does withdrawing from a class look bad

“Does Withdrawing from a Class Look Bad?”

The question does withdrawing from a class look bad? is one that pre medical students have been asking themselves for years. With so much pressure to get into medical school, it’s not surprising that many people are worried about what this does to their application. The good news is there are some things you can do to make your withdrawal better than a fail, and in this article I’ll cover them!

Taking a withdrawal vs a failing grade

The main difference between a withdrawal and a failing grade is that with the “W” you can show some foresight into what was going on in your life at the time – which does not look good.

The “W” does show to admissions committees that there was something going on which caused stress or made them withdraw from school.

There are a lot of reasons why you might withdraw from class, and with the right explanation it can be a good thing.

What does withdrawing look like to admissions committees?

When admissions officers see that someone withdrew from classes, they will first think about what was going on in their life at the time. You want your withdrawal reason to be something that does not look bad, like you were experiencing a lot of stress or had family problems.

You want to have accountability for your actions in withdrawing from class and know why it’s best for you. Make sure that if admissions officers see “W”s on your transcript they also read the explanation and what was going on at the time.

More than one withdrawal can be bad, but you might not need to withdraw from every class that does not work with your schedule!

Failing a class is pretty self explanatory right?

Straight up failing a class doesn’t look good, and I would argue that if you have the choice of having a single fail or a single “W” on your transcript, I would choose to have the “W” every single time.

If you can choose, take a “W” over a fail, but just make sure that you have a good explanation for why you took the “w”.

does withdrawing from a class look bad

Does a “W” have an effect on your grade point average

No, a withdrawal does not affect your grade point average. However, if you have a “W” on your transcript for one class and then fail another it does.

If you withdraw from any given semester’s worth of classes without the intention to return back next semester or in future semesters, that is considered as withdrawing with intent to never come back and does affect your grade point average.

A withdrawal does not have an impact on a GPA, but failing does and you want to avoid that if possible – so just make sure you don’t fail any classes!

GPA is affected by courses in which you actually get a grade in, and having a “w” won’t have an effect on your GPA in general.

Will a “W” ruin your college career, and chance at med school?

The simple answer is no, a single “W” won’t ruin your chances at med school or your college career. This does not mean you should withdraw from classes.

This does not have an effect on your GPA, and does not count against you in admissions committees as long as it is the only “W” that appears on your transcript.

If you have consistent withdrawals, meaning multiple in a semester or even worse taking 1 or 2 of them each year throughout your undergrad education, then that starts to look bad to admissions committees.

A single “W” or even a few in the same semester, if accompanied by a decent explanation can show your maturity and insight.

Can a withdrawal cause issues with your financial aid

The short answer is yes.

Withdrawing can cause problems with your financial aid because it does count as dropping out and will affect an FAFSA (the form undergraduates fill out to apply for financial aid).

If you are withdrawing from a class due to personal reasons or family issues, you are still eligible for federal financial aid.

A “W” does not count as a dropped course. A student can drop out of school and will have to pay back their loans or work with the department that issued them some type of plan because they no longer are considered in good standing with the university – this does not happen when withdrawing from a class.

If you are going to withdraw from a course, make sure that does not happen more than once – otherwise it does become an issue when applying for financial aid.

Fact of the matter is though, that every institution may handle this concern differently, so if you are concerned about your financial aid, before you withdraw you should go and talk to the financial aid office and get the answers from them.

Dropping a class too late

If you drop a class too late, you can still get an “F”, which does not look good to admissions committees but does need to be noted.

If you are going for a science-based degree and have some lab classes that require hands on learning of techniques or skills, then if you withdraw from a class too close to the due date it may not be feasible to get a lab grade.

If you withdraw too close to the due date, it does not look good and may negatively affect your chances at med school or in general college admissions.

Dropping classes does count as withdrawing – just make sure that if you are going to take the “W”, then do so before the withdrawal deadline for that semester.

A single “W” does not negatively affect your chances at med school or going to college in general, but does need to be noted when applying for schools and scholarships. It does give admissions committees an idea of how you handle stress or pressure situations – so if it is accompanied with a good explanation then that can actually improve your chance of being accepted.

Most courses/ schools have a deadline for when you can drop a course and not get a W, be sure to know that deadline, because if you drop the course before that deadline it is essentially as if you never were in the course.

Dropping after that deadline is what is considered “late” and is the main cause for getting a “W” on your transcript.

does withdrawing from a class look bad

Taking a withdrawal in just one course

This is a common question that does come up and the answer does depend on where you are in your undergraduate education.

If you are a freshman, then it is better to take one withdrawal as opposed to getting an “F” in that course – because of college transcripts which use letter grades instead of numbers for GPA calculation. As long as the rest of your grades are pretty good, then it does not matter that much if one grade is a “W”.

If you have been in college for awhile and have taken many withdrawals already or even failed courses before, the admissions committee may look at your application differently than someone who has never had to withdraw.

A single “F” does count as failing – a “W” does not.

If you are withdrawing from a class, make sure that it does not happen more than once – otherwise the admissions committee may interpret this as something negative about your mental health or how well you handle stress and pressure in general.

The admission board does take into account if an applicant withdrew from one course/class and does not have a good explanation for it.

Most of the time, it does not matter if you withdraw from one class – but does start to become an issue when applicants have more than one “W”.

If your school does offer a withdrawal pass, then that is the best option.

This does allow students to get out of withdrawing and can be given for any course. If they do give this type of pass out, they may only be available for a special event or specific date and does not last the whole semester.

If you are given one of these passes then it does make the “W” on your transcript go away – so if you do withdraw from more than one class in that same semester, this is an option to get rid of the withdrawal on your transcript.

Is it better to fail a class or withdraw

Hands down it is better to withdraw from a class than to fail.

If you are in the process of withdrawing and it does not look like the withdrawal is going to be possible, then do what it takes to make sure that you complete the course or at least get some sort of grade for that semester. This does mean staying after school for tutoring sessions – even if they are unpaid.

It is a better option to take a W for a course then to straight up fail the class.

An example of this situation would be if there is a death in the immediate family, or your house got flooded, or something similar to those events. Those might take so much of your emotional focus and time that you can’t focus on school, so taking the W in those situations with that explanation is a better option than getting an F.

It is best not not have either on your transcript, but if you do get forced with the decision between them, take the W for sure.

What does withdrawing from a class do

Withdrawing from a class creates a situation where if it is done after a deadline for withdrawal, then it will put a “W” on your transcript for that course.

If you drop the class before the withdrawal deadline, then you won’t have to deal with the “W” on your transcript, it will be as if you weren’t ever enrolled in the course.

What does withdrawal from one class do, does it have an impact? The answer is yes and no.

It does not matter if you withdraw from one course or many courses as long as the withdrawals were done before the deadline for that particular college/school – because before that deadline does not count.

Does a withdrawal show up on your transcript?

The answer to this depends on the deadline for withdrawal from your school.

It would be better to withdraw early in the semester than wait until after exams – because those are when the deadlines are.

If you withdraw after the deadline, does a withdrawal show up on your transcript? It does put a “W” for withdrawals after the deadline and does not count as any type of grade in that class – but it does show up on transcripts.

It is better to take care of this before the semester ends.

If you do end up doing a withdrawal, make sure that it does not happen more than once.

What does your academic advisor say

You should also talk to your advisor about withdrawing .

There are some schools that have withdrawal passes, and these can be applied for any course – but does not last the whole semester. If you do get one of those withdrawals then it does make “w” on your transcript go away if you withdraw more than once in that same semester.

If you are in the process of withdrawing and does not seem like it is going to work out, then do what it takes to make sure that you complete the course or at least get some kind of grade for that semester. Sometimes toughing it out and sticking with it can be a good option, and a lot of medical school admission committees would like to hear the story of how you overcame the thing that almost made you withdrawal from courses.

It is a better option to take a W for a course then to straight up fail the class.

Most of the times your academic advisor will have a decent opinion or fund of knowledge when it comes to situations like this one, so be sure to ask them what their thoughts are, especially on how it will effect your chances at getting into medical school.

Do other students commonly take “w’s” on their transcript.

I wouldn’t say that other students “commonly” do this, but there are some students that need to take the W as opposed to stay in the course and fail.

The important thing to note is that you aren’t the only one out there that would have a W on your medical school application transcript.

There will undoubtedly be other students applying to medical school that will have a W or two on their transcript as well.

Community college withdrawal vs University

There isn’t a difference.

A withdrawal from a community college is the same as withdrawing from a university.

The only difference, in this instance, would be if you had to pay for tuition at a specific institution and does not get that money back when it comes time for withdrawals.

Just make sure that what you are doing does not negatively impact your ability to graduate on time – because that does matter when it comes down to how your application does.

Graduate school/Medical School and W’s

Does withdrawing from a class look bad to higher education? The answer is yes and no.

Withdrawing does not look bad to graduate school and does not show up on your transcripts, as long as it was done before the withdrawal deadline.

The same applies for medical school because withdrawing does not count as a grade, but it will be noted that you withdraw from the course with a “W” sign next to the letter or number of credits in this case (if done after the deadline) – so make sure that you talk about why you withdrew if does show up on your transcript.

Most post graduate programs like medical school and other graduate programs won’t be too concerned about 1 or 2 withdrawals, but if it is a recurring thing then they will for sure bring it up during your interview.


 I hope this article has given you a lot of insight into whether withdrawing from classes looks bad or not. It can be an uncomfortable decision, but it is important to remember that sometimes–depending on your personality and what you are trying to accomplish in life–it may just make sense for you. If the answer is yes, go ahead! You will likely feel better when the process is over with anyways. Have you withdrawn from a class before?

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