Should I Withdraw from a Class?

6 Things to Consider Before Deciding to Withdraw

College classroom

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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 grave implications—financial, academic, and personal. If you're considering withdrawing from a class, consider the following issues.

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 enroll in 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, learn the withdrawal deadline. It may be possible that you cannot withdraw after a certain date, so ensure that you know any upcoming deadlines as you make your decision.

Your Transcript

It's no secret: A withdrawal on your transcript doesn't look 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, be aware of how the withdrawal will look. Consider what you might be able to do now to avoid withdrawing—and having that unpleasant "W" mark on your transcript for years to come.

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.

Consider these questions: Is this class a prerequisite for other courses? 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 monetary issues to consider when thinking about withdrawing from a class, including the impact on:

Your financial aid: Receiving financial aid often requires that you earn a certain number of credits each quarter or semester. If you withdraw from a class, you may face an extra charge or fee. Indeed, withdrawal may affect 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.

Your personal finances: If you withdraw from a class, you may have to pay to take the course again later. Determine how much that will cost, both for the class as well as potential lab fees, books, and materials.

It may be less expensive to hire a tutor in the subject rather than withdrawing and taking the class later. If, for example, you're too busy working to find the time needed to study adequately for this class, it may be cheaper, in the long run, to reduce your work hours, get a small emergency loan through your school, and push through rather than paying for the cost of the course again.

Your Stress Level

You may be overcommitted in other areas of your life. If so, consider reducing your cocurricular involvement so you have more time to dedicate to this class—and avoiding the need to withdraw from it. Perhaps you are in a leadership position that you could pass along to someone else until the end of the term.

Other Options

If circumstances beyond your control are impacting your ability to do well in a class, consider asking for an incomplete. You can often fix an incomplete later when you complete the requirements of the course, even if it's after the class has officially concluded.

Colleges and universities have specific requirements for granting an incomplete, but a major illness during your time in school might qualify you for this option. Check with your professor and academic advisor as soon as possible if this is the case. If you're considering withdrawing from a class, the last thing you want to do is make your situation worse by making uninformed choices.