Your college student has received their midterm grades. They may be pleased and feeling relieved, or may have some cause for concern. Now is the time that your student needs to do some serious thinking about how they will approach the second half of the semester. If all of their grades are good then your student knows that they are on the right track. If some, or all, of their grades are weak, then it is time to think about a new approach.
Your college student may, or may not, share midterm grades with you. If your student has some low midterm grades, they may view this as a failure. You may need to help your student put these grades into perspective and make some decisions about the second half of the semester.
Withdrawing from a college class is not the same thing as dropping a class early in the term. At most institutions, students have an option in the first few days of the term of dropping a class. This is important for students who find that they are in the wrong level of a class, or that the class is inappropriate or of no interest to them. Classes that are dropped at the beginning of the term generally do not show up on the student’s permanent record. Withdrawing from a class later in the term usually results in a “W” appearing on the student’s transcript. The “W” has no effect on the student’s GPA (Grade Point Average).
Each college has its own deadline for withdrawing from a class. The deadline may be as early as the third week of the semester or as late as the tenth week of the semester. If the deadline has not already passed, a student may use their midterm grades as a means of determining whether withdrawing from a class makes sense. If your student has an option to withdraw from a class, you may need to help them think through this decision. Here are a few factors to consider.
- Students need to check the deadline for withdrawing from a course. If the deadline has passed, it is occasionally possible to petition for a late withdrawal, but the process is often difficult and should only be used for rare exceptions.
- If your student is doing poorly in a course, they should be realistic about whether or not they will be able to make sufficient changes to be able to pass the course. Will your student truly be able to turn things around and dramatically change the grade in the few remaining weeks of the semester?
- Your student, and you, may worry that a “W” will not look very good on a transcript. Generally, withdrawing from a class once or twice throughout a college career is not a problem. The problem occurs when a student withdraws consistently from one or two classes most semesters. In this situation, potential employers or graduate schools might question the student’s commitment, follow-through, or recognition of their own abilities.
- Generally, students do not need to provide a reason for withdrawing.
- Your student might consider withdrawing from a course for several reasons. Their course load may be too heavy, the class may be too difficult for them at this time, it may be an inappropriate class, they may have been overwhelmed by the transition to college, the instructor’s style of teaching may have been a mismatch, something may have caused them to fall far enough behind that they can’t make up the work.
- Just stopping attending a class is not withdrawing. If your student has not filed the appropriate paperwork, they will receive an “F” in the class.
- Before your student considers withdrawing from a class, they should meet with their Academic Advisor. The Advisor can help your student think through options. Perhaps they can still take the course on a pass/fail basis. Perhaps remaining in the course still makes sense. Perhaps they can find tutoring help.
- At some institutions, students need to be passing a course at the time of withdrawal. Your student should check the college policy carefully.
- Your student may feel that withdrawing from a class is a sign of failure. Help them understand that, as one academic advisor puts it, “W” sometimes stands for “wisdom”. Your student may recognize that withdrawing from one class will allow them to put all of their efforts into other classes, keep their GPA strong, and truly shine.
- If the class is a required class, your student should consider carefully whether they want to withdraw (and take the class at another time) or whether completing the class, even with a lower grade, will make sense.
- Your student should check college policy carefully about being “under credits” (less than full time) at this point in the semester. At some institutions students may fall below the full time load as long as the “W” appears on the transcript. However, there are some exceptions – especially for eligibility requirements for athletes or some types of financial aid. Have your student check policy carefully before making a decision.
- At some institutions, withdrawal policies are more lenient for first year students. First year students may have later deadlines or may be allowed to withdraw from additional courses.
The decision to withdraw from a college course should not be made lightly, however it may be the right decision for your student. Encourage your student to gather all of the information that they need to make an informed choice. Your student needs to consider the realistic picture in the course as well as the school’s withdrawal policy. Sometimes, deciding to withdraw from one, or even two, classes may mean that the student can balance responsibilities and complete the semester successfully. Your student may be looking for you to help them put this option in perspective.