Ask Wesleying: Withdrawing and Worried

Welcome to the second installment of Ask Wesleying, an advice column about any and all things Wes! Have a question about life at Wes? Submit it to get it answered in Ask Wesleying! You can find all of the Ask Wesleying columns here.

This week’s question is about withdrawing from a class after drop-add ends:

Dear Wesleying,

Is it a bad idea to drop a course in my first semester? Will it be hard to catch up on credits? Will it look bad?

Withdrawing and Worried

You can read the answer to this week’s question below the jump!

Dear Withdrawing and Worried,

In typical Wesleyan student fashion, I’m replying to you instead of working on my midterms (I put the “pro” in “procrastinate”). It’s a busy time of year, and it seems like everyone is having to face the fact that perhaps they took on too much this semester. You’re certainly in good company.

I want to commend you for even considering withdrawing from a course, as it can be hard to admit that you’re having trouble with your academics at all. That being said, there’s a few things you might consider trying before dropping a course:

Have you gone to your professor’s office hours and discussed your struggles with their course?

It can feel scary to admit to your professor that you’re having trouble. However, your professor can provide the best idea of how you’re actually doing in their course, since they’re the one assessing your performance. They can also work with you to address areas of difficulty now, so that you can catch back up by the end of the semester if you are falling behind.

Have you been attending TA sessions and office hours? 

Sometimes, the reason why a class feels overwhelming is that you aren’t prioritizing getting help on the material. If you haven’t been a regular at TA sessions/office hours, you may want to try attending some before deciding to drop the course entirely. You may find that you can be successful with a little more hands-on help!

Have you gone to your class dean’s office hours?

Class Deans can be very helpful in working out a plan to get your academics back on track, connecting you with resources, helping you communicate with your professors about extensions on assignments/incompletes in courses/other academic accommodations, and guiding you through the withdrawal process if you end up deciding to withdraw. I have used my dean to support my requests for extensions on assignments, taking an incomplete in a course when I was facing health issues, and withdrawing from a course when I just had too much on my plate.

In addition, a little-known resource on campus is the Dean’s Peer Tutoring Program, which is a free resource that pairs you with a paid student tutor on campus who has taken the course you need help with. Your dean can help connect you to this program and come up with other ways to support you as you try to work through a challenging academic situation. You can learn about requesting a tutor here and here (you’ll need to have met with your professor already, so make sure you do that first).

Have you reached out to your Academic Peer Advisors?

Wesleyan also offers a great resource called Academic Peer Advisors, who are juniors and seniors trained to meet with students and offer advice and assistance with study skills, building healthy work habits, time management, course selection, and more! They can serve a role similar to that of your class dean, but sometimes it can feel less scary to go to a fellow student rather than an administrator.

Have you met with CAPS?

Chances are if you’re considering withdrawing from a course, you’re at least facing severe stress, and you may be experiencing other mental health challenges as well. CAPS is a great resource to express how you’re feeling, work on skills and techniques to help you cope with your situation, and get you the help you need to be a successful student and person in the world.


Though it may seem like I’ve been trying to talk you out of withdrawing, it really is okay to drop a class or two over the course of your academic career. Just make sure you do it by the deadline, which is Friday, November 30 at 5 PM this semester. It really boils down to why you want to withdraw and what consequences you’re willing to live with if you do withdraw.

It’s important to take account of your priorities. If you’re like most Wesleyan students, you likely don’t just go to class, do homework, eat meals, and sleep. You probably also do extracurricular activities, work-study jobs, socialize, and more. We harp on the Rule of Seven a lot in your first few weeks at Wes, but in reality, almost no one sticks to doing only 7 things. (I certainly don’t!) I’m not going to say that academics should be prioritized over everything else that you do—that’s unrealistic, patronizing, and assumes that everyone has the privilege of having academics as their primary concern during their college years—but at the end of the day, you are at Wesleyan to take classes and get a degree.

Maybe being successful in your academics means dropping a student group or two, maybe it means changing your work shifts to make more effective study blocks in your schedule, maybe it means combining your social time with meals and going out less on the weekends. Before dropping a class, it’s worth making a list of everything you do and ordering it based on how important it is to you. If you can eliminate or reduce some things lower on the list, you may find yourself able to handle your academics after all.

That being said, it’s always important to prioritize your physical, emotional, and mental health. If you’re facing severe health issues (caused by your academic stress or not), it is perfectly reasonable to withdraw from a course (or even consider a medical leave) in order to take care of yourself. You get no points for martyring yourself in order to achieve. No one will look back and say, “Wow, they really suffered for their academic achievements! What an inspiration!”

Finally, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Often, especially when you’re used to overachieving in academics (as many Wesleyan students are), a difficult course or “bad” grade can make you feel like total failure. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten was something along the lines of this from the class dean to incoming first-years and their families at my older sister’s college:

“You’re here because you’re used to achieving great things. This class is made up of people who were all in the top 10% of their high school classes back home. But that means that most of you aren’t going to be in the top of your class here. It’s impossible. And the benchmarks have changed.”

In other words, “C’s get degrees.” I’m not saying that it’s impossible to do well in college at all, just that you may find it tough to achieve at the level you’re accustomed to all the time. To the extent that you can, it is helpful to reframe your own expectations for yourself. If you’re really sure that you have no chance at being successful in a course (after trying at least some of the suggestions above) it’s completely okay to withdraw from a course. There’s no shame in saying I can’t do this! and figuring out a way to move forward.

It’s also totally fine to just want to drop a class because it’s hard, because you don’t like it, because it’s not one of your top priorities, or for any other reason (or no reason at all)! Other people in your life might have opinions on what you should do, but you’re the one who has to live with your decision, and you’re the one who will make the final decision.

College is hard, and it’s something you’ve never done before. You’re going to make mistakes and mess up from time to time, and that’s okay. Be compassionate with yourself, and try to use the hard parts as learning experiences for the future.

Withdrawing from a course does show up on your transcript, but having one or two Ws isn’t going to derail your future, affect your ability to graduate on time, or ruin your life. It may make certain things more inconvenient, like having to explain a W on a graduate school application or having to take 5 credits one semester to catch up for graduation, but you will survive and be just fine.

So, Withdrawing and Worried, worry not! You have so many people who are here to help you be successful (whatever that means to you!), and a wealth of resources to help you with whatever you decide!

Much Love (and Happy Midterms/Fall Break!),

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