In college, registration is probably one of the most difficult tasks a student faces. While it gets easier with each year of gained experience, the unknowns are what make the decisions hard. When you sign up for a class, you don’t know much about it beyond the scheduled time, professor’s name, and a brief description of a class. But the unknowns can make or break your class experience.

So, what do you do when you find you don’t like your professor? Or that the subject’s not for you? Or that you’re waking up too early and need a change ASAP? Well that all depends. Best case, you withstand the semester. If you can’t, you’ll probably have to add or drop a course.

So, how do you add or drop a course? How do you endure? How do you avoid signing up for classes that aren’t the right fit?

1. Scheduling

Schedule College Classes Carefully

Plan your schedule carefully. Register for the classes you need as soon as possible so you can schedule without any conflict or push back. Consider the credits you need and the most logical path to earning your degree, and think about what classes you will take the following year.

What is a core class? 

Get your core class requirements and first-year courses out of the way as soon as possible. Core class requirements are credits all students must obtain to be able complete their degrees, like math, english, and science credits. First-year courses are courses Freshmen are required to take for their major, or to fulfill a general school requirement. With these completed, more time and opportunities open up to take the classes you want and need.

If you are a student with grants, scholarships, etc., make sure you have the minimum hours required to retain your aid and benefits (usually about 12 hours). If you are a part-time and/or working student, design your schedule to help you rather than hinder you.

TIP: Want to make your college schedule the best it can be? Check out NerdWallet’s advice blog post, “Expert Advice: Planning Your College Class Schedule.”

Plan Ahead

Determine what classes you need to take, and which courses can be put off or swapped for more favorable options. Try your best to register for and remain in classes essential to your major, such as a 101 course or any other course that might be a prerequisite.

Plan ahead for potential classes you can drop or add. Have a backup plan and a timeline for when you’ll need to enact it. If you drop a course, know when the deadline is and what you should have completed before then. If you plan to add a class, know which professor you must contact and what procedures you’ll have to follow. Always act as if your back up plan will have to be instituted so you’re not at a loss if it really will be.

2. Adding, Dropping, and Withdrawal

Add College Classes

Adding a class during registration is relatively simple. When adding a class during your registration period, simply sign up for the course you wish to take (as long as it fits your schedule and has open seats).

If the class is full but has waitlist seats, sign up at your own peril. Waitlist seats are already filled seats in a class that can be given to the next student in line if an enrolled student drops the course. However, waitlist seats do not ensure a spot in the class. If no one drops the class, the waitlist seats become moot, and the waitlisted students will have to find another course to enroll in.

If you want to add a class after your registration period or add/drop period, contact the professor of your prospective course. You can appeal to these professors to be placed in their classes. Usually, it’s best to ask professors with open seats; however, you may also ask professors with full classes, because you won’t know until you try. Plenty of variables can create open spots in their classes, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Dropping a Class

Dropping a class is when you unenroll in a course. You may be wondering, “Is dropping a class in college bad?” You can drop a course for any reason (professor, classmates, disinterest, etc.), but make sure dropping is the right choice for you. You need to complete your degree, so just opting out of a required course of core class isn’t always the way to go. Drop only the courses you can afford to, or those that can be easily swapped for another. Otherwise, do not drop a course.

If you find your professor or some other non-content related aspect of your class to be unbearable, try changing sections instead of dropping. Every class has sections, which are divided classes of the same course for the purpose of favorable class size, time difference, or different professors leading. Changing sections will keep you in the same course with minimal consequential differences. If you’d like to change sections, contact your advisor; if your registration window is open, change your section yourself. 

If you are going to drop a course, do it within your school’s designated add/drop period. During this period you can add or drop a course with little to no repercussions. After the add/drop period, dropping is considered a withdrawal. Make sure to verify the last day to drop a class without receiving a w. 

TIP: Want to drop a class? Here’s wikiHow’s step-by-step article, “How to Drop a Class: 9 Steps (With Pictures).”

Withdrawing from a Class

After the add/drop period has ended, dropping a class is considered a “withdrawal.”  In withdrawing, you receive a “W,” or mark of withdrawal, on your transcript in place of a grade. The “W” will not affect your GPA, but it will remain on the transcript unless you retake the course, in which case it may be replaced with an “R.” To drop without a “W” and avoid withdrawal status, drop your class before your college’s specified date.

If I withdraw from a class do I have to pay for it? 

You can withdraw at any point during the year, but withdrawing earlier will refund more of your tuition. Some colleges have multiple withdrawal deadlines, after which a growing percentage of your tuition will not be refunded. Others require the class to be dropped before the first day to avoid charges. Withdrawing later won’t return much of your money, but it can save your GPA from low grades.

Does withdrawing from a class look bad? 

Many students avoid withdrawing altogether, going as far as to fail their classes than drop courses late, for fear of negative consequences. However, you will not be penalized for withdrawing from a course. While having too many withdrawals on your record can be cause for concern for your advisors and administration, withdrawals usually help more than hinder. Just be prepared to provide explanations if you transfer schools or intend to move on to grad or med school.

TIP: Not sure if withdrawing is right for you? For a guide to deciding on a W, check out’s blog post, “When Is It Okay To Withdraw From A College Course?

3. Ask for Help

Contact your academic advisor.

If you have difficulties with your classes, your advisor can likely help you. Whether your problems are with your studies, your classmates, or your professor, your academic advisor can help you find solutions in almost any area, or refer you to others who can better serve you. Your advisor knows a lot about the happenings on campus and can help you find study groups and resources, act as a mediator between you and another student or member of staff, or rework your schedule altogether.

TIP: Want to meet with your advisor? Check out USA TODAY’s article, “10 ways to make the most of academic advising appointments.”

Connect with Student Support Services.

Student Support Services is a program that works with students who are first-generation, low income, and have a documented disability. If you find yourself struggling in a class, in need of special aid, or help to finance your classes, Student Services might be able to help you.

TIP: Want to know more about what Student Support Services does? Find more info at’s article, “7 Amazing Student Services You Definitely Need to Use.”

Dropping or withdrawing classes doesn’t have to be scary. Adding courses doesn’t have to be difficult. And enduring doesn’t have to be painful. Make the choices best for you and use all of the resources available to you to succeed!

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