What Is the Impact of a "W" on My Transcript?

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Should I withdraw from a course and get a W standing on my transcript? What happens when I withdraw from a course?

When students withdraw from a course after the add/drop deadline, they will receive a "W" standing on their academic record. Such standings are not included in computing averages. Learn more.

While it’s true that the W standing in a course will stay on your academic record, regardless of whether or not you complete the course in a later term, the impact of having a W on record may not be as bad as you have heard.

If you’re planning on applying for further study at the graduate level, the intensity of your course load and any record of withdrawals will likely be considered in your application - but that is only one portion of an application that will include grades (looking at a cumulative average and grades in particular courses), a letter of intent, references, and possibly an interview.

You will also have the opportunity, through your letter of intent and with the rest of your academic record, to add context to the withdrawal.

It may not be ideal to have a withdrawal on your record, but consider the alternatives:
  • Is there a chance that you may fail the course or receive an unsatisfactorily low grade?
  • Would focusing on this course for the remainder of the term take away from your other classes?

The idea behind withdrawals is to give you a period to reflect – the decision to continue in a course is not always easy.

If this is not your first withdrawal, or if you begin to see a pattern of withdrawal over the next few terms, you may want to consult an academic advisor around the way in which you are planning your degree.

We often hear of concerns about W's by students considering future applications to graduate studies, medical school or other professional programs. Admissions committees for these programs examine your academic record holistically, within the context of your full application. Their goal is to determine that you are able to handle the rigours of their curriculum.

More specifically, they look for trends – improving grades are a good trend, for instance. A pattern of W’s throughout your transcript could be a worrying trend, perhaps indicating some difficulty with time management, or anticipating workload.

A single W is not considered a trend and does not by itself indicate a regular pattern of behavior or the inability to perform at a high level. When it’s done for a good reason, a withdrawal simply indicates you made the best decision given the circumstances.

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