Lee Bierer - Nationally Syndicated Columnist and Independent College Counselor.

Is it OK to drop a high school course?

It seems once a senior clears the first semester hurdle, they think the rest of the year is downhill and colleges don’t care about what they do. Little could be further from the truth.

Many parents have contacted me seeking approval for their child to drop a course midyear. They are not sure if it is okay, but their high schooler has tried to convince them that colleges won’t see their grades and it doesn’t matter.

Colleges will not see their final grades before the admissions decision is made, but most colleges will request an end-of-year transcript and a dropped course will be noted and may raise concerns.

Guidance counselors, with good reason, are vehemently against dropping courses. Some schools even require parents and students to sign a letter acknowledging the risk they are taking related to college admission.

Some students try to get creative and suggest substituting an online course instead of the one offered at their high school and this too is not looked upon favorably. According to Brown University, “The very fact that they want to take it online instead will raise eyebrows. If they are taking it anyway, why don’t they just stay in class? If there is a scheduling conflict with another advanced course and the school endorses the change for that reason, then we’ll accept that, but if they are simply substituting an online option for an in-class option, we will be less understanding.”

Colleges look at the transcript as a predictor of future performance based on the rigor of the courses taken. If colleges find out that students have dropped classes after they were admitted, it could be considered grounds for revoking the offer of admission. The bait-and-switch plan of signing up for a rigorous course and then dropping it after first semester is not worth the risk.

I checked out what College Confidential ( www.collegeconfidential .com ) had to say. CC is a great Web site with an online forum where students and parents ask questions and share information. Here’s what I found:

Question: I’m thinking about dropping a course so that I could have more time to concentrate on my more important AP courses. Do you think that doing so will have adverse effects on my acceptances? Could they revoke my admissions offer?

Answer: It may. What might happen is that you may not be told you got rescinded for dropping until late fall, too late to do anything. A friend dropped a class senior year and was told not to come to college the week before she was to start classes. It took that long for Admissions to review her final high school transcript and then they yanked her, a cautionary tale.


269 Responses to “Is it OK to drop a high school course?”

  1. Brittany says:

    Hi, im a junior and currently taking ap chemistry (I made the mistake of not dropping this class earlier). I have As and A+s in all my other classes (English honors, spanish IV, Precalc honors, world history honors, anatomy&phsiology). In AP Chem I finished the first marking period with an A- and hopefully will finish with an A this marking period…but here’s the catch: the only reason I have those grades is because my teacher allows us to retake every test. So the problem is my midterm (there won’t be a retake for that). I know I’m going to fail (no exaggeration). I am sure I will do fine on my other midterms. How will this affect how colleges will look at me? How will this affect my chances at an academic scholarship? (I need one) I am interested in going to a christian college, such as Liberty University, Messiah College, or Houghton College, and I am interested in science majors (but not chemistry).

    • Lee Bierer says:

      I don’t really have enough info to help you, but based on what you did share (not knowing your test scores) you have taken a rigorous curriculum and one well (except Chemistry) and the colleges you have listed are not the most competitive and will likely be more understanding. Good luck.

  2. Ashley says:

    Hi I am currently a senior in high school applying for an engineering major. I passed first semester with straight As but I wanted to drop AP French in order to concentrate more on tough classes like Physics C and Math IBHL. Do you think colleges would care if I dropped French? I unfortunately didnt get to drop it first semester so I pushed through. I have been receiving various opinions about this topic. Thanks.

  3. Michelle says:

    Hi, I’m currently a high school senior and I am taking AP Calculus AB, Leadership, AP government, and AP literature. The first semester is about to end and I barely passed my AP calculus class. I’m really struggling with it and I doubt I’ll be able to pass next semester. Would you suggest to drop it since my grade is low anyway? Or should I stick with it even if I get a low grade?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      It really depends on where you’ve already applied, where you’ve already been accepted and where you’re waiting to hear from.

  4. Senior says:

    I’m a high school senior and I got my first C in my high school career in AP Literature. I took minimum day at my school, which allows me to drop one period this semester. I choose to take it so that I could have more time to study and do homework, in order for me to try to boost my gpa back up as much as possible. The class that I dropped was Theatre Arts/ Advanced Drama, which is a very easy class. Did I make a mistake choosing minimum day and should I add that class back before it is too late, just in case I get a C in that class this semester because I want my gpa to go back up as much as possible before I graduate? Also, would it look bad for college that I dropped that class, considering I got a 100 in it the first semester?

  5. May Singh says:

    Would it look bad if I switch an online AP Statistics class for Creative writing during second semester senior year. I have AP Chem, AP Bio, AP Gov, AP Lang and Weights. The AP Stat course is just second semester so its not like I took it for the whole year.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      sounds like it will be okay – contact the colleges you’re waiting to hear from and where you’ve been accepted and ask them.

  6. Jovany says:

    I failed 1 my ap language course first semester and i want to drop it this semester will it affect my admission status in any cal state or UC i do plan on making it up in night school but i dont want to fail it again this semester

  7. Olivia says:

    I am taking a college prep chemistry course as a junior and I have a zero interest in chemistry. I am considering dropping the class not because I have a bad grade in it (I have a A) but because it serves of no interest to me. I am invoved in many extra circulars, current have a 3.9 GPA and a ACT score of 24. Also, I am taking a PreCalc course and have taken 2 AP classes. What would colleges think if I didn’t take the second semester of chemistry? I’m looking to go to a state university in MI to study film.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      You will need to ask your guidance counselor and contact any schools that you are still interested in. I would strongly suggest sticking it out.

  8. Karen says:

    In my first semester I took design as my elective and I got an A but now in my second semester i want to take woodshop. My question is would dropping an elective affect my acceptance since design is suppose to be for one year?

  9. Sarah says:

    I’m currently a high school senior and throughout the year I’ve struggled with AP Physics 2 (got B 1st 9wks, high C 2nd 9wks). From what I’ve read, it seems like dropping the class is not a good idea, however I fear I may get a C+ as my midterm grade (would be first C in entire HS career) since the midterm I took today didn’t go over well. I was recently deferred from Elon, and their only request was to send a midterm year grade report. Considering I’m a prospective finance student, how would this C affect me? Would they overlook it because it’s not a necessary component of my major? I’ve done well in my other classes this year (AP Calculus B/C, Economics, Marketing, AP Literature, AP Psychology, and Honors Government), but Physics has been a struggle. In addition, I’m retaking the SAT this weekend, so could a higher SAT score perhaps counteract my C? I’m also waiting to hear back from Virginia Tech (both my parents went there), plus my test scores are above their averages, and my GPA is a 4.6, but do you think getting a C will lessen my chances of acceptance? Lastly, what are my chances of being booted from the schools I’ve already been accepted to (GMU, JMU, VCU, & CNU) because of my physics grade?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Call Elon and ask them how they feel. At the schools you’ve listed, the likelihood of being “booted” for a C or a C+ is not very great.

  10. Indigo Irving says:

    Im a junior in highschool and I am struggling in my spanish class. My grade is bringing down my GPA and I’m just shy of being on the honor roll. I have always qualified for honor roll, which is why this is stressing me out. Would it be smart to drop the class in the beginning of the semester and get honor roll second semester, or stay in the class that’s bringing my GPA down?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      The “snarky” response is to stay in the class and bring up your grade. Seriously, I would recommend doing your best and staying in the class.

  11. Shaun says:

    I am a Senior taking Government Honors, English 12 Honors(Semester), AP Psychology, AP Spanish, AP BC Calculus, and Advanced PE (Semester), with my next semester having Human Endeavors and Public Speaking. My GPA is 4.6 and i have AP credit for AB Calculus and Statistics. I am A student with the occasional B, and am thinking about dropping AP Spanish. I had a 90 first MP and currently at an 86 for the 2nd MP, but I just do not like the class, the teacher completely overestimates our abilities and creates an unpleasant atmosphere in class. I have been accepted into the University of Tampa on their Presidential Scholarship, would dropping Spanish affect my acceptance? Thank you

  12. Felicia says:

    I’m currently a junior in high school and taking pre calc 11. I’m really struggling in the course and I really want to drop out. The requirement for the college i want to go to is 73% and I’m getting far below that. Do colleges care if I failed a course and retook it in the summer? Would they still accept me?

  13. Kailey says:

    I’ve gotten all As and Bs my HS life, except for 1 C wich was IB Chem SL. My GPA is a 4.33 right now. I only need 3 of the 6 classes I am taking to graduate: English, Government, and an elective. Would it be bad to drop one class (IB physics SL) for medical purposes? My #1 pick for college is CSU Monterey Bay.

  14. Mike Guanci says:

    I am a sophomore in high school. I want to drop Spanish my junior year in order to take an anatomy class. I want to be chiropractor after college and I think this class will help. Good Idea?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      It depends where you’d like to go to college – some colleges require two years of a foreign language, some three and others openly state they prefer four years.

  15. Giselle says:

    So I’m taking this woods class, it is absolutely HORRIBLE. We have not been in the class for half the year and ALL we’ve done was sit and watch movies. I am not a person to sit and do nothing in a class where I have came to learn new things. I am very disappointed with it. But I talked to my counselor and she said not to drop it because it drops my GPA. & all these things? But I don’t understand the point. I don’t even need the credit? It was just something that looked interesting, which turned out to be the worst thing ever. I’m a junior in Idaho. If I dropped it anyway would it effect my college acceptances? I’m just curious.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      It obviously depends on where you’re applying to colleges. Check with your counselor and share your current list. It may not be a bad thing to drop it – can you take something else this late?

  16. Marcus Ionescu says:

    I am currently a high school senior and have already applied to all of my colleges. First semester, I took Honors Chemistry and got a B. Second semester, I had to switch my schedule around because I got in Madrigals choir(advanced choir) and I also had to switch teachers to stay in Honors Chemistry. I have found that I’m struggling in this new class and I was thinking of enrolling into a CP Chem class instead, with my old teacher. Now, on my application, I put down that I’m enrolled for Honors Chemistry both semesters. Will this affect change affect the outcome of my admission? Particularly for the UC schools? Thank you!

    • Lee Bierer says:

      You are better off staying in your class and doing the best you can. If you switch out you’ll need to notify every college.

  17. Sally-Nina says:

    I am a freshman, and i did not do too well in the first semester, especially for AP Human Geography, in which I earned a D.(my other grades were 2 A’s , 1 B, and 1 C) As the second semester started, I dropped the AP course at the suggestion of a school counselor, and switched to world geography H. Even though I am doing way much better now, I am still concerned about the bad grade in my dropped course when I apply for college. Will the grade negatively affect my admission?

  18. Tiffany says:

    Hi I’m currently a senior in Highschool and I’ve already been acceptable to cal states and privates in California and am basically A threw G with college requirments done
    I am majoring in biology and currently I have an internship at city of hope but am taking pre cal which is an extra math sixth period would it be okay if I dropped mid second semester in order to focus on my internship ?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      It sounds okay but you need to hear that directly from the college where you hope to attend. CALL THEM!

  19. Szymon says:

    I am going to be a junior next year and I plann an extra math class (Ap Calculus), it would be my fifth year of math but I was thinking about taking an extra engineering class instead (have to take 3 classes already next year so that would make 4). Would colleges care that I stopped taking math in order to take engineering?

  20. Cheryl K says:

    Hi, My son is a Sophomore and will likely be receiving a C in Honors Pre-Calculus BC this semester. He has never had a C in his life, and is very upset. He is scheduled at take AP Calculus AB next year, but now he thinks he should be taking Honors Discrete Finite instead. My husband and I think he should stick with Calculus since he has already completed the first 4 chapters of Calculus this semester in Pre-Calculus BC. Essentially the first semester of of AP Calculus AB will be a review. He is planning a science major and plans to attend medical school. Thanks.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Honestly, I don’t have enough information to make a recommendation. I don’t know where he’d like to go to college, what is the rigor of his other courses, etc. But, generally speaking, I would recommend take the AP Calc and maybe trying to find a tutor.

  21. RK says:

    My daughter is a rising senior and she had a very rigorous schedule in her junior year. We had discussed about dropping the AP Bio class, but did not do for the fear of a withdrawal showing in the “transcript” she has ended up with ‘C’s in three subjects (unfortunate 78’s and 77’s) and that has brought her gpa to 3.4. Her weighted GPA is 4.45 though. We are in the process of selecting colleges to apply and she is interested in some University of California colleges. Will the colleges look at her regular GPA or weighted GPA?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Colleges will typically recalculate the GPA – very often tossing out elective courses and putting more weight on the core subjects. Most colleges are aware of the weighted and unweighted GPAs and look at both.

  22. Alex says:

    Hi, I am currently taking a summer pre-calculus 12 course but I’m not doing as well as I’ve hoped so I’m planning on withdrawing which will show up on my transcript. But I’m going to be retaking the course in the school year, I was wondering if that will affect university acceptance? And if it possible for universities to see what mark a student was getting before the withdrawal? (I am planning to enter commerce and pre-calculus 12 is one of the requirements but I am also taking calculus 12 during the same year)

    • Lee Bierer says:

      If you withdraw, it is unlikely colleges will anything other than a “W.” Depending on the colleges where you’ll be applying, it might make a difference.

  23. Sky says:

    I am about to be a sophmore in high school by I really want to make it into a really good collage by I got caught up with my friends and my final report card was a 1.46, will that be a big impact on my future?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      YES!!!!!! I hope you can start fresh sophomore year and finish strongly and then do even better in your junior and senior years.

  24. Alexis says:

    I am an upcoming senior and I am currently scheduled to have the following classes; anatomy/physiology, English 12 honors, Chemistry 2, Spanish 4, honors government, and calculus. I have not applied to any colleges yet and I was wondering if dropping my English honors course would hurt my chances into getting into college?

  25. Francisco says:

    I’m currently a Sophomore in highschool and was wondering if I could and should drop my Pre-AP Chemistry. The teacher is going at a fast pace and I’m not sure I can keep up. I have all A’s and have a 4.0 GPA. Would it be bad to drop the class?

  26. Jason says:

    I’m on the A-G path and I am in my senior year. I do have some concern however on mathematics. I was told that taking math in my senior year was a requirement, but I am unsure what would happen. Will i need to go to night school or to a community college? I have yet to take my SAT and/or ACT, what should I take? Should I take both? Where should I look up a guide to help me on these tests on the website? Thanks for reading this message.

  27. Cameron says:

    Hi, I’m in weight training first period and want to be able to drop it in order to have a free period so I could use that time to use for other ap classes I’m taking. I’m taking 4 ap classes and want to do well. Will dropping weight training affect me badly?

  28. Khanh Hoang says:

    I am currently a sophomore taking 5 AP classes (2 online and 3 in school). I am struggling with my online AP Macroeconomics class and want to drop out because I am most behind in this class. I’m 11 weeks in the 18-week course and I have only completed 23% of the course. Since I am also a student in the International Baccalaureate Academy I’m finding it very difficult to keep up with this class. I’m interested in attending a state college, such as the University of Central Florida or the University of Florida. How will this affect my chances of getting accepted if I want to major in the medical region, not financial?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Ask your guidance counselor how dropping it will affect your transcript. Will appear on your transcript? Will a grade be factored into your GPA, etc.?

  29. Laura says:

    I would also like to add it would be the only class I’ve ever dropped.
    I’ve never finished out the year with a class average below a C and it was only Chemistry last year that I did really bad in.

  30. Lee Bierer says:

    Call the college admissions office and ask. Most selective schools wouldn’t be pleased with a curriculum with study halls and art, even if you have enough credits to graduate.

  31. Ashley says:

    I don’t do any ec’s. My mom refuses to drive me around and I have no other options on transportation.I’m a school of choice child and I don’t live in walking distance of my school district and there is nothing in my home district. School is my life basically. It seems that my only other option would be to load up on rigorous courses. My current schedule consists of Economics, Spanish 2, Programming, and Biology, these are my A classes, and Geometry, English 9, and Art are my B classes. Art is only a semester course and I believe English 9 will change when I have a better teacher. Next semester my electives are Video game design and health, Spanish 2 stays. Last year I got an A in Algebra 1 and an A in Spanish 1.

    Would my situation with my mother’s refusal be something to include in a college admission essay?

    Next year I will have to wavier into H American lit, I will probably waiver into H Algebra 2, and H Chemistry will probably be a shoe in since Biology is a joke. (I’ve never really had to try in science). I plan on going to American History, we had it in 8th grade and I found it an easy A but REALLY boring, so I don’t want to go to AP. My electives will probably be Marketing, Spanish 3, and Human Biology.

    This is all I’m sure of at the moment. I’m somewhat worried. I don’t want to seem lazy to colleges, but I have no options. AP’s are more designed for Juniors and Seniors here. I think APUSH is my only option next year.

  32. Lee Bierer says:

    Not sure exactly what your question is but you’ve got a heavy load of courses – if you can’t participate in any extracurriculars outside of school, why not get involved in clubs at school and see if someone else can drive you home afterwards. You will need more than just grades and great test scores to get into the more selective schools.

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