Why it’s okay to withdraw from a class

When I was a first-year at Iowa I found out what getting a “W” in a class meant. (For those who don’t know, it means that you withdrew from a class after the deadline to drop.)

Every time someone explained it to me or talked about it, it came with a negative connotation, as if withdrawing from a class was a sign of weakness and lack of perseverance. I told myself that I would never withdraw from a class… until I took an astronomy class as a gen-ed.

Boy, how naïve was I to think that withdrawing from a class was a sign of weakness? I had to muster so much courage to go to my academic advisor to tell her about my struggles with the class.

It was not necessarily that I was doing bad in the class because I wasn’t. I had an A in my lab portion, a B in my lecture portion and I got above average in the first exam. The thing was that I wasn’t achieving my fullest potential and I wasn’t learning in that class. I felt lost and unmotivated because I did not understand what was going on. The professor lost me in the first half of the semester and there was no catching up in the second half. Therefore, I had no other choice but to withdraw. No matter how much I read the textbook, did the homework and re-read the lectures, nothing was sticking in my brain.

I knew that I had more potential and that I could do better in a different class. Therefore, I did some reflecting and decided that withdrawing was the best option.

After all, in a different class, I could pursue an A and boost my GPA instead of letting fate decide my grade for my astronomy class. It would have been hard to even get a B at the rate that my brain was understanding the content.

Hopefully, next year I can sign up for the class that I have scheduled. A TILE style science with a lab gen-ed. TILE style classes are small and student-centered. It will be a better teaching approach for my non-STEM wired brain.

And remember, getting a W is a part of the college experience that most of us don’t want yet might have to experience. Getting a W is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and the ability to self-reflect.

One last piece of advice: It’s better to have a W in your transcript than a low grade, so when in doubt W it out. (Just not too much. Maybe once every other year at most.)

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