Get the Hang of the Add/Drop Process

No matter how excited or unhappy you are about some of the classes on your schedule, your feelings won't be confirmed until after the class starts. You might immediately get good vibes from a professor teaching a class you were dreading. Likewise, the person teaching the first class in the sequence for your major — a class you couldn't wait to take — could turn out to be a complete dud.

Fortunately, by adding and dropping classes, you can tweak your schedule so that it's just right for you. As simple as it sounds, adding and dropping can be complicated. While the process varies from school to school, here are some general pointers:

  • Adding a class is more difficult than dropping one. To add a class, you'll likely need the approval of the course's professor or department, as well as your adviser's signature. And, you'll have to make sure there's room in the class. To drop, you may need only one signature or none at all.
  • The add/drop process lasts only the first few weeks of the semester, after which point enrollment is sealed. If you fail the midterm and don't expect to do much better on the final, you can't drop the course, but you can withdraw. Withdrawing from a class means it vanishes from your transcript — it's as if you never registered for the class. You might not receive a refund for the fees you paid to take the class.
  • The process can be a hassle because most other students are going through the same process at the same time. For example, the slot you'd like in that poetry class may not be available only because another student hasn't yet completed the paperwork to drop it.

One helpful strategy is to register for more classes than you'll likely stick with. This way, you can easily drop one and not have to worry about adding another. Similarly, add before you drop, where the "add" deadline precedes the "drop" deadline. This way, you won't be in danger of not having enough classes for the semester after you finish the drop process.

Here are additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Don't try to be a trouper and tough out a difficult class. If it's giving you grief for the first week or two, it's likely not going to get better. As long as dropping a class will not put you behind schedule for graduation, drop it if it will help your GPA
  • Continue going to the class you intend to drop until you're certain you have a replacement. This way, if you can't get into another class, you won't fall behind in your studies.
  • Be persistent when trying to get into a class that you especially want or need. Check every day to see if there's an opening — skipping a day may mean another student gets your slot. It may help to try to meet with or at least e-mail the professor and see if she can pull any strings to get you in. Even if you're not on the list, show up at the class before it starts and explain your situation. A professor may keep a waiting list and open more seats for interested students.