Archived: Course Withdrawal vs. Withdrawal with Cause: Which one is right for me?

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Happy Reading Week! You might be using this time to catch up on homework, or you might be taking a much-needed break from thinking about school. Nice! 

If you’re going into Reading Week feeling overwhelmed and dreading going back to classes, you may want to take this time to think about withdrawing from a course. There’s absolutely no shame in it, and it can be a really smart choice that allows you to regroup without affecting your GPA. But how does it work? To help you figure it all out, we asked the brilliant Imogene Roulson from SAMRU’s Student Advocacy Office to write a guest post about the differences between course withdrawal (“W”) and withdrawal with cause (“WC”).


Sometimes as students, we can run into difficulties during our semester. One of these can be not having great success in our courses for several reasons (course concerns/absences/exam concerns, financial concerns and more). If you feel you are struggling to make the grade in any of your courses, you might consider withdrawing (obtaining a “W” grade) from the course.

Now, perhaps the situation above does not quite ring true to your experience. Maybe your grades are being impacted by physical circumstances (IE: a car accident) or mental health concerns, related or not to traumatic life events. If this sounds like your experience, you might want to consider a course withdrawal with cause (obtaining a “WC” grade).

Withdrawal with cause is similar to withdrawal, with some differences. Both withdrawal and withdrawal with cause hold no value against your GPA and can be applied for at any point after the add-drop deadline, and before the “W” deadline. There is also no fee refund when doing a ‘W’ or ‘WC’. While the “WC” may NOT impact your remaining in a program of study, the “W” grade may indeed impact you being required to withdraw from a program, depending on specific requirements in your program of study.

The other difference between “W” and “WC” is that for a “W” grade, you ONLY fill out a single form at the Registrar’s office. In contrast, for a “WC”, you still must fill out a form, but you must also provide the Registrar’s office documentation to support your circumstances. This means providing proof that you experienced severe illness, or severe physical or emotional distress. Submitting a letter from either a doctor OR registered mental health professional is essential. The letter from the doctor or mental health professional needs to describe the seriousness of your medical circumstances or your experience of severe emotional distress and how it impacted your ability to be a student. A doctor’s note or a note of one or two sentences is often not sufficient enough to grant a “WC”.

If you’re not sure the letter from your professional is sufficient to be granted a “WC”, sometimes students themselves write optional letters to submit, in addition to the above documentation provided. Although it’s optional, it gives you an opportunity to describe your experiences through self-advocacy and puts you in the driver’s seat. You decide what is shared in your letter and how it’s described.

The withdrawal date for the Winter 2017 semester is March 17, 2017.

How can the Student Advocacy Office Help You?

We can:

  1. Discuss “W”/”WC” policy information and other options related to your situation
  2. Provide you with a second look over documents you may need/wish to submit
  3. Connect you to other support networks by helping you find best-fit options when you’re deciding how to manage current or emerging distress during this process
  4. Answer any questions you have about the “W”/”WC” process
  5. Help you self-advocate and understand what that looks like for you

If you have further questions about “W” vs. “WC”, don’t worry! We have an information sheet that you can read over to help you. If you still have questions or wish to speak to an independent source that’s confidential to figure out which path is the right one for you, contact Andrea Davis, the Student Advocacy Coordinator.