Dropping a Class: The Dos and Don’ts

Many students get to a point, especially in their first semester,  where they have to decide whether they’re going to power through a class or give up and drop it. For many years students would take the majority of a difficult course, drop it and save their notes for the next term. However, over the years professors figured this out and will often change key aspects of the course so that students have one shot at a passing score. On the other hand, some students honestly didn’t know what they were getting into when they signed up for a class or simply weren’t ready for the material or the time commitment required. So what are the essential rules of dropping a class in college?


Do: Always make the decision to drop a class after sleeping on it.

Students who get overly stressed will often run down to the registrar’s office and drop a class after getting one bad test grade. 99% of such students painfully regret that they dropped the class when they later find out that they could have completed an extra credit assignment or that the ‘D’ they received on their exam was only worth 2% on the final class grade. Students who are considering dropping university level courses should always sleep on it to make sure that their decision is an informed one and not made out of anxiety (READ: “5 Things Successful Students Never Say”).

Do: Talk to the professor prior to making a final decision.

If a student is truly struggling, professors will be able to sit down during office hours and talk about the student’s chance of passing the class. If the professor already knows that the best possible final grade a student could get is a ‘C’, and that they are at risk for failing, they will communicate this. In this case dropping may be a good option. Always talk to the professor beforehand.

Don’t: Don’t re-enroll in the same class without figuring out what went wrong the first time around.

Signing up for the same class next semester without doing additional research will generally result in another low final grade. Students who need to repeat a class should do research on the subject, consult a private tutor, and make sure that they are in line for an A or B grade prior to signing up for a second time.

Do: Find out what the long-term repercussions will be for dropping the class.

Think about how this will look to potential employers or on a graduate school application. For example, Students who drop a class one week after they enrolled can easily explain that it simply didn’t fit into their schedule or the description of the class was not what they were expecting. However, students who drop a class on the last possible date may have some explaining to do (READ: “6 Ways to Spend February Break”).

Don’t: It’s not necessary to share the reason for dropping a class with classmates.

Certainly classmates will notice a friend’s absence from the drop date forward and will be curious. However, it’s generally not a good idea to talk about the intricate details of deciding to drop a course. A student’s reasons for their individual academic path are their own.

Do: Always find out if the exact course will need to be repeated.

For example, if a student is thinking about dropping Math 101 during their freshman year it’s extremely likely that they will have to take Math 101 a second time. On the other hand, if a student wants to drop Anthropology 203, it’s very possible that they will be able to find an alternate class to fill their science credit requirement (READ: “Extra Curricular Activities For Your College Resume”).

Do: Find out if the same class can be taken with a different professor.

Many students drop a class not just because of the subject matter but because they find the professor’s assignments to be overly difficult. If the subject matter is within a student’s grasp but the professor’s personality is not a good match, the student is advised to find out if they can take the same course with a different professor next term. If this is the only professor that teaches the specific course, students may decide to simply power through the class, pass it and be done.

In short

With the exception of dropping a class within the first week due to scheduling issues, it’s important for college students to weigh the various options, benefits, and repercussions when they decide to drop a course – if you’re still not sure, talk to your Orange County college consultant. There are both pros and cons to dropping a course and it’s a decision that should not be made lightly.

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