Does Withdrawing From a Class Look Bad?

Carolina Jacobs

Nov 12, 2021

We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.

Sometimes, students end up with classes that don’t work out for them. To a stressed-out student, it might be difficult to tell when the right time to withdraw from a class might be. Furthermore, does withdrawing from a class look bad? You may have too much going on in the moment to know whether you should add a W to your transcript, so it’s important to know the answers before your semester starts.

The Significance of a Withdrawal

Though it may not seem like it, a drop and a withdrawal are two different things. They usually happen at different times during the semester. The Add/Drop period, as many universities call it, is a period of time at the beginning of the semester that allows you to add or drop classes from your schedule without any penalty. The classes you drop won’t appear on your transcript or count against your GPA. 

The Add/Drop period typically happens within the first two weeks of the semester. After that, you can still drop a class if needed, but it might count as a withdrawal instead. Withdrawing from a class means that the class will still show up on your transcript, but in place of a letter grade, you’ll see a W. While this class doesn’t affect your grade, it will still follow you through your academic career, so you should use your withdrawals wisely.

Some schools have a limit on how many times you can withdraw from a class during your time there. You might be limited to a certain number of credit hours to withdraw from, or your school may judge it depending on how many times you’ve used the withdrawal.

If you withdraw from a class, you can still take the class again in the future. Whether you need permission to retake a course might vary depending on the college you attend, but if the class is part of your core courses, you should try to retake it with a different professor or with fewer overall credit hours to ensure that you can devote more time and energy to succeeding in the class.

When Should You Withdraw From a Class?

In most cases, you should be able to withdraw from a class through the middle part of the semester. Knowing whether you should withdraw from a class is crucial to ending up with a W instead of having a bad class affect your GPA.

1. When Your Advisor or Professor Recommends It

No one knows your classes like your professor. If you’ve been a decent student so far, one who participates in class even if they don’t know the right answer, your professor may be willing to help you out with tutoring or give you some extra credit. 

Additionally, you could check with your advisor. Your advisor knows how to put you on the right track for academic success, and you likely have to go through them to sign up for classes. They have seen hundreds of situations similar to yours, so you can trust in their guidance.

2. You’re Nearing Academic Probation

For many schools, students reach academic probation when they allow their GPA to slip below 2.0. Academic probation is a safety measure to ensure that you can complete your academic requirements. You might be switched to a part-time student until you can pull your grades back up.

Academic probation doesn’t look good on your transcript. If you’re contemplating whether to take a W or potentially face academic probation, going with the former may prove better for you in the future.

3. Your Other Classes Are Slipping

In an attempt to salvage your grade in the class you’re worried about, have you let other classes slip? Do you find yourself choosing to complete some assignments over others? You should be able to prioritize all of your classes and their respective due dates rather than choosing between them.

If your other grades are suffering while you’re trying to save your at-risk class, consider withdrawing from it. One class isn’t worth letting all of your other grades slip. Withdrawing from one class won’t affect your GPA, but allowing all of your grades to fall while you manage too many classes will only influence you negatively.

When Does Withdrawing From a Class Look Bad?

Because a W has no effect on your GPA, you shouldn’t worry too much about withdrawing from one class. If you take too many Ws on your transcript, you might face academic probation or raise the eyebrows of graduate schools. Still, what matters most is your GPA. If withdrawing from a class will help improve your GPA, especially if you take that class again and come out stronger, you can prove that you needed to withdraw from the initial class to better your academic career.

As long as you have a worthwhile reason for withdrawing from a class, you can argue that the W on your transcript was essential in keeping yourself in good standing and ending your undergraduate career with a high GPA. One or two withdrawals shouldn’t affect your chances of getting a good job or acceptance into grad school. 

So, does withdrawing from a class look bad? Only if you make a habit of it. The decision is yours to make, so being knowledgeable about the withdrawal process can help you make the best choice for your future if the situation arises.

Written By