Withdrawing from a class might save you from stress and lower grades if you're struggling with a course or schedule overload. Withdrawing from too many classes or using withdrawals as a substitute for choosing the right courses, however, can affect your grades and financial aid. It's best to drop a class early in the semester rather than later; carefully reviewing the syllabus and reading professor reviews can help you decide whether to take the class at the onset.
Grades and Academics
Withdrawing from a class can affect your grades. At some schools, students can withdraw from a class early in the semester without penalty. At the University of Missouri, for example, students have until the fifth week or 25th class day to withdraw without penalty. Students who withdraw later in the semester, however, may receive a withdrawal while failing (WF) grade, which is calculated the same as an "F" in your GPA. If it's late in the semester, it may be better to stick it out and try for a higher grade than an F.
If you withdraw from your classes, it's unlikely that you'll get the money you paid for the class back unless you withdraw during the first week or two of the semester. Withdrawing can also affect your financial aid eligibility. If dropping a class reduces you to part or half-time status, your school may reassess your scholarship award. Similarly, financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education is based partially on enrollment status, so you may be eligible for fewer loans and grants.
Withdrawing from a class can delay your graduation, particularly if you don't take an extra class the next semester to make up for the lost class. If the class you drop is a prerequisite for another class, you could significantly delay your graduation as you wait to re-take the dropped class and then the class for which it's a prerequisite. Dropping four or five classes in a college career is the equivalent of missing a semester of school, so students who regularly drop classes may take longer to complete school.
Because frequent withdrawals interfere with schools' ability to plan their courses and determine how many students will be enrolled in each class, some schools have instituted withdrawal limits. At Georgia State University, for example, students may withdraw from a class no more than six times while at the school. If they exceed this limit, the withdrawal will automatically be entered as a failing grade.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.