Why you should (or shouldn't) drop a subject

Why you should (or shouldn't) drop a subject

You might be a few weeks or months into your classes now, and know which subjects you like or don't enjoy. If you’re stuck in a subject you don't like, remember that it’s not too late to change your enrolment.

The census date for most universities usually falls at the very end of March — so now is the final moments to reconsider your subjects and withdraw from those you aren’t enjoying without financial penalty.

Once the census date has passed you will not be exempt from subject fees.

Should you or shouldn’t you?

Ask yourself why you're thinking of dropping a subject. Is it because the lectures are boring or you’d rather spend the day in bed? Or is it because:

  • the description of a subject doesn’t measure up to what is being taught in class
  • you chose the subject by mistake
  • you realise that the subject is not appropriate for your desired career path (or has turned you off pursuing a particular career path)?
Dropping a subject entirely is sometimes not an option, especially if it's a compulsory part of your course. More on that below.

The withdrawal process

Withdrawing from a subject is generally quite simple. At some universities, this is as easy as removing a subject using the online system or submitting a request form through your faculty office.

In some cases, you may need to obtain approval from your lecturer or course coordinator before you submit your request to withdraw, but this will vary between universities.

Because the semester is already several weeks in, you will probably not be able to pick up another subject until the following semester, meaning that you may find yourself slightly behind in your enrolments.

Luckily, most universities allow you to complete intensive subjects over the summer or winter break (or in a third trimester at some institutions) and finish your degree on time without any complications.

Will there be consequences?

Although dropping a subject can feel quite liberating, it can also have its consequences — especially if the subject you drop is compulsory or listed as a prerequisite for one you plan to complete further down the track.

If this is the case and you are genuinely struggling, dropping the subject is not your only option. Your lecturer or tutor can usually arrange a one-on-one consultation to discuss difficulties you are having and from there can refer you to on-campus academic assistance services or tutoring programs with senior students.

But if dropping the subject will cause issues with your enrolment, and if there is no real benefit to be gained (being able to take another more relevant subject instead, for example), it may be better to tough it out.

If you have doubts about withdrawing from a subject, ask yourself the following:

  • How will it affect my degree?
  • Is it essential to my learning?
  • Will dropping the subject benefit or hinder my university experience?
  • Is the subject compulsory? Will I have to pick it up again before I finish my course?
  • Is the subject an official or suggested prerequisite for another subject I’m interested in?

Each university will have different procedures for enrolment changes. Some may also have late withdrawal processes for special circumstances, such as significant illness, a death in the family or unavoidable travel.

Visit your university’s website for more specific information about census dates and withdrawal procedures.

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