How Do I Decide to Drop a Course?
You probably know how important it is to take on a rigorous course load in high school to show top-tier colleges that you are up to the challenge of handling a demanding curriculum. So you may be reluctant to drop a class from your schedule, lest admission committees think you might not be able to handle the demands of college work. However, sometime dropping a course is the right call. Read on for advice on how to evaluate whether or not dropping a class is the best choice for you.
Too Much or Too Difficult Work
First, think about why you want to drop the course. Is there a disproportionate amount of work? Is the work too challenging, to the point that you don’t believe you’ll be able to earn a good grade in the class? Is the course taking away time that might be better spent on friends, family, or your extracurricular activities? Only you can decide what you need to prioritize, but it is important to keep in mind that often, extracurricular activities matter just as much as the courses you take, so if a class you do not particularly want to take is interfering with an activity you find more stimulating, dropping the course may be the right call. Additionally, if a class is causing more stress than you are able to handle, it is probably interfering with other aspects of your life.
Complementing Your Academic Profile
You should also evaluate whether or not the course in question fits in with your academic profile. You want to demonstrate that you are a specialized student who focuses on particular strengths and interests, so you will need to think about the strengths you a presenting, and how dropping a particular course will influence your profile. For instance, if you are an aspiring English major, you probably shouldn’t drop AP Literature, since doing so may indicate that you are not dedicated to your chosen subject or not able to complete the course material. However, dropping a course outside of the interests you have indicated, such as AP Chemistry, probably won’t have as much of an adverse effect on your college application. On the other hand, if you are planning on majoring in one of the sciences in college as part a pre-med track, dropping AP Chemistry is not such a good idea, while dropping something like AP French is less of a big deal.
Keep in mind, though, that it’s important to take as challenging a load as possible in the course subjects – English, Social Studies, Science, and Math – so unless you’re really struggling, staying in a core class that is challenging is probably a smart idea.
Requirements and Prerequisites
If the course in question is a requirement at your high school, you probably won’t have the option of dropping it. However, you might be able to take an easier level of a course instead; for instance, if the course is AP, IB, or Honors level, you could switch into the regular version, assuming it is not too late in the school year to do so.
You also need to look longer-term and think about whether or not the course in question is a prerequisite for future classes you might want or need to take. For example, some high schools might require you to complete AP Calculus AB before AP Calculus BC, so if you drop AB, you will not be able to take BC later on. Additionally, some high schools have honors or AP tracks, and if you start taking regular-level courses in a particular subject, you might not be able to participate in more-demanding equivalents later on. For instance, you might need to take Honors English in your junior year if you want to take AP Literature in your senior year.
Impact on Your GPA
Many students choose to drop a course because they are concerned with how it might impact their GPAs. If you are not doing well in a class, and you believe the grade you receive may be much lower than your average, dropping the course may be a good idea.
Still, don’t drop a class impulsively, because you may not be doing as poorly as you think you are. Before you make your decision, discuss your concerns with your teacher. He or she may be able to better contextualize particular assignments or test and explain how they will impact your overall grade. You could also ask if you might be able to complete extra credit assignments or make-up work to improve your grade. There may be other ways to resolve the situation aside from dropping the class entirely, so thoroughly explore your options first.
Lack of Interest
If you are not particularly interested in the material, you may not do well in the course. While this isn’t necessarily the case—many students still perform well in courses they don’t like—if the course isn’t a requirement or adding to your academic profile in any meaningful way, it may not be worth taking at all.
If you are struggling with a course, you may not need to drop it entirely. Consider additional solutions, such as:
- Tutoring: Many high schools, community centers, and after-school programs offer free tutoring. If you are having trouble in a course, meeting with a tutor may help you get back on track without forcing you to drop the course.
- Replacing the course with something else: As noted above, you may be able to switch into a less difficult course. If a particular class is too demanding, review your high school course catalog or ask your teacher if you might be able to transfer into a less challenging equivalent. For instance, if you are finding AP Calculus too difficult, consider transferring into regular-level Calculus. If you do not like the subject and it is not a requirement, consider replacing the course with another subject entirely. This option is probably particularly relevant when you are a senior and have completed most of your requirements or have a greater variety of electives from which you may course.
- Ask Your Teacher for Help: Teachers are likely to look for favorably on a student who recognizes when she or he is struggling and demonstrates a desire to improve. Try asking your teacher if you might be able to meet one-on-one for additional support, or complete extra-credit assignments, as described above, to boost your grade. The worst your teacher can do is say no (which is unlikely – they will almost certainly try and help in some way), and at least you are making the effort. If you try to resolve the problem early on, you will still have the opportunity to drop the course before it is too late.
Ultimately, you are not bound to your initial course choices, unless they are requirements, so you don’t have to take a class you find too demanding or are not enjoying. And if staying in the course is getting in the way of or distracting from other interests, activities, or courses, dropping it may be the right call. Still, you should weigh the pros and cons carefully before making your final decision.
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academics, choosing courses, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and much more!