Should You Drop a Course? How to Decide

Learn the deadlines and procedures, and how to make an informed decision, about dropping a course.

If you’re considering dropping a course, you’ll need to know the drop deadlines and how to take action to remove the course from your schedule. In addition, it’s a good idea to think about the academic and financial implications of dropping before you make a decision.

Deadlines and Procedures

You can find all of the important dates and deadlines for the spring 2017 semester in the spring 2017 academic calendar.

You can drop a course from your schedule using LionPATH. Fees and tuition penalties may apply depending on when you drop the course, and dropping may affect your eligibility for financial aid. Complete details are available on our website.

Making an Informed Decision

Dropping a course may be the optimum solution for you after considering the academic and financial implications of this decision. But you may not want to take action too hastily and regret it later.  Making an informed decision will eliminate surprises, and you may even find a way to successfully complete the course.

Here are some factors that Penn State World Campus academic advisers recommend you consider before dropping a course:

Feedback: If you are receiving lower grades than expected and you’re not sure why, reach out to your instructors for additional feedback. They may be able to provide some guidance to improve the quality of your work. Instructors may also guide you to additional resources to supplement your course.

Grades: It is important to understand your grading system and how much of your total grade is impacted by lower grades on one or more assignments. For example, it could be that you do well on writing assignments and poorly on quizzes. So, understanding that quizzes may not have a major impact on the total grade is meaningful information while you are working on skills to improve taking quizzes.

Do you know what grade you need in the course for it to count toward your degree requirements? Some courses require a C or higher, while others may allow for a lower grade. Before dropping a course, you may want to know if the grade you need is still achievable.

Time: Time plays many roles in a decision to drop a course. One consideration is how early you realize that you need some help or support in the course. The sooner this need is identified, the better chance you have to recover and complete the course. If you are well into the semester and you have been struggling the entire time, it may be too late to make adjustments to pass the course.

Also, have you spent enough time on the course? A general rule is 3-4 hours per week for each credit that you have on your schedule, for 15-week courses. So you may need to spend 9-12 hours per week on one 3-credit course. Your adviser can discuss time management skills and help you create a plan for allocating enough time to your studies.

The third timing consideration may be that something unforeseen is now taking more of your time and leaving you with less time to devote to your courses. You may need to lessen your course load to be able to devote more time to the remaining course(s).

Resources: Have you explored resources to help with the course? There may be tutoring, note taking and studying techniques, library services, disability services, and other resources that an adviser can discuss with you. And your course may include virtual review sessions or other ways to enhance your knowledge. We can help you explore resources only if you reach out to us!

Course Impact: How does dropping this course impact your academic progress? There are some courses that are entrance-to-major requirements or prerequisites for other courses. If you are considering dropping a course, it is good to have a conversation with an adviser to understand how this may impact your next semester schedule or finishing your degree by an intended date. This will allow you to understand the impact and plan for the adjustment. Knowing the course impact may also help in deciding between dropping two courses in which one has impact on your progress and the other does not affect your ability to stay on track.

Cost: Starting on the first day of classes, there are costs that are nonrefundable when you drop the course. If you are using financial aid, dropping a course may also impact your aid. It is important to understand the financial considerations before dropping the course.

To recap, if you know things are not going well, don’t wait to reach out for help. Don’t be afraid to contact your instructor to discuss your grades or a situation affecting your work. Contact your adviser to talk through the difficulties, explore options, and understand the academic impact of dropping the course. Contact financial aid and/or the bursar’s office if you are unclear about the financial impact of your decision to drop a course. Once you are informed, you can then move forward with the decision that works best for you!

by Academic Advising and Registrar Staff

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