Should I stay or should I go?
The last day to withdraw from a class this semester is April 12. Some students are wondering if they
should cut their losses and withdraw from a class likely to drag down their grade point average.
The decision can be difficult. You’ve already invested so much time and effort! But what is the
likelihood you’ll be able to elevate a low grade so far into the semester? If you do drop, won’t a
“W” look bad on your transcript, dooming you from grad school or getting a job? Professors
who give little indication of your standing in the class don’t make the decision any easier. How
do you know whether to cut bait or stay the course? Read on…
The first thing to consider is whether you have enough credits to be considered a full-time
student. A university student needs to complete at least 12 credits per semester in order to be
considered full-time. If you do not have enough credits at the end of the semester, you will be
obligated to pay back both your financial aid to the government as well as lose any merit
scholarships you may have been awarded. If this is the case, you’re best off redoubling your
efforts in the class to pull out the best grade you can obtain.
The Scarlet ‘W’
There is a commonly held belief that a ‘W’ on your transcripts brands you as a quitter to
potential employers and grad school admissions committees. However, this isn’t always the
case – especially if you don’t habitually withdraw from classes. “One or two withdrawals
typically does not present much of an issue. However, a pattern of withdrawals will cause
schools to question your academic preparedness . . .to manage a demanding academic load,”
according to advice provided to pre-law students by Baylor Law School.
Graduate schools often allow students to explain the reason why they withdrew from a course
on their application and are “more likely to be forgiving of a drop that was caused by
unexpected circumstances…. than they would if you dropped a class simply because you did not
like the professor,” according to Baylor.
However, the stakes may be different if you’re dropping a class in a subject related to your
planned graduate area of study. “It is wise to consult with your academic advisor, your faculty
advisor, and the graduate/professional school you anticipate attending to make sure a ‘W’ on
you transcript will not adversely impact your admissions application,” as advised by Southern
Test your reality by talking to your teacher
Sophomore Benen Weir withdrew from an accounting class he hated last semester on the final
possible day. In a convo with his professor, he admitted to not even opening his textbook and was
told it was in his interest to drop the class. That helped him to realize he did not want to major
in business, anyway: He switched to Strategic and Corporate Communication. He recommends
talking to the professor of a class you’re failing to get a sense of whether you have a hope of
passing. “Office hours!” he crowed. Dropping allowed him to keep his 3.2 + GPA and to land a $20
an hour internship.
Ask the professor what your current grade is and how likely it is for you to improve it by the end
of the semester.
One or two withdrawals is always better than getting a D or F. Some students might even want
to consider dropping in order to avoid getting their first C.
Employers are similar to admission offices in that, having one or two W’s on your transcript
may not be a big deal, according to Southern Utah University.
However, it’s a smart move to never assume how your W may be perceived by a future
employer. “Some employers may request a copy of your transcript and evaluate it before
offering you a job. Having multiple ‘W’s on your transcript may lead them to question your
ability,” according to Southern Utah University.
It’s not a good idea to repeatedly withdraw from courses as a “GPA management” technique so
try to make sure when registering you’re in classes you are likely to successfually complete.
Beware of magic thinking
There are many instances in which students should withdraw from a class and yet refuse to
according to Ximena Pineda, a licensed cognitive behavioral therapist who specializes in
university students. Today’s college students may have a mentality of wanting to pass or obtain
a high grade while putting in the least amount of effort necessary: Such an attitude may not
reap the results they believe they will obtain. “Wishful thinking” and “falling victim to these
ideologies” is likely to result in remaining in a class one has little likelihood of passing. Be sure
to engage in regular reality checks with your professors.
Suck it up
For some students, withdrawing is unthinkable. They reorganize their lives to get the grades
they want. They plan for success early in the semester so withdrawal never becomes a
Calista Lat and Aiyana Adams are freshmen and STEM majors who have never withdrawn from
a class and, yet, never received lower than a B+. They succeed, they said, by planning in
advance and devoting extra time to their most difficult classes. “I don’t procrastinate,” said Lat,
who said she studies two hours every week day and a bit less on weekends.
They key to doing well in school is “going into class and decide to learn by paying attention” so
that you don’t have to spend so much time studying, said Adams, who avails herself of tutoring
options and takes practice tests and quizzes on her own. “You just gotta do what you gotta
do,” Lat added.