College is rough. I’m convinced everyone considers dropping a class at some point, but the topic is hardly ever talked about. There’s this stigma around dropping classes that I feel keeps a lot of people from dropping when they should or stressing all semester for nothing, so I wanted to share my dropping-classes-in-college story to hopefully clear up some questions and give tips for those of you considering this!
For some background, my university allows six “q-drops”, which you can take up until about halfway through the semester and can use for basically any reason. One of those q-drops can be an OTE (one time exception), which you can use up until the last day of classes. As a freshman I was like, “six drops?? Who would need to drop so many classes??”. Ha.
I dropped my first class during my second semester of college. “Survey of Renaissance through Modern Art.” Freshman me was convinced that if I could get through Intro to Electrical Engineering aka drawing circuits 24/7, I could surely get through a basic Art History class.
Then I got a 44 on the first test…and that was that.
Art History was just not for me. My professor taught assuming the whole class understood art principles and styles and eras and all these other things that I’d never heard of, so learning that on top of the lessons was way too much. The tests were entirely based on memorization—if you could memorize the artist, title, era, year, location, and inspiration of over thirty pieces of art, you were set up for success.
I could not.
And that’s okay! I could convert a Thevenin to a Norton equivalent circuit on the spot or perform a mesh/nodal analysis on whatever circuit you gave me, but ask me what material Johannes Vermeer used to create the Officer and Laughing Girl and I’ll be clueless. We’re all good at different things and you shouldn’t expect to be perfect at every subject!
The second class I dropped was my Engineering Physics lab, during my third semester of college. This one made me feel pretty guilty, because it was literally a three-hour, once a week lab that every engineering major had to take. I was stupid and signed up for the 8-11am slot—never again. I am NOT a morning person, so I ended up skipping several times because the thought of getting up that early stressed me out too much.
My TA was also super harsh at grading our lab reports and would take major points off for the slightest error. I ended up getting a few less-than-passing grades and combined with my absences, there was no way I would pass. I decided to drop it when the q-drop deadline came around, but since my academic advisor was super nice and understanding that it was only a one-credit class, she didn’t count it as a q-drop!
The third class I dropped was my Algorithms class, during my fifth semester of college. This was probably the most stressful decision I’ve made in college, because:
a) I was barely below passing at the time
b) I worked SO HARD to get the programming lab for this class done before Grace Hopper, but my professor still hadn’t put the grades in so I didn’t know whether I did well on it until after the q-drop deadline
c) I had a test the day after the q-drop deadline that would drastically affect my grade
d) I decided not to q-drop, and didn’t do as well as I needed on that test
e) I could POSSIBLY pass if I did really well on the final
f) I had two other extremely difficult finals right before this one that I also needed to do really well on
g) I had already gone through the entire semester taking this class and didn’t want to redo all of that
h) This topic is really important for interview prep/software development in general so I needed a good grasp of it (I obviously didn’t have that given my grade)
i) Dropping this class would make graduating on time much more complicated
j) It was beyond the q-drop deadline by this point, so I would have to use my one and only OTE if I dropped now
k) I just really, really didn’t want to take this class again.
So I dropped it. I used my OTE on the last day of class after an overwhelming amount of debate. I felt really guilty about it, because I knew so many people taking the class that were pushing through (or even better, actually doing well). But looking back, there were so many events that led to this and helped me realize that dropping was the best decision:
a) I was taking four Electrical Engineering classes, three of which (including this class) had programming labs that could take over 10 hours a week each
b) I took a week away from class to attend Grace Hopper, which was an incredible experience but totally threw off my work flow!!
c) There were several weeks when I had to prioritize some labs/projects/study time for one class over another, and Algorithms was always the class I put off
d) I had group projects in all of my other classes that I couldn’t slack on, further causing me to put off Algorithms projects
e) Algorithms is just hard!
So long story short, I had no reason to feel guilty about dropping this class, and I’m glad I did. I ended up getting A’s on all my finals because I actually had time to study for them, and I’m planning to retake Algorithms with a fresh mind next semester knowing how much time it will take!
I’m feeling pretty good about this semester, so thankfully it looks like I’ll be ending my junior year with only three drops behind me. Obviously dropping a class isn’t something you should strive for but I hope sharing my story helped those of you on the fence!