During many college students’ academic careers, they will make the difficult decision to drop a class in the middle of a semester, leaving a W on their transcript.
This W represents a withdrawal from a course after a certain date instead of letting a failed course affect the student’s grade point average. At Auburn, this comes into effect after the 15th day of classes in the spring and fall semesters and after the fifth day during the summer.
If a student decides to withdraw before the 15th day of classes, no letter grade or W for the class will be assigned on their transcript.
However, if they choose to withdraw after the fifth day, but before the final 15th day, a $100 charge will be put on the student’s eBill.
Nonetheless, these W’s leave a mysterious void, and when looking at the transcript, there is no explanation as to the long process that went into making that decision.
“I debated for about a week whether or not to withdraw from a class that I was struggling in,” said Hope Campisano, freshman in hospitality management. “I had no idea what a W would mean on my transcript in the future, and that doubt really scared me from proceeding to withdraw from the course.”
It gives no indication of how poorly the student was doing or why they had to leave the course.
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This void can bring stress to students planning to apply for jobs or other programs, such as law school, medical school or other forms of graduate school. Many students worry that those reviewing their future applications will have a feeling of disapproval if they have a W.
“I was never asked about the W on my transcript,” said Lindsey Freeman, Auburn alumna with a degree in accounting. “It seems like a lot of employers rely on the honor system when it comes to stuff like that. I think if you have a good reason for why it happened and can explain it, there should be nothing to be nervous about. It’s more how you handle the situation after that people truly care about.”
Deb Paradis, academic advisor, said it is important to check first with the Financial Aid Office, The Veterans Resource Center or any kind of scholarship the student may have to understand how the withdrawal might affect it.
“If I have any advice to give students who are considering withdrawing from a course, I would always check with financial aid or if you belong to any scholarship or aid,” she said. “Also, have a conversation with your professor first.”
Paradis also recommends that before making a permanent decision for their transcript, the student should visit their professor’s office hours to discuss the issue further.
Students never know how much their professor is willing to help and possibly guide them back on track before they decide to ultimately leave the course, Paradis said. If a student does choose to withdraw from a course, the effect isn’t as paramount as many think, unless it starts to become a pattern.
“I think withdrawing from a course is neither bad nor good but neutral,” Paradis said. “It can become a habit for some students, and that’s where I would raise a red flag, but it can also be a very good thing if not used too often. If the student is continually using it to avoid challenging classes or using it multiple times, then they could consider different options like a change of major.”
Students that choose to move further in their education and apply to other institutions or programs should be prepared beforehand to answer any questions a committee may have for them when looking at the W’s on their transcript.
This also carries over to potential employers or internships.
When it comes to students debating taking a W on their transcript, taking fewer is better than taking more in the long-run, and one or two most likely won’t hurt the student, said Addye Buckley-Burnell, assistant director of career development.
“When employers typically look at a W, they usually just scan them, and if they see a lot they may take that as a red flag for commitment, but one or two doesn’t usually cause alarm,” she added.
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