Tag Archives: fail

CollegeQandA asks: How bad is it to drop a class?

What does it mean to drop a class?

Parachute dropDropping a course means removing that course from your schedule before certain dates such that you will not get a traditional letter grade in the course that impacts your overall record, and there might be some monetary refund (if you pay per course).  Depending on dates at your university, a dropped course might appear on your transcript (official record) as dropped, and you might not get any money back.

Typically, in the early part of a semester (first few weeks depending on the university), you can drop a course with no transcript record or cost.  Later in the semester (normally before the half-way point) you can drop the course and this tends to be recorded with an annotation such as “dropped”, “withdrawn – W”, or something similar.  Also, this later type of drop usually does not result in any refund.  Check your universities “academic calendar” that should list these specific dates.

Why would you drop a course?

First off, most early drops are done because a student is still adjusting their schedule and figuring out what their course preference is for the semester.  These types of drops are minor in the big scheme of dropping, so I won’t deal with them and let’s move on to the other types.

Withdrawals later in the semester are the types of drops we are really talking about.  The first factor in dropping is can you drop?  There are different university rules for full-time standing, financial aid, scholarships, staying on campus, etc. which can impact your situation.  Depending on your course load dropping a course can have repercussions beyond academics, so be knowledgeable about the rules for your case.

If you can drop, then the question is should you?  From a repercussion stand point, dropping means that you potentially will delay graduation, which in turn means it may cost you more to complete your degree.  For example, dropping can result in a prerequisite challenge where you can’t take other courses since you are missing the prerequisite, and beware that there are things called prerequisite chains where course A is needed for course B is needed for course C and so on.

On the other hand, you are usually dropping a course because the workload and likelihood of success are, respectively, big and bad.  Given your circumstances, continuing in the course will have a significant impact on your grades, and as little a fan I am of grades, “F” and “D” are not good letters to have on your transcript (“F” is way worse than “D”).  My question as an adviser to students in this situation is, why are you on the edge of failure – knowing that it is probably because you haven’t been continually working on the course.

All sorts of things happen in life that can result in needing to drop a course.  Beyond delaying graduation, what impact might this have on your career?  My perspective is that a few drops have no impact on your career.  An interviewer might ask you why you dropped course X, but these can should be able to be easily explained.  For example, I was overwhelmed that semester and chose to drop that course.  However, multiple withdrawals of the same course Y or a large number of withdrawals can be a red flags for recruiters.

Bottom line

Drop a course if you have to.  Life will throw curve balls that make this choice completely reasonable given your situation.  It’s not a sign of failure, personal value, or anything other than you dropped a course.  Just beware of the rules and repercussions, and try to stay with each of your courses from day one so that this is not an issue.

Credits: photo by: Program Executive Office Soldier; title: Maneuverable Canopy (MC) Personnel Parachute System


CollegeQandA asks: What is the difference between high school and college?

What is the difference between high school and college – Are they different?

Yes.  Let me highlight a few reasons why, and how the transition can be challenging for many students.

highschoolFirst, the most common idea in popular cultures is that of the: First-year 15 (more usually called the freshman 15, but I’m against the word “freshman”) – the idea that your grades will go down by 15 points and your weight will go up by 15 pounds.  I suffered from only one of the two in my first-year, and I didn’t gain any weight.

Your life

The first major change, independent of the academics, is the life change (for most people).  Until now, many of you have relied on your family to do much of the “life stuff” – laundry, food, bills, doctor, etc.  University life is a first-step, though still sheltered, into you running your own life and becoming an adult.  This includes the all important You choose when, what, and where to be since it is Your life.  Nobody is responsible for you attending class, getting your homework done, sleeping, eating, showering, etc.  The great freedom you have been searching for is now here, but you now have to take full responsibility for your actions.  This includes legal consequences for breaking the law.

University vs. High School teachers

Another major difference is that the people that teach you have different responsibilities in university versus high school.  In both cases, the teachers want you to do well and achieve great things, but in high school your teachers see you 5 days a week and they have a much tighter relationship in your learning process.  They can check if you have done your work each day and are progressing in learning.

Let’s assume that you spend 6 hours a day in high school equaling 30 hours a week.  In college you will have between 12 to 20 hours a week of class/lab/studio time with an instructor (not necessarily the professor).  The expectation is that instead of in-class learning, that much of your new found free time will be spent studying.  College classes are, likely, larger than your high school classes, meaning the professor has less time to spend with you.

The major crux, though, is that a college professor has no responsibility to give you a passing grade just because you attended.  A college course sets a bar of success that you must satisfy, and depending on your demonstration you will be graded accordingly.  High school teachers, on the other hand, are pushed to make sure you pass your course, and to move you on through the system.

Is that it?

Those are just two reasons why the two institutions are different.  There are many more, but keep in mind that the biggest step in succeeding at this transition is you getting organized, disciplined, and working hard.  I have seen many people avoid the first-year 15.  Also, minor hiccups in this transition are not the end of the world.  Try and avoid a disastrous first year (failing courses) since this will cost you both financially and academically.


Photo from creative common license: City of Boston Archives;  titled: Roslindale High School – Exterior View 1, Poplar St., Roslindale, Boston, MA. School building photographs circa 1920-1960 (Collection # 0403.002)