Should I Withdraw From a Class?

Here are 6 things to consider before deciding to withdraw

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No matter where you go to school, you probably have the option of withdrawing from a class. While the logistics of withdrawing from a class might be easy, the decision to do so should be anything but. Withdrawing from a class can have all kinds of implications — financial, academic and personal. If you're considering withdrawing from a class, make sure to also consider the following:

The Deadline

Withdrawing from a class often means you'll have a withdrawal noted on your transcript.

But if you drop a class, it will not. Consequently, dropping a class is often a much-preferred choice (and you may be able to pick up a different class so you're not short on credits). Find out the deadline for dropping a class, and if that deadline has already passed, find out the withdrawal deadline. It may be possible that you cannot withdraw after a certain date, so make sure you know any upcoming deadlines as you make your decision.

Your Transcript

It's no secret: A withdrawal on your transcript doesn't look so great. If you're considering applying to graduate school or are going into a profession where you'll need to show your transcript to potential employers, just be aware of how the withdrawal will look. Is there something you could now do to prevent that withdrawal from always hanging around in the future?

Your Academic Timeline  

You might be overwhelmed with your workload right now and think that withdrawing from a class will alleviate some of your stress.

And you might be right. At the same time, think about what withdrawing from this class will mean for your next term and the rest of your time in school. Is this class a prerequisite for other classes? Will your progress be delayed if you withdraw? Do you need to take this class for your major? If so, how will your department look upon your withdrawal?

If you want to retake the course, when will you be able to? How will you make up the credits, if needed?

Your Finances

There are two main financial concerns to consider when thinking about withdrawing from a class:

1. How will this impact your financial aid? If you withdraw from this class, will you be below a certain amount of credits? Will you face an extra charge or fee? How will the withdrawal effect your financial aid in general? If you aren't sure, don't leave it to chance: Check in with your financial aid office as soon as possible.

2. How will this have an impact on your personal finances? If you withdraw from this class, will you have to pay to take it again? If so, how will you pay for it? Will you have to buy new books or can you reuse the ones you already have? What other expenses might be duplicated (lab fees, etc.)? Think carefully about this one, too. Is it cheaper to hire a tutor in the subject than it is to retake the class again? If, for example, you're too busy working to find the time needed to study adequately for this class, is it cheaper to reduce your work hours, get a small emergency loan through your school, and push through than it is to pay for the cost of the course again?

Your Stress Level

Are you overcommitted in other areas of your life? Can you cut, for example, some of your cocurricular involvement so you have more time to dedicate to this class — and, consequently, won't have to withdraw from it? Are you in a leadership position that you could perhaps pass along to someone else until the end of the term? Can you reduce your work hours? Can you be strict with yourself about studying more seriously from this point on?

Other Options

If you're really in a situation where circumstances beyond your control are having an impact on your ability to do well in this class, you might want to consider asking for an incomplete. An incomplete can be fixed later (i.e., when you complete the requirements of the course, even if it's after the class has officially concluded), whereas a withdrawal will remain permanently on your transcript.

If you think your situation (like a major illness during your time in school) might qualify you for an incomplete instead, check with your professor and academic adviser as soon as possible. Because if you're considering withdrawing from a class, the last thing you want to do is make your situation worse by making uninformed choices.