Does Dropping A Class Affect Your GPA?

If you’re a high school student struggling with a class, you might wonder whether you should drop it. Students rightly worry that dropping a class could affect their GPA, college prospects, and even job opportunities down the line. But the situation is more complicated than that: there can be good, strategic reasons to drop a class as well.

Dropping a class in the middle of the semester can be stressful. So, should you drop your class? In this post, we’ll provide you with the necessary background information to help you can make the right academic choice for yourself. 

What Are the Consequences of Dropping a Class?

Students are rightly concerned about the potential consequences of dropping a class and if it will affect their GPA. You might wonder what college will think of you if you drop one of your classes or if your admissions chances will be affected. 

Depending on your situation, withdrawing from a class could affect your future. For instance, if you need the dropped class to graduate or if you don’t have enough credits for the academic semester, dropping a class could delay your graduation—and students with graduation delays can have a harder time getting into their schools of choice. 

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Students should also consider the value of the course they’re dropping. A dropped class my contain fundamental information you need to learn before going to college and missing that information could negatively impact you.  

There are a range of factors to consider when dropping a class, but for most students, dropping a single course won’t be a big problem. But we’ll get into that more later on. 

Are There Any Benefits to Dropping A Class?

There are potential problems with dropping a class, but there can also be benefits. Especially if you’re failing a class or just doing poorly, dropping one class could actually improve your GPA and help you maintain your grades, since the dropped class won’t bring down your GPA anymore. 

Dropping a difficult class that you don’t need to graduate can also improve your mental health, which could improve your performance in other courses, in addition to being a goal in its own right. Whether you’ll enjoy these sorts of benefits depends on your specific situation, so each student should weigh the pros and cons. But, if you think you’ll can do better in your other classes after dropping a particularly challenging course, this might be the right choice for you.

How Do Colleges Actually View Dropped Classes?

While colleges don’t encourage prospective applicants to withdraw from courses, a failing grade can look even worse to a college than a withdrawal. To better anticipate how colleges might react to a withdrawal, consider the college you’re applying to and your academic goals. If you have mostly A’s and then you get a C or lower in a class, that low grade might stand out more than a dropped course. In this situation, it might actually be better to drop the class.

A strategic withdrawal especially makes sense if you’re applying to prestigious universities and want to maintain a perfect GPA. Highly selective colleges want to see higher grades and will therefore mind the dropped course less. But avoid having too many dropped courses on your transcript. If colleges see many withdrawals, it may seem like you give up easily when faced with academic challenges.

Are There Other Options Besides Dropping a Class?

Don’t be too quick to drop a class. While colleges won’t necessarily penalize you for a dropped course, it’s still better to avoid it if possible. Needless to say, the best option remains—if possible—raising your grade. If you’re struggling in a course but still have time to study more and improve your grades, talk to your teacher and see what can be done. Most teachers are happy to provide extra credit opportunities if they believe you’re making a good-faith effort to improve.

But, if you’ve already tried putting in the extra effort and you’re still failing, it’s probably better to just drop the class, especially if it’s close to the end of the semester. So, be realistic and determine how much you can plausibly improve your grade before deciding to drop the class.

Rather than simply dropping a class, you might transfer to a less demanding course. You might, for example, move from an AP or honors class to a regular class. With this option, you might even get a better grade. 

Other Factors to Consider

When dropping a class, consider the timing. Your school might have a deadline for dropping classes, after which, rather than getting a W (for “Withdrew”) on your transcript, you instead receive a low or failing grade. 

Before dropping a class, you should also consider your high school’s graduation requirements. If you need the class to graduate, dropping it could significantly affect your ability to get into college. You might have to retake the course later on, an, in the worst-case scenario, you might not graduate on time—or at all. That obviously looks bad on your application, especially if you’ve dropped other classes before. 

However, if you are failing a class, and you don’t need it to graduate, you can generally drop that class safely and eliminate your concerns about how dropping a class will affect your GPA. Sometimes, students have too much on their plate and need more time to focus on other classes. Dropping a problematic class can give you breathing room without causing your GPA to suffer. Just make sure to talk to your academic advisor to make sure there are no issues.  

At HelloCollege, we know how difficult it can be to prepare for college and aim to make the process as simple and easy as possible. We want to help you get accepted into the university of your dreams!

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The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
Kevin Krebs - Founder of HelloCollege

About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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