It’s not that uncommon for students to drop or withdraw from classes. Sometimes, dropping or withdrawing from a class can be the best option. But if you find yourself wondering, "Should I drop a class?" how exactly do you know when to do so? The short answer is: it depends on the situation. There are usually some drawbacks associated with doing so. If you’re considering dropping or withdrawing from a class, talk to your advisor first and make sure that you fully understand the effect of your decision.
Let’s examine what it means to drop a class, the times you might consider it, and the potential drawbacks you should consider first.
What Does Dropping a Class Mean?
Dropping a class means officially withdrawing from a course after initially enrolling but before the end of the semester. Many institutions implement a "drop deadline," a predetermined date before which students can withdraw without any academic or financial repercussions. Before this deadline, dropping a class is akin to never having registered for it. Withdrawing before this date usually has minimal to no impact on transcripts.
For schools with drop deadlines, there are usually penalties for dropping a class after the deadline. Depending on your school, these may include a "W" (withdrawal) notation on transcripts, which can affect your academic records. There may also be financial implications, like losing whatever tuition you already spent on the class you drop.
However, not all institutions have trial periods for courses. Once the class starts, that’s it — you’re in it. If this is the case at your school, you’ll need to fully understand the potential academic and financial consequences when considering whether to drop a class. If you are unsure what consequences there may be from dropping a class, talk to your academic advisor to gain a full picture of your situation before making a final decision.
When to Drop a Class
There are plenty of reasons why you might consider dropping a class, some of which we’ve listed here. Be mindful that these aren’t reasons why you should automatically drop a class. However, they might come into play as you decide whether or not to continue with a specific course.
College life often presents an array of exciting academic and extracurricular opportunities. You may be tempted to take on more than you can realistically handle. The allure of diverse courses, clubs, and activities can lead to unintentional overscheduling, putting you at risk of burnout.
It’s important to recognize the signs of being overscheduled. If coursework, commitments, and responsibilities start to overwhelm you, consider dropping a class.
Symptoms of overscheduling include heightened stress levels, declining academic performance, and compromised well-being. Dropping a class to alleviate the burden can help you prioritize self-care and life balance.
Every once in a while, check in with yourself to see how you’re managing. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you grumpy all the time? Do you feel like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done? If so, it may be a sign that you are experiencing burnout and should pull back a bit.
Additionally, maintain an open line of communication with your academic advisor. They can help you make informed decisions about your course load.
You’ve Switched Majors
If you find yourself switching majors, you might discover that certain classes are no longer required for your new academic trajectory. In this scenario, dropping a course becomes a strategic move.
Choosing classes aligned with your revised academic goals ensures you continue to take classes that are relevant to you. Prioritize classes that are part of your new major's requirements and prerequisites. Once again, regular consultations with your academic advisor can help you successfully navigate this transition.
You Dislike the Class or Your Professor
You’re bound to take classes that don't meet your expectations or have professors with whom you don't connect. Most of the time, you just have to learn to live with it. However, when this disconnect starts to affect your ability to concentrate or creeps into other areas of your life, it's time to consider dropping the class.
Struggling to engage in a course due to dislike or a lack of rapport with the professor can hinder more than your academic success. Your education should be a fulfilling experience, and if a particular class becomes a source of undue stress, dropping it is a valid choice. Withdrawing from a class can be how you prioritize your mental health and academic focus for a more positive and effective learning environment.
You’ve Developed Medical Issues, Including Mental Health Problems
Unforeseen medical issues, including mental health challenges, can unexpectedly arise during your academic journey. Whether it's a sudden onset of health issues or a pre-existing condition exacerbated by the stresses of higher education, these situations demand that you take care of yourself. Medical problems can significantly impact your ability to focus on coursework.
Under these circumstances, you may need to contemplate dropping a class. Prioritize your health and well-being by acknowledging the need for temporary reprieve and seeking necessary medical support. Academic institutions often have guidelines and regulations in place to accommodate medical circumstances, including allowing you to retake the course when you feel better.
Whether it's an advanced class you’re not quite ready for or a class you thought would be more straightforward, the perpetual struggle to keep up may require you to consider dropping the course. This is especially important to consider if you feel that the course is hindering your ability to perform well in your other classes.
Before making a decision, weigh the pros and cons thoughtfully. If you haven't yet, speak with your professor to discuss potential extra credit opportunities or explore other strategies for improvement. Look into hiring a tutor or forming a study group with fellow students facing similar challenges as ways to keep going rather than dropping the class.
There may be other reasons why you might consider dropping a class. College life is very subjective, and experiences vary student by student and semester by semester. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to carefully consider all your options and discuss your course of action with your academic advisor before deciding to drop a class.
What to Consider Before You Drop a Class
Dropping a class is usually a big deal. We’ll go over some of the potential consequences below, but this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. That doesn’t mean you should never do it, just be fully aware of the process and what it means. It’s a good idea to speak with your professor and academic advisor before dropping a class to hear about other options.
These considerations will also depend mainly on why you’re considering dropping a class. A medical emergency, for example, will require different considerations than withdrawing because you don’t like your professor.
Is it Mathematically Impossible for You to Pass the Class?
If you have determined that there is no way to pass the class due to your current performance, you may be better off withdrawing and spending your time ensuring that you pass your other courses with the highest grades possible.
Is the Course a Prerequisite for Other Courses You Need?
Dropping or withdrawing from a class may delay your graduation since you won’t be able to register for the next course in the series. If you do need to drop or withdraw from a prerequisite, ask if you can fulfill your prerequisite course another way, such as with an online educational platform like StraighterLine.
Is the Course Required for Your Major?
If a class is required for your major, dropping or withdrawing from the course may have an impact on your ability to graduate on time, especially if the class isn’t offered every semester.
Have You Taken Advantage of All the Academic and Institutional Support Available to You?
Check your school’s guidelines and student resources to make sure you’re utilizing all the services available to you, like tutoring or special accommodations. Your academic advisor probably knows of some resources to help you complete the course.
What Effect Will This Have On Your GPA?
A dropped class often results in a "W" on your transcript, which may negatively affect your overall GPA (depending on your school’s policies). There may also be indirect results down the line if you can’t take other classes you need or are unable to make up certain credits.
How Will Dropping This Class Affect Your Financial Aid or Scholarships?
Some financial aid or scholarships may be based on maintaining a certain GPA. If dropping this class will negatively affect your GPA, find out if that will, in turn, affect your ability to pay for college.
How Will This Affect Your Time to Graduation?
Each class contributes to the completion of degree requirements. Alterations in your course plan may extend your time until graduation. Evaluate the implications carefully, ensuring that dropping the class aligns with your academic goals and won’t significantly delay your graduation date.
Can You Stay On Track Another Way?
Online learning platforms like StraighterLine can help you get the course credits you require in a way that’s less stressful and more aligned with your needs. Find out if your college will accept transfer credits from another institution and, if so, what you need to do to get those credits transferred.
StraighterLine Can Help You Succeed In College
In the event that you have had to drop a class and you want to catch back up, taking college courses online may be a good solution. StraighterLine’s 70+ courses cover many common requirements for colleges and universities. Taking a class with StraighterLine means working at your own pace and on your own schedule while still enjoying 24/7 student support. The credits earned with StraighterLine are transferable to over 150 partner schools or can be transferred through the American Council on Education’s credit recommendations program.
Find out more about how StraighterLine can help you avoid delaying your graduation due to dropped classes.