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Dropping Classes in College: Yea or Nay?


student in a classroom, girl yawningThe idea of dropping a class in college is one that seems to polarize people. Some view it as the easy way out, a cowardly move for students who don’t want to work too hard in school. Many others, however, see it as a perfectly viable option to fall back on, feeling more comfortable knowing that there is a safety net in case they happen to get in over their heads.

Before college, you likely had much less control over your own class schedule, so the option of dropping classes may be relatively new if you are a freshman. Here are a few things you should consider before deciding on dropping a class in college.

Do you really want to be taking this class?

If you are really interested in the subject, go for it. Don’t let the prospect of a bad grade deter you from making the most of your college experience and learning as much as you can. Even if you feel lost in class or think the material is too difficult and may result in getting a grade that lowers your GPA, who cares? All that matters is that you are getting what you want out of this class.

High school may have been all about getting the perfect GPA to get into your dream school, but that is no longer the case in college. Even if you are considering applying to grad school, admissions officers would likely rather see you challenge yourself than get straight A’s by taking easy classes.

That being said, if you are on a scholarship that requires a certain GPA or if you think the work will be so difficult that it will detract from your performance in other classes, you may want to reconsider, or take the class pass/fail (see below).

Is this class required for your major?

If the class is a requirement for your major, you’re going to have to take it at one point or another. If you think the problem is that you aren’t prepared for the material yet, then dropping the class for now may be the right decision – as long as you remember to register for it in a later semester!

If you think you’re as prepared as you’ll ever be, however, you’d be wise to tough it out rather than put it off. You never want to wait too long to complete your required classes, or you may find yourself off-track to graduate college on time.

Is there an option to take the class pass/fail?

Before you think about dropping a class altogether, you should be aware that you may have the option to take it pass/fail. This means that, rather than receiving a letter grade that may lower your GPA, you will either pass the class and receive credit or fail the class and receive no credit.

Each college has its own rules and protocols when it comes to taking classes pass/fail, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your school’s policies. There may be some restrictions, such as the number of classes you can take pass/fail and whether or not you can take classes in your major pass/fail.

Weigh the pros and cons.

Think about what you have to lose by seeing this class out to the end rather than dropping it, and compare it to what you stand to gain. Your GPA may be adversely affected if you stick with the class and don’t do as well as you’d like, but is that enough to outweigh the knowledge you are likely to gain or the perseverance and work ethic you are likely to develop from facing this challenging material head on?

In many cases, you will find that the potential benefits of trudging through the class outweigh the potential setbacks.

College is all about growth and facing new challenges. It’s good to struggle sometimes. You may just surprise yourself with how well you do in the end.

So rather than dropping a class outright at the first sign of troublesome material, weigh your options and consider all you stand to gain, rather than just thinking about what you stand to lose. In some cases, dropping a class may be the right decision, but try to save this option as a last resort for extreme situations.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you do not allow dropping classes to interfere with your progress and ability to stay on-track and succeed in college.



2 Responses to “Dropping Classes in College: Yea or Nay?”

  1. Dan Says:

    In my sophomore year, I ended up with a literary criticism professor who didn’t believe in providing guidelines for the papers he assigned — at least, not until he graded them, and told you what you did wrong (without knowing what could have been done right). After flailing blindly through a few essays — learning very little in the process — I dropped the class.

    I took the same class the following semester, this time with a different professor. Not only was it one of my favorite classes, but I went on to take four more of that professor’s courses, and he even became my academic adviser.

    Moral of the story: Dropping a class doesn’t mean you’re giving up on it forever; sometimes you just need to come at it from a different angle.

  2. The Professor Says:

    Sometimes dropping a course can have long lasting consequences. For example, in the state of Texas, students are only allowed to drop a total of 6 courses during their entire college career in state schools.

    For some students, that may mean that the “pick and choose” attitude that they had while trying to find themselves at the local community college will come back to haunt them when they finally get it together and head to a full fledged university. They might find themselves in a course they didn’t bargain for when they get to said university and be unable to drop it. The consequences: typically, that student will have to accept a failing grade and retake the course, losing valuable time and money in the process.

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