Should you drop a class?

Here’s how to explore your options before deciding to drop a class.

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You’re a few weeks into your new term and it’s clear: Geological Sciences 201 is not for you. Maybe you’re taking too many classes and this one is putting you over the edge, or perhaps the professor’s teaching style isn’t a match for your learning style. Whatever the reason, you just want to know how to get out of the class. Here are six things you should consider before you decide.

1. Talk to your academic advisor

Your advisor’s office should be your first stop. He or she can help you decide if dropping the class is the best choice or if you have other options. For instance, if you’re worried about getting a low grade, could you complete the class on a pass/fail basis? Most schools will grant you credit for taking a class this way, and it won’t affect your grade point average. However, you may not be allowed to take a class on a pass/fail basis if it’s a requirement for your degree.

2. Double-check your school’s course registration deadlines

Each school has specific “drop” dates each term. If you drop a class before that deadline, you won’t pay tuition for the class and it will never appear on your transcript. However, if you drop the class after the drop date, you will likely owe tuition and the class will likely appear on your transcript as a “W” for “withdrawal.” Most graduate schools and employers aren’t concerned about one or two withdrawals on your academic record — you just don’t want to make it a habit.

Take note: Not attending classes is not the same as dropping a class. If you stop attending class without filing the “drop class” paperwork, you’ll likely get an “F.”

3. Find out if it is a required class for your major

If so, your academic advisor may be able to help you decide whether you’re better off staying in the class and doing your best, or dropping the class and taking it again next semester.

Keep in mind that if the class is a prerequisite for other courses in your major, dropping it could throw off your schedule and affect your ability to enroll in other classes (particularly those that aren’t offered every semester) in a timely way. If this affects your eligibility to graduate on time, think carefully.

4. Talk to your professor

That may sound intimidating, particularly if you’re not doing well in the class. However, your professor may be able to offer suggestions on how to improve your performance in the class, if that’s your concern. He or she could connect you with other students who need a study partner, offer tutoring suggestions or, in some cases, allow you to do extra assignments to bring up your grade.

If your reason for dropping the class is different — such as changing your mind about your major or being overscheduled — your professor may help you decide on a course that would be a better fit.

5. Consider your financial aid requirements

Many schools require you to be enrolled in school full time — typically that means taking 12 credit hours or more — in order to be eligible for scholarships, grants, and loans. Will dropping a class put you below the required minimum credit hours? If so, can you replace the class with another one? If not, you may want to consider staying in the class and looking at alternatives, such as getting extra tutoring or taking the course pass/fail.

6. Give yourself a break

Dropping a class isn’t always a mistake or a sign of academic weakness. If leaving a course helps you realize your intended major isn’t right for you or that you’re pushing yourself too hard academically, consider that a win. You’re learning some of the most important aspects of becoming an adult: making tough decisions and taking care of yourself.