Q&A: How Long Do Students Have to Drop a Course After It Begins?

Answer: The deadline to withdraw from or "drop" a course without penalty is determined by the school you attend. Every schools has its own registration and withdrawal deadlines. Along with that, different schools have different policies regarding the consequences for dropping a course after these set dates.

Most schools allow students to drop a course before the course begins without it affecting their grade. For example, if a fall classes begin August 4, students may drop or change their courses up to August 4. They can usually do so without losing money, and if they drop a class and do not replace it, they may receive a refund.

Once the semester or class begins, the withdrawal, refund and grading rules often change. Some schools have strict polices regarding dropped courses, while others allow more time for students to make decisions. For schools with firmer rules, they may have a set withdrawal date and that's it. If a student drops a course after that date, they do not receive any tuition money back for the course. However, some schools allow a little more flexibility by offering a "late withdrawal" date.

Late withdrawal is set between the standard withdrawal date and closely after the class begins. This means the date is often determined by the length of the courses offered (i.e. 5 weeks, 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks, etc.). Let's go back to that August 4 class and say it's offered for 8 weeks, ending on September 28. The late withdrawal date may be August 8. This means students can begin the course, participate (Monday - Friday), and still withdraw from the class on or before August 8. Typically, the difference between standard and late withdrawal is that you only receive a partial refund when dropping the class by that later date. The refund amount is up to the school and should be included in their written policies.

It's important for students to meet with an academic advisor or counselor to make sure they are enrolled in the correct courses. Withdrawing from classes should only be used in an emergency situation, as not only can it affect your finances, it can also affect your grades.

*Please note these are general policies and it's the students' responsibility to find out their schools' specific drop/add dates and rules.*

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!