What does a W mean?

By Allie Hulcher

Contributing Writer

Wednesday is the last day for students to add or drop a class from their schedule with no consequences, but students have until mid-semester to withdraw with a W on their transcript.

A W is an indication that a student dropped a class without completing it or receiving a grade, something students need to do if they find their workload is too much or are struggling in a class.

Ausharea Adams felt this pressure her freshman year. She was taking 16 hours including a course in math, her weakest subject. She decided to drop the class with a W. She realizes now that she made a good decision.

“I don’t feel too bad about it at all,” Adams said. “What’s done is done and I feel a lot better knowing I have a ‘W’ rather than an awful grade.”

The University’s online catalog went on to say that students who are contemplating withdrawal should talk with their academic advisors.

Wendy McMillian is the director of advising within the College of Arts and Sciences and advises pre-law students. She stressed the importance of making the decision with an advisor’s advice at hand.

“Some students don’t understand the implications of withdrawing from courses every semester,” she said. “However, there are also students that think that one W will keep them out of the graduate level program of their choice. Neither attitude is healthy.”

Owen Cooper graduated from UA in 2011 with three Ws on his transcript. He has since been accepted into graduate programs across the country.

“It bothered me at first to receive a W, but I’d rather receive a W than an F,” Cooper said.

Jon Corson, a mathematics professor, said he has told students to drop his own classes.

“I frequently advise students that are enrolled in one of my courses to drop when it becomes obvious that the student is going to fail otherwise,” Corson said.

Lauren Coulter, a senior majoring in communicative disorders, said she dropped a class and ended up with a W on her transcript. She didn’t lose any sleep over this decision.

“I took the class and made an A the following semester because I was able to put plenty of time into it,” Coulter said. “Had I not withdrawn, I probably wouldn’t have done very well.”

Stephen Killen, a senior in New College, once took a class that proved to be so difficult, he was failing other classes because of it. At first, he was concerned that the W would be a permanent stigma on his record. Finally, he decided to go through with dropping the class.

“I feel pretty certain the classes I have finished will speak louder than the one I didn’t,” he said.

And while the occasional W is not likely to mar your transcript, habitual dropping can be a red flag to graduate schools and future employers.

“A pattern of Ws may cause questions about [a student’s] commitment level,” McMillian said.

Students who should strongly consider sticking with their schedule are those with more than three Ws on their schedule, those who need to maintain full time status - 12 hours for undergraduate students - and those who don’t have time to retake the class before graduation.

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