Withdrawing from class once won’t kill you

Carrie Blazina

Important deadlines

Deadline to add or drop a class:

Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. This will not appear on your transcript.

Open withdrawal period:

Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 – Sunday, Mar. 18, 2012. Students can withdraw from a course and receive a grade of “W” during this period.

Last day to withdraw from a class and receive a grade of “W”:

Sunday, March 18, 2012.

After March 18, students cannot withdraw from a class.

They are considered to be committed to their remaining courses, and the only way a student can withdraw is in extreme circumstances. In that situation, they must talk to their college’s dean’s office to get a Petition for Exception to Registration Form.

Source: University Registrar and Charity Snyder.

It’s as simple as clicking an option next to a course listed on Flashline, but does withdrawing from a class have long-term effects on a student’s academic career — and his or her post-graduation search for a job or graduate school?

“Obviously you don’t know why someone withdrew by looking at their transcript,” said associate psychology professor Joel Hughes in an email, “but if a person applies for graduate school and has a history of withdrawing from difficult courses, it might look like they really struggled in school.”

Withdrawing is different from dropping, said university advising director Charity Snyder in an email. Dropping is done in the first two weeks of the semester, and withdrawing involves leaving a class more than two weeks into the semester, Snyder said.

“Dropping a class carries little stigma because people realize that schedules change, for example,” Hughes said. “However, withdrawing is much later in the semester, which implies that the student is doing very poorly.”

A student can withdraw for a number of reasons, Hughes said, including personal illness or needing time off to care for a family member. In most cases, however, Hughes said if a student withdraws from only one class it is because of a poor grade.

The general consensus among Snyder, Hughes and Hobson Hamilton, assistant director of Career Services, seems to be that the best plan is planning ahead so a student does not overload his or her schedule.

Dropping a class is the next best option. Withdrawing should be avoided but is the next best choice, and Hamilton said failing a class should be avoided “at all costs.”

Withdrawing from a course appears as a “W” on a student’s transcript, which is a listing of all a student’s grades in every course they took (except for dropped courses) that, Hamilton said, shows any changes to a student’s major.

Hamilton said employers can and frequently do request to see students’ transcripts, but they mostly want a transcript to verify student-reported information like their GPA.

A financial factor in withdrawing is that a student does receive a partial or full refund on tuition for the class, depending on whether they are a full-time or part-time student, Snyder said.

When a student withdraws from a course, they may need to retake it if it is part of their requirements for their degree.

“One issue a student may need to consider is that withdrawing for a course may affect their ability to register for specific courses in future terms, if the course they are dropping is a pre-requisite,” Snyder said. “That may delay the student from completing their degree in a timely fashion, particularly if the course is not offered every semester.”

Some students run into the problem of needing to withdraw from a class but only having 12 credits on their schedule. In that case, dropping a three-credit class would mean they lose their status as a full-time student and, most likely, any financial aid on their account.

According to documents available on the University Registrar’s website, other things that could be affected by a withdrawal include “medical insurance, auto insurance, current and future financial aid including loan repayment, scholarship eligibility, athletic eligibility, international and immigration status and academic progress.”

Tyler Marovich, a junior political science major, said he withdrew from an Intro to Financial Accounting class when it became too time-consuming, in-depth and had too much homework associated with it.

“At the end of the day I just really didn’t have a lot of time for all these assignments,” Marovich said. “I just took it for my own information, and I did not need that ransacking my GPA.”

Hamilton said there are options available for students who do not want to withdraw but need to raise their grade in a course. He recommended the Academic Success Center, tutoring or group study as good options to increase grades in a class.

Marovich said he does not foresee any problems with future employers or graduate schools because of one “W” on his transcript, and he said he thinks having the option to withdraw from a class is a useful tool.

“Could you imagine the alternative (to withdrawing)?” he said. “You’re stuck in the class, and you’re failing. You have no options, so either you completely give up or you just struggle through and still get a miserable grade. Either way, it’s gonna be a waste of your time.”

Freshman architecture major Michael Fisher has never withdrawn from a class, but he said he intends to drop his calculus class so he can take it closer to home over the summer.

While there is a big difference between withdrawing from a class and dropping one, Fisher said he cannot see why a student would be penalized for withdrawing from a class.

“I feel like when you graduate, it basically just says your name (and) your diploma … (not) ‘Mike Fisher dropped three classes during his junior year, don’t hire him,’” he said.

Snyder and Hamilton agreed there can be perfectly valid reasons a student might withdraw from a class, but students should always talk to their adviser before making a decision.

“Make sure (students) know their options, don’t just jump into that blindly,” Hamilton said. “(They should) know what they’re doing and how that’s going to affect them.”

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].