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October 26, 2005

Does Withdrawing From Classes In Undergrad Look Bad?

A reader writes:

I'm currently an undergraduate in Fall Semester of my sophomore year. I've maintained a 4.0 at my school.

But due to medical reason, I'm going to have to withdraw from my classes this Fall semester. Since I'm withdrawing, “w's” show up on the transcript to indicate the withdrawal from classes. MY QUESTION IS: Do all the w's look bad that show up on your transcript to indicate that you've withdrawn from classes?

First, I assume you're asking about how law school admissions committees will view those W's, and I can only say that if you've got a whole semester of W's on your transcript they're not just going to say “oh, that's bad,” they're going to look to your application letter or statement of purpose to see some explanation for that. You can use those writing opportunities to explain what happened and why it has made you a stronger candidate for law school.

Second, you're a sophomore in college! You've got a lot of time to think about what you want to do. Explore your options, enjoy undergrad, and maybe a year or two from now you can start worrying about things like this. ;-)

Of course, I'm a slacker and that's just me. Any other thoughts? Has anyone had experience explaining W's on a transcript for a law school application?

Posted by mowabb at October 26, 2005 10:17 AM

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I completely agree with ambimb's take on the situation. I also had to withdraw from a few classes for medical reasons (not the whole semester) and so I have the "WN" (withdrawn - neutral) marker on the transcript. I don't think I explained the non-grade on the transcript specifically, but I definitely wrote about the medical issues and how I was able to overcome them, making me a stronger candidate, etc etc.

Definitely don't worry about this right now. Your health is the most important thing, and you have plenty of time to get better, do well in school as you've done, and rock admissions.

Posted by: em at October 26, 2005 10:22 AM

I wholeheartedly agree with everything mowabb said, but in reverse order.

The important thing is that you are only a Sophmore. Please, please, PLEASE don't even think about law school until your senior year. There's a whole big world out there, and there are a ton of lawyers who are already in it... and a lot of them wish they weren't lawyers. If, as you undergrad experience draws to a close, you are certain that the law is for you, then go ahead and apply.

Second, again, I agree with the advice in the post. If you have a whole semester of Withdrawn classes, an Admissions Committee will figure something went wrong, but you will have an opportunity to explain that in a letter or in your personal statement. Unless your "medical problem" is "checking into a methadone clinic," admissions people will completely understand your withdrawal during this semester. (And even if it is the methadone clinic, if you can show that you're off the junk, even that probably won't be that bad if your numbers are good enough).

But the crux of my advice is this. Don't worry about it yet.

Posted by: Unreasonable Man at October 26, 2005 11:37 AM