The BIG Consequences When You Drop A Class In College
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Before I tell you what may happen when you drop a class in college, I need to define these two terms: drop, withdraw. Oh, and also a “course” is really want you want to drop, not a class, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll use the more standard term – “class”.
DISCLAIMER: As with everything I write, please know I’m referring to typical institutions. All colleges and universities are different, and I don’t have experience with every one that’s in existence. So, talk to your advisor regarding the policies where you are attending.
Is dropping a class the same as withdrawing?
There’s a HUGE difference between dropping and withdrawing from a class.
Drop = removing a class from your schedule before the drop deadline.
Withdraw = removing a class from your schedule after the drop deadline (and before the withdrawal deadline).
There is only one potential consequence of dropping a class, which I explain below.
On the other hand, there are multiple potential consequences when you withdraw from a class. Again, those are included below.
What happens if you drop a class before the drop deadline?
“Drop” is the most widely used term when you are thinking about taking a course off your schedule. A “drop” definitely does that, but at only certain points in the semester.
There is typically a “drop deadline” at the beginning of each semester or term, which is unique to your school. Dropping a course by the due date results in the following:
- You won’t be charged for the class
- The class won’t be listed on your transcript
Essentially, it’s like you were never signed up for the class at all. Cool, right?
Institutions allow this because many students will change their schedules in the first few days of school.
What are the consequences of dropping a class?
Watch your student status (part-time vs. full-time) when you switch things around on your schedule. If you drop a course and don’t replace it, that could change your status.
What happens if you withdraw from a course?
When you officially withdraw from a course in college, there are many potential consequences. (There are also potential consequences for failing a course. You could even get kicked out of college, depending on your specific situation.) You are able to withdraw from a course after the drop deadline, but before the withdrawal deadline. The withdrawal deadline is also unique to your school.
You will still be charged for the course
You’re still going to be charged a certain percentage (up to 100%) for a class even though you didn’t complete it. It sucks, sure, but that’s why it’s important to read and understand the policies at your school. (Don’t roll your eyes at me! If I did it [I really did], so can you! haha)
If you paid out-of-pocket for your tuition, nothing really changes in that regard. Keep making those payments if you’re on a payment plan.
Pell Grant, loan borrowers and scholarship recipients – this next part is for you! Depending on when you withdraw from the course(s), you may have to return some of the money to your financial aid office. This happens if dropping the course results in you becoming a part-time student. The only exception to this is if you withdraw from the course late enough in the semester. Ask your advisor or contact me if this is confusing to you!
Pell Grant amounts are determined by family income, and also by student status. For example: if you are eligible for a full Pell Grant, but you’re only taking classes part-time, you will receive a prorated amount of Pell Grant.
If you’ve received a scholarship that requires you to remain a full-time student, you’ll want to read the terms & conditions of that scholarship. It’s possible you will be asked to return some (or all) of the scholarship money.
A “W” will be placed on your transcript instead of a grade
This applies to students who officially withdraw from a course. You can’t just stop attending! If you stop attending without officially withdrawing from the class, you will get an “F” on your transcript. You don’t want an “F” on your transcript if you can avoid it.
An “F” negatively affects your GPA. A “W” has no effect on your GPA.
A “W” is always better than an “F”! Always. I can’t think of a single exception to that rule.
Withdrawing from a course affects your Satisfactory Academic Progress
If you are familiar with the term Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), you probably know what it means. Check out my post at the link above.
If you are on a SAP appeal, you may not be allowed a withdrawal. You need to talk someone in financial aid about your SAP status before making any decisions!
ATTENTION: Even if you are a great student and are earning awesome grades, you still have to make sure you don’t withdraw from too many courses! It could prevent you from getting financial aid in future terms. This usually affects students who have withdrawn from all of their classes in one semester. Most students don’t need to worry about SAP if they are passing most courses.
If you’re the type of student who withdraws from a course because you’re getting less than an “A”, you may want to reconsider that strategy.
Financial Aid will only cover a class up to a certain number of times
This one is confusing. You have a limited number of times you can retake a course and still have it covered by Pell Grant or federal loans. Arizona State University does an outstanding job with explaining different scenarios. But you know who will do an even better job? Your advisor or financial aid staff at your institution!
When Should I Withdraw From A Class?
There are many reasons students think about withdrawing from a course. I will cover a few of them here.
You’re struggling with the course
Sometimes it makes sense to withdraw from a course. If you’re on your way to earning an “F” in the course, by all means, withdraw from it!
Other times, you’re not doing as well as you’d like to be doing. Many students will go to their advisors around mid-terms and ask to withdraw from a course. Some of those students may even be earning a B or C at that time! Unless you need a specific grade for the program you’re pursuing, from my perspective, this is not a good reason to withdraw from the course.
Set realistic expectations for yourself
College is not the same as high school. Even if you’re a traditional college student, you most likely have more responsibilities on your plate than you did in high school. If you’re an adult with smaller kids and/or a job, let yourself breath! A “B” does NOT mean “bad”. I promise you it doesn’t.
After all is said and done, you can certainly retake a course later if you’re trying to earn a 4.0 GPA. But know that if you pass a course with a C or better, federal funds will not cover it and it won’t go toward your student status.
For example, if you’re taking 9 credits of new courses and retaking one course you’ve successfully completed, per financial aid guidelines, you will still be classified as a part-time student. Confusing, right?!
You’re spending too much time on the course material
There are times when students will spend so much time on a course that it’s to the detriment of their other courses. Then the grades for those other courses start to suffer.
Withdrawing from a course is nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes you will have to lighten your load in order to be successful in your remaining classes, and that’s okay. It’s better than having to retake a full semester.
You took on too many classes, and you can’t reduce your work hours or you won’t be able to pay the bills. Something has to give, right?
No one likes withdrawing from a course. Sure, you may end up spending more time and money than you otherwise would have, but sometimes it’s necessary.
Talk with your advisor to see if withdrawing from a class is the right option for you.
Contact me if you have questions about your specific situation. I’d love to help guide you in the right direction!