When to Add, Drop or Withdraw to Preserve Your Sanity

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 at 7:14 PM

School’s been pretty good so far for you. You’ve worked hard, and it shows on your academic transcript: all As. This semester, there’s a class on your schedule that gives you a headache from just looking at it. You go to said class, and even on syllabus day you feel uneasy. You decide to give it the old college try, mentally preparing yourself for the grueling time you’ll have to spend tackling complex concepts, mathematical equations, or research papers. Week one goes by and with it, the drop/add period.

By mid-terms you’re tanking the class, are always behind on the material, or are convinced your professor should be in a geriatric ward and not in the classroom. Now that you’re in this situation, what do you do? There are a lot of things to consider before withdrawing from a course. The following components of this article will walk you through how to weigh the pros and cons of the decision to withdrawal.

The first thing you should consider when kicking a class are your major requirements. Everyone has different major requirements, so don’t consult with your friends to find out what they are. E-mail, or better yet, pay your advisor a visit. If the class is not a major requirement and you don’t mind losing some of your tuition for the integrity of your GPA, consider leaving. However, you should also consider that GPA is often broken down into two categories. “In-major” GPA means just what it describes. If you receive all As in your major, you have a 4.0 in major. Your overall GPA takes into consideration classes outside of your major. Some care about maintaining a good GPA for future job prospects, others are more concerned with GPA for grad school reasons. It’s a nobrainer that you’ll want to keep your GPA as high as possible in both, but most people choose to put emphasis on the “in-major” GPA, as most employers are curious about this. However, if you plan to go to graduate school later, you will be expected to present both. Consider your withdrawal with this information in mind.

If you have the option to drop still, consider dropping the class if you believe you’re not going to have the adequate amount of time to commit to it. School consists of much more than classes. Chances are you’re going to get involved in student groups, volunteering or jobs. If you see that the course is reading or writing intensive, aka something that requires consuming reflection, it’s not only a waste of your money to not have the time to put into the class, it’s also unfair to your professors and classmates who have committed their time to the material.

If you’re going to drop or add and the course is needed for graduating, you should make sure the class, or an equivalent class, is being taught the next semester. If you see a particular course you need is being offered, begin to clear some room for it next semester. If that means being treasurer instead of president of a club, you might have to accept the position. School is a precarious balancing act where doing too much or too little can reflect poorly on a variety of personal development skills.

It’s sometimes difficult to know at the beginning of a class whether or not you’re going to be able to receive a passing grade. In most instances, you’ll probably be blindsided by your first bad grade. You studied, took excellent notes, attended class and asked questions. Where did this 73 percent come from? The reality is, anything borderline D is going to tank your GPA and deciding to stay is the coup de grace to graduating with honors. Of course, it’s always best to discuss your predicament with the instructor. Explain yourself and why you’re disappointed in your performance. Ask them if they know of any study groups or services that can help you enhance your understanding, come prepared with specific questions from readings and study in increments instead of pulling allnighters. If you know you can’t commit to any of the suggestions above, it’s likely time to say au revoir to the class.

There’s also a case to be made in relation to professors and dropping classes. Is your instructor scatter-brained? Unfair? Biased? You are paying them, no matter how indirectly, to teach you in a respectful and meaningful way. Don’t settle for anything less than the best, because learning is an investment, make one that returns good dividends.

Perhaps most important to consider when taking a class is that difficulty doesn’t necessarily equate with an automatic drop. Your education should challenge you and you should be putting in the weekly hours you would have at a typical career: 40.

Of course, your mental and physical health should come before worries about classwork, extracurricular work and grades. Truthfully, it’s okay to not subscribe to the grading system at large. A lot of students and educators argue the emptiness of evaluating scholastic performance through grades, which inevitably rank students in a class. The pro-grades camp underscores the importance of students knowing their standing in a class. On the other hand, others bring up their arbitrary nature — grades are merely numbers (or letters) given by teachers with certain biases for their preferred students, ideas, and predilections.

One or two “W’s” on your transcript won't hurt you. However, if there are a few, then what's going on becomes obvious. You're dropping classes that you would otherwise fail — and that's not a pretty pattern to be painting. As the University of California website suggests, “though a “W” notation does not affect your GPA, the decision to withdraw from a class should not be taken lightly. Withdrawing from classes can affect your academic progress, and selective graduate programs may not look favorably on “W” notations. There are, however, times when withdrawing from a class is a very good choice.” It’s subjective advice, but keep it in your back pocket.

Our viewpoint is voted on by the staff of The Spectator.

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