What Library Folks Wished Students Knew: You Have to Know When to Fold Them.

The last day to withdraw from a course is fast approaching on our campus. We library folk would know this even if the official email had not been sent today by Records. For the past week, students have been dropping by the circulation desk wanting to know the date, wanting to make sure they still have time to drop a course without getting an “F.”

Some students are so sure that they are failing that they drop a course with the first bad grade. Others are so optimistic that they persevere even when there is no mathematical possibility of passing. And some students will even ask us in the library what they should do.

Of course, no one answer fits every situation. But when deciding whether to stay in a course or not, the following should be considered:

  • Is there a chance of passing? This is one thing my friends and I knew in college. Before every test, we took out our calculators and calculated our grade if we got a 100, then a 90, then a 80, etc. I’m always a little surprised when I ask students what their average is in the course and they have no idea. Of course, I may have been a little obsessed, but still, I knew where I stood in any given class.  And a 78 average at the drop date is better to pin hopes on than a 28.
  • What will the impact be if I drop the class? Will dropping the class affect financial aid? Is this course a pre-requisite for classes in your major? On the other hand, will staying in the class affect your ability to do well in your other courses? When I taught, students would sometimes say to me, “I have to keep all fifteen hours, so I can graduate in two years.” And I would gently respond that dropping down to twelve was better than keeping fifteen and failing nine of them.
  • Is there a reason to stay in this class even if I fail? Now this might sound like a dumb question, but if learning and not passing is the goal, then sometimes it does make sense to remain in a class where passing is no longer an option. Some second-language students elect to stay in writing classes so that they can practice their reading and writing skills to have a better shot next semester. So do some pre-nursing students in anatomy.
  • Do I have the time and energy to pass the course? We have lots of adult students here and the one thing they often have in common is that they are over-committed. They are trying to be good students, good workers,  and good parents. Sometimes, especially the first semester in, you simply don’t know how much time college is going to take. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “There’s only so much of me to give to all these parts of my life. I can handle two classes but not three. I’m dropping one.” Next semester you’ll know better.
  • What did I learn from this? Whether you stay in the class or withdraw, spend time evaluating what went wrong and decide how to make things better for next semester.  Did you get behind on assignments because you procrastinated? Do you need to visit the tutors or your instructor during office hours? Think of a way for a better start next time out.

In any case, it’s a personal decision that needs to be thought over carefully. Even when it’s the right thing to do, a dropped course simply moves that requirement to later in your program. So think it through and follow Kenny Roger’s advice: Know when to hold them; know when to fold them.




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