How Many W’s on a Transcript is Bad?

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College is a big adjustment and an even bigger leap from high school, which is why it might be the middle of the quarter, and things are starting to look rough for you. Are you considering withdrawing from a specific class you’re struggling in? Keep reading as we explain what a W is and how many W’s on a transcript are bad.

What Does W Mean on a Transcript?What Does W Mean on a Transcript?

So, what does W mean on transcripts? The ‘W’ stands for ‘Withdrawn’. A withdrawal on your transcripts entails that you’ve dropped a course, meaning you won’t receive a grade for it. Alternatively, there will typically be a ‘W’ next to the course’s description replacing a letter grade.

Keep in mind that having a W results in an incomplete course grade and cannot be overwritten by repeating the course. As for the confusion of whether a W goes away if you retake the class, it stays on your academic transcript.

Does Having W’s on a Transcript Affect Admission?

Does Having W’s on a Transcript Affect Admission?

While most students get concerned about W’s on their transcript, it doesn’t offer much information about your academic progress. Rather, it showcases that you decided to drop the class somewhere between the eighth and third quarter week. Don’t think of the W as a ‘black mark’; it doesn’t represent your class performance.

Compared to an RP (Repeated) or an NP (No Pass) notation, it doesn’t reveal much and has no GPA impact. When you withdraw from a course, you have the opportunity to kick back and focus on your remaining classes and extracurricular activities. This can even improve your GPA for the quarter.

Don’t worry about an occasional W appearing on your transcript because this is a fairly common occurrence and won’t jeopardize your future plans or career, especially if you plan on pursuing professional school, graduate school, etc. Unless Ws are a recurring and frequent pattern for you, admission teams are unlikely to notice them.

Suppose you’re an ambitious student who always enrolls in multiple units each quarter but withdraws every time because of overexertion. In that case, you should talk to your academic advisor to avoid falling into these repeated habits.

How Many W's is Too Many?

How Many W’s is Too Many?

If you’re reading this article, you might be anxiously wondering about how many W’s are too many. You’re probably in the clear if you have one or two withdrawals on your transcript. However, more than five W’s is a case for concern. An admissions officer will see this as a sign that when the going gets tough, you give up and run rather than do what’s required to succeed.

What are Some Alternatives to Withdrawing?

What are Some Alternatives to Withdrawing?

While the logistics behind withdrawing from a course can seem simple, the decision leading up to this should be anything but. A W can include grave implications if you’re not careful- academic, personal, and financial. Here are some alternatives to withdrawing that can help make your life easier:

Drop the Course Early On

A withdrawal is marked on your transcript; however, dropping a course won’t have the same result. It’s no surprise then that dropping a class is the preferred option to receiving a W. And often, you can ensure that you’re not short on credits by enrolling in a different subject. Still, it would be best if you were careful about the deadline for dropping a course because it’s typically early on in the semester.

Determine your school’s course add-drop deadline; if you’ve missed it, ensure you know the withdrawal deadline. As you make your decision, it’s essential to know all your upcoming deadlines so that you don’t put your future at risk.

Request an Incomplete

If you’re contemplating withdrawing from a class or are on the brink of failing one, consider getting an incomplete instead. While these don’t occur frequently, it might be a possible choice for you.

Personal circumstances like an illness or the death of a loved one might be preventing you from completing all your coursework, leading to your professor or institution granting you an incomplete for the course. You’ll get additional time to complete the required work after the semester ends. Note that this doesn’t help if you’re failing a class.

Contact Your Professor

It’s always a good idea to talk to your professor before you make any course withdrawal decisions. They’ll be able to tell whether you’re simply overreacting and still possess the chance to pass the class.

Withdrawing Vs. Failing a Course

Withdrawing Vs. Failing a Course

Now the question remains: withdraw or fail? As we’ve mentioned, withdrawing from a course won’t count towards your GPA, but failing one will. When choosing between the two, opt for a W because failing can cause several problems, such as academic probation, financial aid consequences, or getting kicked out for a semester or even altogether. The best way of protecting your GPA is to avoid an F by withdrawing from the class.

5 Things to Consider Before Withdrawing

5 Things to Consider Before Withdrawing

Here are some factors you should think about before withdrawing from a course:

Your Stress Level

Perhaps you are overcommitted in other aspects of your life. Reducing your extracurricular involvement may provide you with more time for your coursework, especially the class you want to withdraw from. This helps avoid the need for a W at all.

Understandably, giving up a leadership position and passing it along to someone else when you’ve put in considerable time and effort can be hard. But maintaining your academic standard is crucial to your success moving forward, and you can always recommit to the activity once everything is smooth sailing.

Your Transcript

Let’s be honest; a withdrawal on your transcript isn’t an ideal situation to be in. If you plan on applying to graduate school or jobs where potential employers look at your transcripts, be aware of what a W showcases. Analyze what you can do to avoid withdrawing and having the unpleasant ‘W’ mark on your transcript for many years to come.

Your Financial Situation

When you want to withdraw from a class, mull over the following issues that might cost you financially:

  • Personal finances: You might have to pay for the course again later if you withdraw from a course. Calculate how much it will cost you, including the class, books, materials, and potential lab fees
  • Financial aid package: Students who receive financial aid are typically required to earn a set number of credits every semester or quarter. Withdrawing from a course can result in an extra fee or charge. Don’t leave it up to chance if you’re unsure how this process will work for you, and contact your financial aid office as quickly as possible

One way of saving money is to get a tutor for the subject instead of withdrawing and taking the course again at a later time. In contrast, maybe you’re so caught up in work that you lack the adequate time required to study for the class. In that case, it might be cheaper on your wallet to obtain a small emergency loan from your college, reduce your work hours, and push through so you don’t have to pay for the class again.

Your Academic Timeline

Are you considering withdrawing from a class because your workload is overwhelming and believe doing so will alleviate considerable stress? If the answer is yes, then you may be right. However, evaluate how this action will affect your next term and the remainder of your time in school.

Answer these questions: Will this decision hinder your progress? Does this class hold significance for your major and future career prospects? Are there other courses that require this particular one as a prerequisite? Furthermore, how will your department perceive your choice to withdraw? How do you plan to compensate for missing credits? Lastly, will you have the opportunity to retake the class if you wish?

Other Options

Withdrawing from a course should be one of the last choices in a line of options when you’re struggling in a class. Before you resort to it:

  • Ask for help
  • Adjust your study habits
  • Seek feedback from the professors and/or your college advisors
  • Try to learn the material by adopting strategies that work best for you
  • Talk to your peers
  • Hire a tutor

Don’t rule out any alternatives that might help you get through the course- the last thing you want to do is make matters worse by making uninformed decisions.

Wrapping Things Up: How Many W’s on a Transcript is Bad?

Every college or school has its own policies regarding the process of withdrawing from a class. Researching and thinking about all your options is recommended because sometimes the situation is less dire than we think. If you make hasty decisions, you might end up in a bigger predicament than you were in initially. Now that you know of how many Ws you can have on a college transcript, be careful of when and why you use them.

Check out our other interesting articles below:

> How Bad is a C on a College Transcript? 

> Do Absences Affect Your College Acceptance?

> What Grades Do Colleges Look at the Most?

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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