

NO: Refer to Question 1.

3. Have you withdrawn from a class before?

YES: Refer to Question 1, but remember that a pattern of W’s doesn’t look good to employers. It says to them, “This kid didn’t learn from his/her past mistakes. He/she is a BIG gamble.”

NO: Then it’s probably okay, but refer to Question 1.

4. Is the class necessary for your major?

YES: Refer to Question 1. If it’s being offered again another semester, you could consider withdrawing and taking it over later on. Your major GPA is what employers in your field will look at, so you want it to be as high as possible. In a situation like this, you might need a college admissions consultant.

NO: Refer to Question 1, but it’s probably okay to take the W.

So basically, don’t fret if you absolutely HAVE to withdraw from a class. Your transcript tells a story about how you’ve grown in college. If you withdraw in the beginning, just make sure to learn from your mistakes and do your best in the future.