Course Withdrawal

"Withdrawing" from a course differs from "dropping" a course. When you drop a course, you can do so yourself through ACES Web during the Drop/Add period, and the course does not appear on your official Duke transcript. However, to withdraw from a course after the Drop/Add deadline, you must follow a set of procedures that begins at Academic Deans office, and (if the withdrawal is approved) ends when a grade of W is recorded on your official transcript.

The deadline for requesting to withdraw from a course is four (4) weeks before the last day of classes. The specific deadline date is published in the Trinity College and Pratt academic calendars.

When should you withdraw from a course and when should you persist?

Each situation is unique and you are welcome to discuss the range of your options with Academic Deans at any time. If you are having great difficulty in a course such as math, chemistry, or a foreign language where your background is weak or your study habits are not well enough developed to permit you to pass the course, then withdrawing from it is a sensible option. Having a WP or WF on a transcript is preferable to an F. If you are struggling in a course but think you can finish the course with a passing grade and you are using available resources (tutors/help room/study groups, Academic Skills Center, etc.), conferring with the instructor, and you believe you are making progress as the semester continues, then persisting might be preferable. Have a frank discussion with your instructor. Make sure that you understand how the grading is done in the class. Know what grades you have to date and what the best/worst case scenario will be at the end of the semester. Also, ask yourself if you are putting so much time into one course that you must neglect your other courses, thereby, perhaps pulling down all your grades.

If you must withdraw from a course, consider it a learning experience. Identify the problems that you encountered and determine how to avoid the same problems in the future, whether or not you repeat the course from which you withdrew. Consider that if you have problems in reading, memorization, problem solving, time management or some other basic skill, the same problems may affect some of your other courses. For example, students who have difficulty in math often also have difficulty in chemistry, biology, and courses that involve problem solving. These same students may excel in courses that involve reading and writing. Not all courses require the same study habits and skills. You can consult with an instructor in the Academic Skills Instructional Program (ASIP) to better understand your learning styles.

Medical withdrawal from a course (form included).

If you experience serious medical problems that interfere with your ability to successfully complete a course in which you are enrolled, you should schedule an appointment with your academic dean without delay to discuss your options, including the possibility of withdrawing from the course. Depending upon how debilitating your medical situation is, and when in the semester your health concerns emerge, it may be the case that other types of relief, such as an incomplete or even a medical leave of absence, are more appropriate.

The decision whether to authorize a course withdrawal is an administrative one to be made by your academic dean.  If you request permission to withdraw from a course for medical reasons, your dean’s decision will be informed by the opinion of your attending medical practitioner but not driven by it. Beyond the information provided by your doctor, the dean will take into account all that is known about your situation at Duke including such factors as your medical history, your use of helpful resources in the past, your compliance with medical expectations, how you have conducted your academic responsibilities in courses to date, and other such indicators that you have been managing your condition and your academic affairs in responsible ways.

Because how you conduct your medical and academic affairs is among the factors that will be considered by the dean in his or he decision whether to authorize a medical course withdrawal, it is important that you attend classes and keep up with your work in accordance with your instructors’ expectations throughout the semester.  If due to a serious illness you fall behind in your work it is very important that you contact your instructor, your dean, and/or your doctor or therapist immediately so that you can get the help that you need and can demonstrate you efforts to manage your illness responsibly.

The deadline for a medical withdrawal from a course is the same as for all other course withdrawals, i.e., a date four weeks prior to the last day of classes. The procedures you must follow to withdraw from a course are the same as for other course withdrawals.

Note: If you seek a second or subsequent medical withdrawal to an underload for a chronic condition, this can be indicative of a condition that may make you eligible for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Accordingly, you may want to consult with a representative of the  Student Disability Access Office (if you are not already registered with that office) to discuss your eligibility for accommodations through that office, including the possibility of an additional medical course withdrawal.


To withdraw from a course, you will need to pick up a course withdrawal form from your academic dean's office, get the signature of the instructor, and return the form to the dean's office by the date indicated on the form.

When withdrawing from a course to an underload--since this is generally only permitted once--you should expect to meet with your dean to discuss the matter. Contact your academic dean's office for information about how to proceed. If you seek permission to withdraw from a course to an underload for medical reasons, you will have to provide additional documentation to your academic dean. In order for the dean to be able to understand your medical situation and treatment history clearly and to be able to factor them appropriately into his/her decision whether to authorize a medical course withdrawal, you are expected to provide your attending health practitioner with the following form to complete and return to the dean:

            Online Form: Attending Healthcare Provider’s Questionnaire (PDF)

You are also asked to sign a waiver of confidentiality that will permit your dean to speak with the healthcare provider to resolve any questions that may arise from the information contained in the questionnaire submitted.

Last updated: July 28, 2011