Will Withdrawing From a Class Hurt My Med School Application?

Session 29

Withdrawing from a class can be a quick way to get out of a bad grade. But how will that W on your transcript affect your medical school application?

It’s a common email I get from students: Should they drop a class they’re struggling with it? They’re wondering if their withdrawal will hurt their chances of getting into medical school.

[00:42] What’s Worse For Med School Apps, a C or a W?

What’s going to be worse? On the one hand, you could get a C, then retake the class and get an A (hopefully). Then you average out to a B.

On the other hand, you could take a W, then retake the class and get an A (hopefully). Then you have an A average rather than the B above. That’s one way of looking at it.

[01:15] Will a W Hurt You?

The answer is no, but also yes. A single withdrawal is not going to hurt you. But if you have several withdrawals in your college experience (say, one during Freshmen year, one during Junior year, one during Senior year), this might look fishy. It’s the pattern of withdrawing from classes that you should try to avoid.

If you don't have a pattern of withdrawing every semester from classes, a single withdrawal is not going to hurt you.Click To Tweet

Other details could make it look worse, too. For example, you withdrew from your organic chemistry course at your four-year university. And then during the next semester, you took it at a community college next door. That might look a little fishy.

And if you did that several times, for all the courses you decide to withdraw from, that might look especially fishy.

[Related episode: Can I Get Grades Removed From My Transcript to Help My GPA?]

[02:40] Single and Multiple Withdrawals

Having a W on your application is not a huge deal unless there’s a larger pattern of concern for the admissions committee members.

If somebody sees a pattern, that may raise some red flags. So if there are some health or family issues that caused you to withdraw from classes in a suspicious pattern, then talk about it briefly in your personal statement.

If you have withdrawals from a whole semester of classes, like you withdrew from every class one semester, that may warrant addressing briefly in a personal statement, too. But there are many understandable reasons to withdraw.

If there are health or family issues that caused you to withdraw from classes in a suspicious pattern, talk about it briefly in your personal statement.Click To Tweet

[04:00] It’s an Issue of Consistency

Ultimately, the biggest question is this: Are your transcripts showing admissions committee members that you can handle the coursework of medical school? Consistent withdrawals can suggest you may not be able to handle the coursework of medical school.

But a single withdrawal isn’t going to raise a red flag, and neither will a couple of withdrawals. So if you’re struggling with one of your classes right now, give yourself permission. Withdraw from that course. Figure out why you weren’t doing well. And go back and tackle it next time and get an A.

If you're struggling with one of your classes right now, give yourself permission to withdraw. Then figure out what wasn't working, go back, and get that A next time.Click To Tweet

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