While dropping college courses during your university's allotted time period comes with no ramifications, withdrawing from a course can come with drastic potential consequences, from loss of tuition to far-reaching repercussions resulting from changes in enrollment status. Understanding these potential penalties can help you decide whether the last resort option of withdrawing is best.
Loss of Tuition
Withdrawing from a class will result in the forfeiture of some, if not all, of the tuition for that course. After the end of your university’s posted “add or drop period,” you may receive a prorated refund based on the percentage of the semester that has passed when you withdraw from a course. All fees associated with the course, such as lab or material fees, might also be automatically forfeited. Some universities will not refund any tuition unless you withdraw from all of your enrolled courses for the semester or if you do not withdraw from a course within the first week of classes.
Loss of Credits
While the course from which you withdrew will appear on your transcript, any credits associated with the course will be lost. This can leave large gaps on your transcripts that later employers might question, and it can also slow your degree’s completion. Most universities limit the number of credits you can withdraw from over the course of your degree. The University of Florida, for example, allows only two withdrawals within a student’s first 60 credit hours of coursework.
Impact on Grade Point Average
Withdrawal from a course prior to the declared “last day to withdraw,” generally a few weeks before the semester’s end, will result in a “W” appearing on your transcript but will not impact your grade point average. Withdrawing from a course after this stated date, however, will often result in a “WF” listed on your transcript, which is incorporated into your grade point average as the equivalent of an “F,” or failing grade. You can petition a late course withdrawal with your university dean if there is an extenuating circumstance, such as family emergency or personal hardship, to ensure it does not affect your grade point average.
Impact on Enrollment Status
Your updated enrollment status following withdrawal can also have further ramifications. If the withdrawal causes your credit load to drop below the threshold of being a full-time student, for example, your financial aid or military veterans education benefits could be impacted, as could your ability to participate in extracurricular sports or teams. For example, your withdrawal from all of your courses might result in you having to return any federal financial aid funds or veteran education benefits, ranging from book to housing allowances, that you received. If you are withdrawing to enter into active military duty, however, you are not subject to these penalties, provided you return to classes once your service is complete.
- University of Maryland University College: Dropping or Withdrawing from a Course
- Yale College Programs of Study: Withdrawal from Courses
- University of Florida 2012-2013 Undergraduate Catalog: Dropping Courses and Withdrawals
- Kennesaw State University Office of the Registrar: Withdrawing from a Class
- Georgia College Office of the Registrar: Withdrawal Process
Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.