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Fold or Hold? When to Drop a Course, or Stay and Complete It


Simplify your life. This is one thing we’d all like to achieve in order to reduce our stress load at the end of the day. For online learners it may be a tall order to fill. It is complicated if you’re a full-time student with a job and a family to take care for. Some things will become lower priority, school for example, in order to achieve some kind of order. If you are a committed student, being non-committal to your program is the wrong move to make. When you are thinking about dropping a course to make your schedule simpler, consider what you’re missing out on first.

Each school has a course drop policy where in the first week you are not penalized for dropping. After this time it’s considered a withdrawal when you leave a class. Make sure you know your university’s policies before you take that next step. Here are some definitions of a course drop from American Public University System:

  • Course Drop: Any drop of the course prior to the end of the first week of class using the online form provided.
  • Course Withdrawal: Any drop of the course after the end of week one using the online form provided.
  • End of Week One: 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time of the first Sunday of the course.
  • Drop or Withdrawal Date: This is the date you submitted the online “Drop/Withdrawal from Course” form, the date you contacted the Registrar’s office with your official request by email or voicemail, or, for Army students, the date you dropped your registration in Go Army Ed.
  • SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress): One measure used to determine eligibility for both federal student aid and for graduation. Withdrawals impact SAP, as they count against your maximum cap of 150% of courses attempted vs. courses successfully passed.

Direct impacts of a drop would be financial aid award loss, and course access. For a withdrawal, you can expect a “W” on your transcript, lack of progress in your SAP, and no course access. The main blow would be to your progress in your program. If you are looking to excel and advance within your degree or certificate you need to move forward. Before you drop or withdraw from a course ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you dropping due to a personal scheduling conflict?
  • Did you register for too many courses?
  • Have you changed your mind about school altogether?
  • Is the course more difficult than you anticipated?
  • Is it a motivation issue?

Sometimes the top reason for dropping a course is lack of motivation. You may not have the support you need at home, and can’t find the time to allot to studying. There’s also the intimidation factor. The syllabus looks like a lot of work, and you don’t think you have the time to dedicate to it. If these are the reasons, then you should consult with your advisor first. It could just be cold feet. You can work on building a support team from peers in your class, your advisor, and other students in your community through school pages on Facebook. There is not a shortage of cheerleaders for you in cyberspace, it’s up to you to make that initial interaction.

If the issue is monetary, or health issues you should still reach out to your advisor. The goal is to finish your degree, or obtain new knowledge to complement career goals, right? There will always be obstacles in life, but if you put a plan in place that makes it possible to achieve your goals in education then it makes the transition easier. An advisor can help you revise your academic plan, and share options of how to make it work in terms of funding your education or how to get back to school after a major illness.

The advising department at American Public University System makes a special note to students to say that,”academic advisors are here to support students in achieving their goals. Before dropping or withdrawing from a course a student should discuss with their advisor so they understand and know the impact of this decision. Their advisor can also help them understand what other options are available to them such as a course extension.”

Give a course drop, or withdrawal, some serious thought. Education can be a major contributor to your future, and career. It is  more than a split second decision.

By J. Mason
Online Learning Tips Editor



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