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Course Withdrawal

"Withdrawing" from a course differs from "dropping" a course. When you drop a course, you can do so yourself through DukeHub during the Drop/Add period, and the course does not appear on your official Duke transcript. However, to withdraw from a course after the Drop/Add deadline, you must follow a set of procedures that begins at your Academic Dean's office, and (if the withdrawal is approved) ends when a grade of W is recorded on your official transcript.

If you are considering a course withdrawal, read carefully the information under Course Load to fully understand the ramifications of a withdrawal to an underload.

NOTE:  Withdrawal from a course will not be approved by the Academic Dean if disciplinary action is pending, or if a sanction has been imposed by the Undergraduate Conduct Board related to the course in question. 

Students at Duke withdraw from courses for a host of good reasons, and consequently the receipt of a W grade in a course is not a blemish on your record. 

The deadline for requesting to withdraw from a course is four (4) weeks before the last day of classes. The specific deadline date is published in the official Academic Calendar set by the Registrar.  The Withdrawal deadline is a generous one and consequently strictly adhered to.  It is your responsibility to decide whether to withdraw from a course and to initiate the withdrawal process by meeting with your academic dean to obtain a form no later than 11:59 p.m. on the deadline date.  To be valid, the completed form must be returned to your dean's office by the return date indicated on the withdrawal form.  If you miss the deadline, you should expect to remain in and complete the course in question. 

Students enrolled in an overload are permitted to withdraw from a course to a normal load (4cc) so long as they do so by the withdrawal deadline, but withdrawal from a course to an underload is permitted only once in a student's Duke career. 

Students on academic probation are expected to remain in a full course load during their semester of probation and will be permitted to withdraw to an underload by their academic dean only in compelling circumstances. 

When should you withdraw from a course and when should you persist?

Each situation is unique and you are welcome to discuss the range of your options with Academic Deans at any time. If you are having great difficulty in a course such as math, chemistry, or a foreign language where your background is weak or your study habits are not well enough developed to permit you to pass the course, then withdrawing from it is a sensible option. Having a W a transcript is preferable to an F. If you are struggling in a course but think you can finish the course with a passing grade, then persisting might be appropriate.  This is paricularly true if you are using available resources (tutors/help room/study groups, Academic Resource Center, etc.), conferring with the instructor, and believe you are making progress as the semester continues, then persisting might be preferable. Have a frank discussion with your instructor about how you are doing in the course, and make sure that you understand how the grading is done in the class. Know what grades you have to date and what the best/worst case scenario will be at the end of the semester. Also ask yourself if you are putting too much time into one course that you must neglect your other courses, thereby, perhaps pulling down all your grades.

If you must withdraw from a course, consider it a learning experience. Try too identify the problems that you encountered and determine how to avoid the same problems in the future, whether or not you repeat the course from which you withdrew. Consider that if you have problems in reading, memorization, problem solving, time management or some other basic skill, the same problems may affect some of your other courses. For example, students who have difficulty in math often also have difficulty in chemistry, biology, and courses that involve problem solving. These same students may excel in courses that involve reading and writing. Not all courses require the same study habits and skills. You can consult with a Learning Consultant in the Academic Reource Center to better understand your learning styles.


Procedure for Course Withdrawal

To withdraw from a course, you will need to make an appointment with your academic dean to obtain a link to the electronic course withdrawal form.  You will need to submit the form, and obtain an electronic acknowledgement from your instructor by the date indicated on the form.

When withdrawing from a course to an underload--since this is generally only permitted once--you must meet with your dean to discuss the matter. Contact your academic dean's office for information about how to proceed.

Medical withdrawal from a course.

The deadline for all course withdrawals, including ones for medical reasons, is 5 pm, on the last day of class (LDOC).  This includes all the required, supporting documentation must also be received by 5 pm on LDOC. 

If you experience serious medical problems that interfere with your ability to successfully complete a course in which you are enrolled, you should schedule an appointment with your academic dean without delay to discuss your options, including the possibility of withdrawing from the course. Depending upon how debilitating your medical situation is, and when in the semester your health concerns emerge, it may be the case that other types of relief, such as an incomplete or even a medical leave of absence, are more appropriate.

Note: If you seek a second or subsequent medical withdrawal to an underload for a chronic condition, this can be indicative of a condition that may make you eligible for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Accordingly, you must consult with a representative of the Student Disability Access Office (if you are not already registered with that office) to discuss your eligibility for accommodations through that office, including the possibility of an additional medical course withdrawal.


Last updated: NOV 17, 2022