Should You Withdraw or Take the F?

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May 31st, 2009

We’ve all had rough semesters, during which there’s that one course that we know is going to absolutely destroy our college life. For those courses, sometimes it gets down to the question of whether or not to cut our losses. Do we withdraw as early as possible? Or do we take the F? Sometimes, this question can be exceedingly stressful to answer, as it requires that you understand university academic policy fairly well. There are dates to consider. There are withdrawal policies, GPA worries, financial aid and scholarship implications, and so on. Navigating this web of policies can be tough. Fortunately, you can figure this stuff out once you understand the basic purpose of each mark on your grade record.

Below, I’ve tried to explain as best I could the basics behind each decision; however, before making up your mind, you should definitely check the specifics of your particular school’s policy. Seek out the advice of an academic advisor or faculty mentor. Your transcript is a very important academic record; you don’t want a silly decision to mess it up.

Okay, first of all, a W, or withdrawal from a course, generally means that you left the course in good academic standing. In other words, you were passing the course. However, you left the course after the no-penalty drop/add period ended, so the university will place a W on your transcript. This is not a mark against you. However, in order to keep students from continuously dropping courses well into the semester, many universities put a limit on the amount of Ws you can have on your transcript during your academic career at the institution. Use your Ws wisely. Know that they have no bearing on your GPA, and therefore do not give you credits towards your degree requirements.

For that reason, Ws can hurt your chances at receiving financial aid and scholarships, many of which require you to have a certain number of credits each semester in order to continue receiving funds. This is when you might consider taking an F in a course. Certainly an F will hurt your GPA, but if you have a very strong batch of other grades, you’ll be able to soften the blow and still maintain your funding situation. While they look ugly on a transcript, sometimes Fs are necessary if you keep in mind your overall academic situation.

Good luck with your decision and remember to always check your university’s academic policies carefully before deciding to drop a course or take an F.

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