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Pull-Out Game Weak AF: Naive Freshman Fails to Understand the Difference Between Dropping and Withdrawing from a Course

Credit: Lea Eisenstein

Keeping up with important dates on Penn’s absurdly long academic calendar is cumbersome for any student, but freshmen who are navigating it for the first time can find it especially challenging. 

One freshman in particular learned the hard way that, when it comes to shopping around for classes, relying on withdrawal can cause a messy situation.

When Alex Chadwick (C’ 20) decided to register for an anthropology class on the Silk Road at the beginning of the semester, he figured he would take some time to decide whether to actually pursue the credit. After some soul-searching and numerous disappointing quiz grades, he finally opted to drop the course from his schedule this Thursday—10 full weeks into the 14-week semester. But when he logged into Penn InTouch to finalize the decision, he quickly realized that he had made a grave miscalculation: He mistook “withdrawing from a course” for “dropping a course.”

Penn’s academic calendar marks today as the last possible day to withdraw from a course. This means that, until 11:59PM tonight, students may petition the Committee on Undergraduate Academic Standing to permit them to withdraw their enrollment in a class due to “extenuating circumstances.” Unlike simply dropping a course within the first five weeks of class, withdrawal from a course is indicated on the transcript by a large, shameful “W” next to the course title. Being a naive, aloof, and generally inattentive person, Chadwick had failed to make a distinction between the two actions.

“I was like, ‘Shit.’ I really messed up this time,” said Chadwick on the mix-up. “I guess I should have known from the first day that I wasn’t going to do the readings, or write the papers, or even go to class. I have absolutely zero interest in anthropology and no desire to learn about the Silk Road. But it counted for a sector requirement, so I put it in my course cart and kind of just left it there.”

Chadwick went on to say that the language used on the academic calendar was intentionally deceptive, leaving him hopelessly confused about the actual length of time he had to craft the perfect class schedule with only the least intellectually-taxing courses. Now that advanced registration has opened for the Fall 2017 semester, he’s uneasy about starting the process over again from scratch after his last schedule caused him so much trauma.

But even in spite of his adversity, Chadwick remains hopeful. “Honestly, I just hope I can save my grade enough to pass the sector requirement.”