Experts give advice on tactics for failing classes

Kota Cordova yells at their computer in a photo illustration on Aug. 30.
Kota Cordova yells at their computer in a photo illustration on Aug. 30.
Jules Wood

Freshman joining Oregon State University may find themselves suddenly in a situation where they are not able to complete a class. OSU offers resources for students who have to deal with this hardship.

While freshmen new to OSU might find themselves enjoying the social and fun aspects of college life, sometimes they might find themselves in a distressing situation where they have to withdraw from a class in the middle of the term.

Lane Walter, a Chemical Engineering student at Oregon State University, found themselves in a situation where they were failing three classes at the beginning of last year. Here are some of the options that were available to them.

There is a difference between dropping a class and withdrawing from a class.

According to the “Dropping a Class” section of the Oregon State University Office of Registrar, a class that is dropped will be removed from your schedule and doesn’t show up on your academic record. Withdrawing from a class on the other hand will put a “W” on your transcript but doesn’t affect your grade.

Every term, there are drop deadlines for students to follow. If a student misses a drop deadline and still wants to drop a class, they will need to withdraw from the class. Students find the drop deadlines for each term on the academic calendar website.

“The difference between dropping and withdrawing is time of term,” said Niki Weight, Head Advisor for Teacher Education. “Dropping technically means that the student doesn’t have any record of that class showing on their record and Oregon State only does that for a very short window at the beginning of the term. After that window is over, at that point it’s a withdrawal.”

One piece of advice that Weight tells students is to check with their financial aid before withdrawing because withdrawing from a class could affect their access to this resource. 

Students who are struggling with a class have an option to have a change of grade for the class. This switches the grading system from the standard grading (A-F) to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading and the class will no longer be included in a student’s GPA calculation.

In the case where students need to drop a class after the drop deadlines pass, students are able to do a full withdrawal from the term up until Friday of Week 10. If students need to drop only one class after the drop deadlines pass, they are able to talk to their advisor about creating a petition that’s reviewed on a case by case basis by OSU.

“I think the biggest thing that comes up often with students wanting to withdraw is there is often a sense of failure that students might feel with that,” Weight said. “They might feel like they aren’t able to finish and that’s a negative reflection on them as a student.”

Weight recommends that students connect with the Student Care Team if there are extenuating circumstances for the student withdrawing or dropping from a class. The SCT is a team of multiple organizations across OSU including Academic Advising, Disability Access Services and Counseling & Psychological Services. 

“The Student Care Team addresses concerns about student behavior that may be distressing or disruptive to the integrity of the learning environment and the greater campus community,” said the SCT website.

“(Students) start to be even more anxious and they start to withdraw even more and it’s really hard but I really try to encourage students that being at a point where if you think about dropping a class does not necessary mean that you are not capable or that you are failing or that you are not supposed to be here,” Weight said. “It is an opportunity for you to reach out and see what options are available, ask for help, learn some new skills and learn some new resources.”

Despite failing these three classes, Walter finds themselves in their senior year at OSU. Even though their graduation date was set back, they said they’re really happy with their major and with the path they took to get their degree.

Walter offers this piece of advice to students who find themselves in a situation where they have to withdraw from a class.

“I think the biggest thing is just putting it into the big picture of everything,” they said. “It’s going to be fine. Like failing one class or in my case, failing almost four, (and) I’m still on track to graduate. I still have a plan of what I want to do in life, I’m not going to be a failure. Failing one class doesn’t mean that you’re going to be a failure forever.”

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