Courses: Withdrawal from

Policy (original)

Withdrawing from a course differs from dropping a course. To drop a course, you drop the course yourself on DukeHub during the drop/add period, and the course does not appear on your official Duke transcript. However, if you withdraw from a course after the drop/add deadline for any reason, then you must follow a set of procedures that begins at your academic dean's office, and (if the withdrawal is approved by your dean) ends when a grade of W is recorded on your official transcript. 

  • The deadline for requesting withdrawal from a course in a fall/spring semester is four (4) weeks prior to the last day of classes. The deadline applies to course withdrawals for any reason. Note that you have ten weeks before making a decision to withdraw and so the withdrawal deadline is strictly adhered to. The deadline for requesting withdrawal from a course during the summer depends on the summer term.  Course withdrawal deadlines are published in the Academic Calendar
  • In making a decision to withdraw, you might discuss your situation with your instructor (how are grades determined in this course, what grades do you have to-date, what is the best- and worst-case scenario at the end of the semester, does your instructor have suggestions for how you might better study). You can also talk with your academic advisor and academic dean. You might also consider support offices and resources where you can improve your study skills and time management. The Academic Advising Center discusses strategic choices at midterm time.
  • Students often worry that a course withdrawal will tarnish their Duke transcript.  However, students withdraw from courses for a host of good reasons, and consequently receipt of a W grade in a course is not a blemish on a record. 
  • Withdrawing from a course overload to a normal load (4.0 credits) is permitted in multiple fall/spring semesters. Withdrawing from a course during a summer session is also permitted, with the only restriction that the withdrawal be implemented by the withdrawal deadline.
  • Withdrawing from a normal course load to an underload (3.0 to 3.75 credits) is generally permitted only once in a fall or spring semester. However, you may begin another semester in an underload, with certain restrictions. You may also be permitted to withdraw to an underload more than once if there are significant medical reasons (see below).
  • Note that withdrawal to an underload is a serious step that can have implications for your ability to continue at Duke. Beginning in your second semester of enrollment, you must receive passing grades in 3.0 credits every semester to remain enrolled as a student. If you are unable to do this, you would be dismissed for academic reasons. This policy on continuation requirements may have an impact if you are having difficulty in more than one class. Be sure to discuss your situation with your academic dean.
  • Students on academic probation are expected to remain in a full course load during their semester of probation and will be permitted to withdraw to an underload by their academic dean only in compelling circumstances.
  • Withdrawal from a course will not be approved by your academic dean if disciplinary action is pending or a sanction has been imposed by the Undergraduate Conduct Board related to the course in question.

  • If you have a Duke merit scholarship (e.g., AB Duke Scholarship) or other special scholarship that requires you to maintain a normal course load, check with that scholarship office to see if withdrawing from a course might be in breach of the terms of that scholarship.

Medical Withdrawal from a Course

If you experience medical problems that seriously interfere with your ability to meet your academic responsibilities, you should schedule an appointment with your academic dean as soon as possible to discuss all of your options. 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 approve 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 health care provider 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 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 medical compliance and responsible conduct of your academic affairs are among the factors considered in the decision whether to authorize a medical course withdrawal, it is important for you to continue to attend classes and to keep up with your work in your courses throughout the semester. If due to a serious illness you fall behind in your work, you should contact your instructor, your dean, and health care provider so that you can receive the help that you need and can demonstrate your efforts to manage your illness responsibly.

If you need to seek a second or subsequent withdrawal to an underload for a medical condition, this can be indicative of a chronic condition that may make you eligible for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Accordingly, you should 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.

To withdraw from a course for medical reasons, you should follow the procedure below. Your dean may request medical documentation that will enable him or her to understand your medical situation and needs. He/she may ask you to have your health care provider fill a form for this:




STEP 1: Confer with your instructor, advisor, dean, family or others on your ability to continue with this class. Consider whether support offices and resources would be helpful.

STEP 2: Obtain a course withdrawal form from your academic dean. If you are withdrawing from an overload to a normal load, you may be able to pick up a course withdrawal form at your academic dean's office. Check with your academic dean's office to see if a meeting with your dean is required. If you are withdrawing to an underload for any reason, you will need to schedule an appointment with your academic dean so he/she can explain the policy on underloads and possible complications.

The deadline for picking up the withdrawal form or for scheduling an appointment with your academic dean is 5 pm on the day four weeks prior to the last day of classes in a fall or spring semester. The deadline for withdrawing during a summer session will depend on the summer term. Deadlines for all course withdrawals are published in the Academic Calendar.  

When you are given a withdrawal form, it will contain a date by which you need to return the form to your academic dean's office. To be valid, the completed form must be returned by the date indicated on the form. If you miss the return date, you should expect to remain in and complete the course in question. 

STEP 3: Meet with your instructor and have him/her sign the course withdrawal form. This is notification to your instructor that you are not finishing the course.

STEP 4: Return the signed withdrawal form to your academic dean's office. 

STEP 5: Your academic dean will then process the form and ask the registrar's office to issue you a W in place of a final grade. You should see the W appear on your Academic History on DukeHub within a week or so.  

See also:


Spring 2020 update

The course withdrawal deadline for undergraduates in Trinity and Pratt will be extended by a week for the Spring 2020 semester.  Students will need to request to withdraw by contacting their academic dean no later than April 1st at 5 pm. 

Other Spring 2020 Policy updates:

Students will be permitted an additional withdrawal to underload. This means if you have already withdrawn to an underload in a previous term, you may do so again this spring.  If you withdraw to an underload for the first time this term, you will also be permitted to do so again in a future term.  All students, except graduating seniors must remain enrolled in at least 3 cc and will need to earn credit in 3 cc by the end of the semester.  Semester and annual continuation requirements will remain in effect.  Please note that with the S/U grading as the default, students must earn a C- or higher to earn credit.