EDITORIAL: Amend Withdrawal Policy

Georgetown University should not penalize students for withdrawing from a course. Under Georgetown’s current policy, students can add or drop courses without penalty during the first week of school. While students do not face GPA penalties for dropping a course during the withdrawal period — the two-month period after add/drop — a withdrawal is denoted by a “W” on their transcript. Marking withdrawals on transcripts adds to an environment already dominated by student stress about careers and graduate school applications. Georgetown transcripts should not reflect a student’s decision to withdraw from a course during the allotted period. College students generally experience anxiety about withdrawing from classes. Student concerns over withdrawing from classes are often tied to a fear of the consequences their decision could have on student careers and financial aid. Georgetown’s stress culture is perpetuated by the academic, personal and career pressures students face on a regular basis. Students’ anxiety about how a “W” could affect employment further exacerbates this stress culture. Counter to a prevailing view among students, academic advisers suggest that one or two course withdrawals do not significantly affect professional opportunities, according to Hannah Wingett (COL ’19), who withdrew from a class during her sophomore year. In response to her worries about withdrawing, Wingett’s dean told her that withdrawing is “no big deal. You’re not planning on doing this frequently.” Still, the availability of resources answering student questions about withdrawing from classes suggests this concern is a significant source of student stress. Graduate schools also provide some leeway for course withdrawals; most applications request letters of intent, in which students can explain their decision to withdraw from a course. However, students may feel discouraged having to explain a withdrawal years later. Removing the “W” from student transcripts could alleviate some of the anxiety that Hoyas experience about being at a disadvantage during graduate school or career applications. Moreover, such a policy could also mitigate campus stigma against withdrawing from courses.  Withdrawing from classes at Georgetown is perceived as failing, according to Wingett. “I’ve never seen anybody normalize withdrawing, and students are all terrified of it,” Wingett said in an interview with The Hoya. As the current policy only serves to increase student stress and stigmatization, Georgetown should not include the withdrawal on student transcripts. The lack of a transcript notation would not simply allow students to withdraw from classes on a whim. Instead, the current policy, which requires students to complete 38 courses to graduate, would compel students to withdraw from a class only in extreme cases. Further, if a student drops a course such that they are below the minimum 12-credit requirement to be considered full-time, their financial aid and housing may be reconsidered. In contrast to Georgetown’s restrictive withdrawal policy, other prestigious institutions have adopted more accommodating measures. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, withdrawing from a class after the designated drop date is only recorded on a student’s internal transcript. These records are not passed on to anyone else. Similarly, at Brown University, dropping a class after the two-week add/drop period is only noted on internal records. Georgetown should mirror other elite universities by adopting a more flexible course withdrawal policy. However, Georgetown need not adopt MIT’s or Brown’s extreme policies to mitigate student worries about consequences to professional opportunities. Instead, the university should not record course withdrawals that occur during the withdrawal period. As an institution already plagued by stress culture, Georgetown should alleviate student anxiety rather than increase it through restrictive policies. Removing the “W” from students’ transcripts is a practical way for the university to decrease student stress. To reduce the university’s stress culture, Georgetown should implement a course withdrawal policy that prioritizes student well-being. The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

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