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 What might happen is that you may not be told you got rescinded for dropping until late fall, too late to do anything.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.

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

  1. megan says:

    Hi,
    I’m a senior and I’ve been taking a class called Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow because I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I now realize that I do not want to be a teacher and we are barely in our home school for the class. We are out at other schools teaching and observing. We have multiple assignment that are requird to be done within every 9 weeks. I don’t feel like I can keep up with all the assignments and leson plans not being in the classroom. Should I drop the class or stay in it until graduation in June?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Call URI right away and see what they say. Fingers crossed they say you can drop it.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      You’ll need to contact the school(s) you are most interested in and ask them exactly how they feel about you dropping the course. If you receive their “blessing” then drop it, otherwise, stay with it.

      • Sachi V says:

        Hi i am taking 6 ap/honors this year and I want to drop my ap computer science course. i have until tomorrow to do this without it showing up as an F on my transcripts. i am a junior in high school. How bad would it look on college aps.

  2. Adam says:

    Also, I’m a senior and I had to drop a World Geography pace (booklet) in order to have time for the online calculus course.

  3. changhun says:

    what happens if i’m trying to drop a full-year course at the end of one semester? So my grade for the first semester has already come out, and i can make a choice between completing it or dropping it. Will it be bad for me to quit?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Are you sure your high school will allow you to drop a year-long course mid-way? Quitting doesn’t look good, but neither does a very low grade. What would you be replacing that course with?

  4. Michelle says:

    I am a junior in high school and I signed up for AP US history, AP English, and Honors Chemistry. They are all yearlong course and needless to say, I bit off more than I could actually chew. I finished off the first semester with a C+ in history, a B in english, and a B- in chemistry. Spring sports will be starting soon and my school has a 10 day rule before students can no longer change their schedules.
    I’m thinking about dropping my chemistry class since I was originally only planning to take normal chemistry instead of honors. But due to the classes and electives I chose, there wasn’t enough leeway for me to change my classes. So I was put into honors chemistry and the school newspaper class. I’m not that great at math and chemistry involves math, so it’s kind of like I’m taking two math classes.
    In shorter terms, I plan to focus more on my other AP classes so I can get a better grade and so I think dropping this class will benefit my GPA. I would really like it if you could tell me thoughts before I turn in the papers to switch classes. Keep in mind that the year before I took all normal classes and I’m used to having at least a 3.8+ GPA.
    Thanks for listening to my concerns!

    • Lee Bierer says:

      It really depends on what you will take instead of chemistry and where you will be applying to college. I can help more if you give me more details.

  5. Scott says:

    My D is going to get her first C+ in AP English Lit for Fall senior year. She applied only RDs. The rest of her midyear is (Physics Honor A, Japanese 3 A, AP Stat A-, Independent Study A-, Sociology Honor B+, Multi-variable Calculus B, AP Econ B-, AP Eng4 C+). Would this be a serious blow for her at Ivys and other top schools? She is intended an engineering major.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Not necessarily – but if the colleges don’t require her to send her first semester grades then, don’t send them.

  6. Ryan says:

    So it’s 2nd semester senior year now and I dropped AP Spanish after taking it first semester and getting an A. I’ve been the perfect student throughout high school never getting an A-, but I’m kind of worrying about getting rescinded for dropping this class. I don’t think that it’s a big deal but IDK. And yes, other than dropping AP Spanish, I’ve been taking the hardest coursework. Also, I have applied to the highest top tier schools (HYP). Is it no big deal that I dropped this class?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Congrats on your performance thus far, however, I think it might have been risky. You’ll never know. If you don’t get accepted you could blame it on dropping the AP, but honestly, it’s just too tough. Did your applications ask that you inform the schools if you have dropped the class? Ask your school guidance counselor. If you need to inform them that you dropped the class, you’ll need to have a reason for dropping it. Obviously, it wasn’t your performance. Good luck. I’d love it if you kept me posted on what happens.

      • Ryan says:

        I do not plan on informing them of my dropping the class and am waiting for admission results. They will not know that I dropped this class by the time they make admission decisions.

        It isn’t explicitly stated anywhere to inform them that I dropped it and I don’t want them to know I dropped the class before admissions. Also, I asked my guidance counselor before I dropped it and he didn’t think it was a big deal but I really don’t know. Also, I dropped the class because I had a schedule conflict and started taking it at like this separate school attached to mine but it was getting really annoying and stressful.

  7. Dennis says:

    I am currently taking an Online Accounting course and want to drop it because I have been having issues with my internet. I have swim practice from 1:38 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. everyday and don’t find myself with enough time to go to the local library as I have more important courses to focus on. The Accounting course is not an A-G required course but a career class I had to take to graduate. I know have the credits to graduate and was wondering if UC schools would be okay with me dropping this course.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      You’ll need to contact the specific UCs directly. Sorry I can’t be of much help – it really is on a case-by-case basis. Good luck.

  8. Mary says:

    I’m currently in gr 11 taking a gr 12 class that I was planning to drop since I’m actually failing the course. I spoke to my vice principal about this and he told me that he would take it off my transcript and according to him, it’d be like I never took it. Will they still see that even though he took it off my transcript? I’m not sure if its better to stay and fail or withdraw.

  9. Mary says:

    I’m currently a gr 11 student taking a gr 12 course that I’m failing, and after speaking to my vice principal, he said that he’d take it off my transcript. Would universities still see this? I’m not sure if its better to fail the course and to stay or to withdraw from it. Do they see my gr 12 marks in gr 11?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Pretty surprising that they would take it off your transcript. Get a copy of your transcript and get it confirmed.

  10. Tony says:

    Hello, I am a sophmore and chose AP euro instead of AP psychology, it is currently summer and i decided i wanted to take AP phsyc instead of AP Euro, Would this look bad on my transcript or would it be fine?

  11. Derek says:

    I am going into my senior year & am struggling with the decision to take either AP Euro or a basic statistics class – I am going to major in Accounting & will need to take it in college. I did write to my 3 top choice schools & 2 out of the 3 said it was ok to take statistics (the class I am really interested in taking). The 3rd school said they would want to see the rigor. I am already taking 2 APs and 2 honor classes. I have been told that the AP Euro will help me get into college while the stats class will help me in college. Can you advise? thanks.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Unfortunately there is really not enough info here for me to help you. Where are you applying? What is your GPA and your test scores?

  12. June says:

    Hello, my S doesn’t wants to take Spanish 4. He already took Spanish 3 online. Finally we force him to take Spanish 4 and he agreed. however, he wants to keep AP Econ. at school and take Spanish 4 online. H
    He already took 7 AP classes and took 8 AP tests with 5. We want him to apply top schools. Do you think two years-online language classes will hurt his chance? He is intended in English & History major. Should we force him to change his schedule at school (drop AP Econ and take Spanish 4)? Thank you!

  13. Lisa says:

    I am a senior in HS. I’m wondering if it will hurt my college applications if I drop French 3 in order to take Marine Bio, giving me 4 years of a lab science. I’ve missed the cut-off to drop a class by 1 week. I am hoping to apply as an engineering major in college. Thank you.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      It could. Many colleges require three years of a foreign language, some recommend 4. Check your colleges and their specific requirements/recommendations.

  14. Shelly says:

    Hello, I’m currently a senior in high school. How bad do you think it looks to a college if I were to drop an AP class? My cumulative GPA is above 4.0; last year I took AP Language, and this year I’m taking a total of three AP classes – Calculus BC, Biology, and Lit – and I’m planning to drop Biology. I already took honors biology last year, so I have my three science credits necessary for me to graduate, and the only reason I signed up for this class was to take the exam and get credits for college In all honesty, I love biology and I got As last year, but this year is different; I’m currently getting a low C and I feel as though I can’t handle the stress, like I’m about to explode from it. My only “easy class” is Ceramics – Senior Project is killer because of the major research paper and the 25+ hours of fieldwork required, while Band is time-consuming and difficult to get an A because of strict grading. I’m also in clubs – Interact, Math Team, Science Academic Team – and I’m in marching band. Marching band especially takes up a good chunk of my time – although we only practice three days a week, the practices run up to 9pm and by the time I’m starting homework it’s already 10pm – I usually average 2-3 hours of sleep on those days. On top of all that is college admissions, and I have not started my personal essay or gotten any teacher recommendations. I feel so behind and there’s this feeling of not having any time to myself at all. I know it’ll get better after November (which is when marching band season ends), but I don’t think I can handle the stress until then.

    If I were to drop AP Bio, I would probably just TA (teacher’s assistant) because I can’t get credit for any other classes even if I were to switch into them now. I know it’s bad, but at this point I’ve just given up on AP Bio. My bio teacher says if I stick it out, I can definitely get a 3 or a 4 on the exam, but I don’t think I can handle it until then. My parents are reluctant to say yes, but to them it’s better than dropping Senior Project, which is required to become a valedictorian. Do you think dropping AP Bio would affect my chances of getting accepted to colleges and universities? I’m currently looking at UH Manoa, Stanford, USC, UCLA, and University of Chicago as my choices.
    Thank you!

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Wow! You’re doing a lot. Are you in the running for valedictorian? What are your test scores? Dropping AP Bio might make sense because of all the stress you seem to be dealing with. But it sounds like you might also be able to pick up the grade and score well on the test. I think you need to focus on your time management and figure out what your priorities are. If you are applying to Stanford and USC – your essays have to be wonderful and creative. When will you find the time to write them? So sorry for all the stress. The only thing I know for certain is that you are a dedicated student and a year from now you will be happy at whatever school you choose. Good luck.

  15. Kristy says:

    Hi!
    I’m a senior and am currently taking AP Calculus. However, I’m struggling in it a lot and have a really bad grade in it. I’ve gotten help but I still don’t fully understand it and it’s just getting more difficult. First semester still hasn’t ended in my school and I already submitted most of my college applications. Would it be bad if i dropped this course?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Check to see if your school will even allow you to drop the course, most high schools won’t allow it. Then, contact the colleges you applied to and ask them how they feel about it — try not to give your name, if possible.

  16. Allie says:

    Hello!
    I am a senior in high school and am taking AP Chemistry, AP Physics C, AP Literature, AP Calculus BC, and AP Microeconomics. How bad will it look if I drop AP Microeconomics for regular economics? I had straight A’s before senior year (I took 5 AP’s last year as well). My first semester has ended and I received a C in Physics and B’s in calc and lit. I received A’s in all my other classes (just some context).

    Thank You!

    • Lee Bierer says:

      According to what you wrote – you received an A in AP Micro (unless it is a one semester course) – I would suggest keeping it and not drawing attention to your first semester grades.

  17. Bethany says:

    If i already finished a semester and want to drop a class becuase im not doing well can i ?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      check with your school – not typically a good idea because you’ll have to report it to all of your colleges.

  18. Farrah says:

    Hi,
    I was currently taking Precalc and I decided to be placed back into trig/Precalc for second semester rather than continue with the full year of Precalc. I already received acceptance letters from colleges but I am scared that I will get revoked when I send in my final transcript. I received a B first semester and I am worried that I will get an even lower grade second semester. So I dropped the foul year of Precalc and decided on trig/Precalc. How bad would that look on my transcripts. My grades are already good I average around a 3.9 and have taken ap courses.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      You will likely be fine. I would suggest being proactive and contacting the college(s) where you’ve been accepted and notifying them before sending in your transcript.

  19. Emily says:

    Hi,

    I am currently a second semester high school senior and I am considering dropping IB Biochemistry. It is a one semester science elective that is supposed to help prepare students for parts of the AP and/or IB Biology exam.

    The problem is that I was unknowingly supposed to have Chem II background to understand the course, even though Chem II was not listed as a prerequisite for the course. Now I don’t understand anything in the class and see myself getting a C or worse as my final grade. I have gotten mainly As and a few Bs in my entire high school career.
    I want to drop the course and focus on my other AP classes that I actually have a chance at understanding, but I am concerned that dropping biochemistry will ruin my college admissions chances at UT Austin and UC San Diego.

    What are your thoughts? Is it better to do poorly in the class and potentially other classes while I work hard to understand biochemistry or drop the class and focus more on my other classes?

    Thank you in advance for your advice!

    • Lee Bierer says:

      You seem to have a much better reason than most students who want to drop a class. I think you’ll be fine. Check out to see if your school will allow you to drop it an see if you can find another “rigorous” class to substitute.

  20. Tiffany says:

    I’m a senior and it is second semester. Is it bad if i drop an elective for a free period? I’m already accepted to some schools, so will it affect my admission or lowering my chances of getting accepted to other school?

  21. Kayla says:

    I am taking a video production course at my school. I got an A the first semester and 2nd semester has just begun and I want to drop the class. It requires too much time outside of class, we don’t do anything inside of class at all. Everything in the class I have learned on my own. I want a career in the film industry, so will universities (film schools perhaps) raise eyebrows if they see that I only took my video production class one semester?
    Please respond soon, I have to decide by Monday.
    Thanks

    • Kayla says:

      I am a sophomore with over a 4.0 GPA and I can’t take any AP right now (you have to be a junior at my school) but I am in 2 honors classes. Do you think it would be a good choice to drop video production and take honors music instead?
      I just feel like I’m going nowhere in my video production class. I put in so much work but nothing ever gets recognized. I just put so much time into it and I feel like it is all for nothing. Should I end the misery and drop the class or would it jeopardize my chances of getting into university?

      • Lee Bierer says:

        I think you should whichever interests you more – colleges want you to follow your interests and not a prescribed class schedule.

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Not worth dropping. Stay in the class.

  22. Senior says:

    Hello,
    I am a senior in high school and have finished applying to colleges (all RD).
    I am currently enrolled in AP Calculus BC (as well as AP Chem, AP Stats, AP Macro Econ, world lit, journalism and student government). I have a 3.87 through the first semester of this year.
    I’ve been struggling the past few units in BC Calc, and ended up with a B- as my first semester grade. I am strongly considering dropping BC Calc and enrolling in AB Calc instead. At my school, BC Calc is an extremely rigorous course and nearly all students get 5s on the AP test. I’ve found it very hard to keep up with my other courses and extracurriculars, and feel that in AB I would get the reinforcement I need to feel comfortable with my knowledge of calculus going into college.
    Dropping into AB is obviously not ideal, but something I would feel much better about doing (versus staying in BC). Would this have a super adverse effect on my chances of getting into college? Should I contact schools before and see what they think?
    Thanks so much

  23. Amanda says:

    As an IB senior starting second semester would it be better to finish with the classes i have even if i end up failing a couple of important IB classes and not getting the diploma for IB or to try to switch out of those classes and dropping the program altogether.. if thats even possible at this point.
    Also if I continue with my classes, whether I pass them or not, and end up not getting the IB diploma would that affect admission decisions?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Yes and yes — you need to speak with your Guidance Counselor immediately. Can you graduate if you fail a class? Take some action immediately and yes colleges will care if you drop a class, change a class or fail a class. Good luck.

  24. Bernie says:

    Hi! I’ve already gotten into an Ivy ED, and I’m currently taking (all AP) Psych, AB calc, environmental science, latin, government, and lit. I have a 5.00 GPA out of a possible 5. I am however busying editing and querying my 3rd novel and I don’t have has much time to write as I did before. Right now, AP latin is kind of a joke (no one does the hw and class time is really relaxed) and I keep on thinking that I’d be better off if I dropped it (I’ve already scored high enough on the Latin SAT II to opt out of a language in college). I will probably call admissions office beforehand regardless and talk to my counselor, but before I do any of those things, I just wanted your opinion on the situation. Is it likely that I’ll be rescinded? Thank you!

    • Lee Bierer says:

      Well, first… congrats!! Just ask the college and your guidance counselor. Your guidance counselor probably has a good idea. I’m surprised that your school would let you drop a course this late in the semester. Please post me back and let me know what happened.

  25. Atul says:

    Hi,
    I am accepted at Univ of Texas Austin have applied to Sanford, Duke, Pamona etc. I am through my first semester in Senior year and have all As and excellent GPA. My midyear transcripts have been sent to all the colleges.

    Question: Can i convert all or some of my classes to Pass / Fail for the 2nd semester? How it would impact my admission?

  26. Michelle says:

    Hello,

    My daughter is a junior and is in an AP chemistry class. She got a D her first semester and she has just brought home an F on the first progress report for second semester. We were wanting her to drop the class after the first semester, but her counselor advised her not to. She has already fulfilled the science requirements for her school and does not need this class. She is undecided on her career path, and will most likely go to a junior college upon graduation. Do you see any problem with dropping the class? She is getting all As and 1 B in her other classes.

  27. lucas acker says:

    Hello.

    I am a senior in high school and I was wondering if I could take economics online when im already through the first quarter of the 2nd semester. I am able to drop that class so I can take it online?

    • Lee Bierer says:

      I’m amazed your high school would allow you to drop the class, but if they do, you’ll need to check with the colleges where you’ve already been accepted and see if it is okay with them.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

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