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    How Does Withdrawing From a Class Affect Financial Aid?

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 1st, 2024
    How Does Withdrawing From a Class Affect Financial Aid?

    If you are considering withdrawing from a class, don’t forget to examine how it will affect your financial aid. In most situations, withdrawing from a course should not affect your aid package. 

    But if you fail to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP, your aid may be affected. Withdrawing from a course can also change your enrollment status, which could reduce your aid. 

    Here’s our guide of what to look out for if you are considering withdrawing from a course and its impact on financial aid. But we won’t leave you with bad news– we’ll also discuss how to appeal to keep your aid.

    See also: How to write a SAP Appeal Letter

    Satisfactory Academic Progress

    Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP, is a set of requirements that varies by school. Students who fail to meet these requirements risk losing their financial aid package. Typically, SAP requirements include GPA, class enrollment, and demonstrated progress towards a degree.

    If you think your grades in a class aren’t where you’d like and you withdraw, it could affect these requirements in several ways. It reduces the credits you acquire that semester, which could impact enrollment status. 

    It could also put you off-course towards your degree. If the class you’re withdrawing from is critical to your degree, you’ll need to determine how to make it up. 

    Students who fail to meet SAP requirements will have their financial aid suspended. Because the requirements can vary, you should reach out to your school if you are concerned about your status. Typically, the Office of Financial Aid or the Registrar are good resources to consult.

    Specialized institutional scholarships

    Many students receive scholarships from their college that are not part of a typical financial aid package. They could be scholarships based on exceptional grades in high school, demonstrated leadership, or athletic performance. Each of these scholarships can have its own requirements for renewal, and they may differ from the standard SAP requirements.

    So, if you are considering withdrawing from a class, make sure to check about all of your institutional scholarships before you make your decision. If withdrawing from a class sets you off course for one of your institutional scholarships, it’s probably worth reconsidering.

    Read more: How to write a SAP Appeal letter

    Enrollment status

    If withdrawing from a class affects your total enrollment status, this will affect your financial aid package. If it puts you below the threshold to be a full-time or part-time student, your aid will be recalculated. This could result in a lower aid disbursement, or in you having to pay back part of your aid. 

    In order to be considered a full-time student, you must have 12 or more credits per semester, depending on your school this equates to about four classes. Part-time students usually take 11 credits or less, which can be anywhere between 1-3 courses.   

    Related: Guide to financial aid for part-time students

    Private scholarships

    Private scholarships aren’t subject to the rules of your college, but oftentimes they have their own rules. Especially if you have a renewable scholarship, make sure to check whether withdrawing will affect your eligibility to renew. Some scholarships may be affected if your enrollment status or GPA changes.

    If you lose eligibility for a private scholarship, it will not usually affect your current disbursement. However, it could affect your eligibility to receive future funds from the organization.

    Related: What to do after losing financial aid eligibility

    Pell Grants

    Students’ Pell Grant awards are based on their enrollment status; recipients with a heavier courseload receive more than those with a light courseload. So, by dropping a class, you introduce the possibility of having to pay back some of your Pell Grant.

    That being said, not every student who drops a class will have to pay back their Pell Grant. As long as you are still enrolled full-time at your school, you typically will not have to pay the grant back. 

    If dropping a class brings you down to half-time status, you will have to pay back part of your grant, but not all of it. If you drop below half-time, you will probably have to repay the entirety of your loan.

    Regardless of how dropping a class affects your enrollment status, be sure to reach out to your financial aid office and/or registrar to find out how it will affect your Pell Grant. These policies work differently at each school, so nothing is certain until you hear it straight from a staff member.

    Consult your school before withdrawing

    It’s always a good idea to consult with your school before withdrawing from a course. This includes the financial aid department, your advisor, and your professor. Oftentimes, the school will be willing to work with you to make a plan. 

    If extenuating circumstances are affecting your academic progress, it’s better to be vocal about them than to hide them. It’s never too early to talk to your school about any academic struggles that may lead to you dropping a course. This way, you will learn early on what the consequences may be if you drop a course. 

    You’ll also let your professor know that you need extra help, and show the financial aid department that you are being responsible. If you do end up having to drop the course, this early planning can only ever work in your favor. Good luck with your planning!

    Read more: How many credit hours do I need for financial aid?

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Withdrawing from a class can affect your financial aid in many ways
    • Before doing so, you should check in with each of your sources of financial aid to see how they may be affected
    • These forms include private scholarships, need and merit-based institutional aid, and government grants & loans
    • Oftentimes, withdrawing from a single class after completing at least 60% of the semester will not affect your aid, but it is still worth checking
    Key Takeaways

    Frequently asked questions about how withdrawing from a class affects financial aid

    Do I have to pay for a class if I drop it?

    In the vast majority of cases, you still have to pay for a class if you end up dropping it. In fact, you may end up having to pay more if you were using financial aid to pay for the class. That’s because you might have to pay back the funds that you used as financial aid, as they might be contingent on completion of the course.

    Are dropping and withdrawing from a course the same thing?

    Though both terms technically refer to leaving a course, they typically are used slightly differently. Dropping refers to leaving a class early on in the semester, usually before the “Add/Drop” period ends. Typically, dropping a class comes with less complications and is more common. Most of the time, if a student drops a class, they pick up another course in its place.

    Withdrawing occurs after that period has ended, and when the possibility of adding another course has passed. It is in these situations that enrollment status and financial aid can be most affected.

    Does dropping a course hurt your GPA?

    If you drop or withdraw from a class, your GPA typically suffers no repercussions. That being said, you can suffer consequences in your enrollment status and financial aid, and even be put off course for graduation. The withdrawal will show up on your transcript and raise questions to anyone considering you for admission in the future. But your GPA will not be affected, and it will be a better outcome than completing and failing the course.

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