ollege is a big investment, one that you can only hope will pay off in the future. You want to get the most from your college experience, which means not wasting your time in boring classes or retaking precalc.

Drop deadlines are generally a few weeks after the beginning of the semester, but the earlier you realize a class isn’t working out the better, especially if you want to swap that course for another. Many professors use the first class to go over the syllabus or play icebreaker games, making it difficult to tell what the class itself will be like--by paying attention to the professor and picking up on these red flags, you can still get an idea of whether or not you should stay in the class.

Dropping a class is a difficult decision for many, especially those who view it as a sign of failure, but this attitude will keep you stuck in useless classes. Over 40% of students drop a class their first year for various reasons, and there’s no shame in doing so. It’s much better to drop or switch your course than struggle through an entire semester feeling unhappy and bitter. 

Major requirements might also pose an issue to those looking to drop or switch classes, but even so it’s good to have an idea of the particular challenges and drawbacks a class might pose. Being able to prepare yourself for unreasonable workloads, irrelevant material, and bad professors might end up helping you in the long run.

Signs You Need to Drop a Course By the End of Class #1

10 First Day of Class Red Flags 

backs of heads in a classroom
You don’t necessarily need to be scared off by whispers around campus that your professor is a tough grader--you might find that their teaching style works well with your learning style.

A lot of the reasons to consider dropping a course are subtle warning signs that your professor isn’t up to par. A professor showing up to the first class drunk or one who makes obscene remarks is a clear sign that a class should be dropped, but there are plenty of less obvious symptoms of a “bad” professor.

Before you even schedule a course, try looking up the professor on RateMyProfessor, a site where students go to upload reviews and assign ratings to professors they’ve had. While some of these reviews will come from students simply angry about low grades, you’ll still be able to get a good idea of what type of professor you’re going to have. 

Pay attention to a lot of mediocre or low ratings with detailed reasons for the scores. Pay attention to whether the reviewee got a bad grade or not, since this can inform their rating. But if you’re seeing consistent comments about a professor’s unwillingness to help students, failure to respond to emails, and lack of preparation for class--avoid at all costs!

One of the first symptoms is pride in the difficulty of their course. If your professor opens the first class by bragging about how hard their course is and maintains that it’s impossible to get an A, this is a good sign that you should get up and walk out. A professor whose goal is to fail as many students as possible has lost sight of the purpose of a class: to teach.

Professors who warn you that you’ll need to focus more on this class than your other classes is also a red flag. If your professor expects you to prioritize their course, especially if it isn’t a requirement for you or is an introductory course, that’s a hint that the course may be too demanding to be worth it.

An absence policy will tell you a lot about a professor. Professors with super strict absence policies are a big red flag--you’re an adult (or a very smart teenager) taking classes that you pay for. You shouldn’t have to worry about failing if you miss more than two classes. A professor who tells you that you can’t miss more than three classes without severe consequences should at least have exceptions for emergencies.

Another absence policy red flag is when a professor tells you that they’ll consider you absent if you arrive late. Unreasonable policies like this one indicate a professor who may be unwilling to work with students or to accommodate their needs.

Man at a chalk board
When in class you should be able to see the board, read your teacher’s handwriting, hear what’s being said, and able to leave if you need to.

Accommodation is also important. If you have a disability that requires classroom accommodation, such as needing more time to get to class, your professor should be working with you to ensure your needs are met. 

Some policies, like the absence and tardiness policy, are discriminatory against students who have health issues that entail frequent hospitalization or difficulty moving. Other policies, like not allowing classes to be recorded, further complicate matters.

The long and short of it is this: your needs should be met and you should be able to secure accommodations for yourself, whether this means getting more time on tests, extended deadlines, recorded lectures, typed up notes, or anything else. Get in touch with the school’s disability or accommodation services and make sure you discuss things with your professor after the first class.

Your days of having to raise your hand to ask to go to the restroom should be over. If you have a professor who requires you to ask before leaving to go to the bathroom--or, worse, one who doesn’t allow bathroom breaks--drop that class! There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be allowed to go to the bathroom whenever you want, unless the class is a chemistry lab dealing with sensitive chemicals that need constant attention.

This isn’t high school, and it shouldn’t feel like it is. While it’s reasonable to expect your professor to ask for phones or laptops to be put away, if they confiscate phones or dish out severe punishments for doing other class’s work in class, consider talking to them about why they feel these policies are justified. There’s a difference between respecting a professor’s class and using your time wisely.

The end of the first class should leave you feeling confident in your professor’s ability to teach well, regardless of how boring you may find the material. Any major red flags should be addressed right away--don’t wait until the last minute!

5 Red Flags to Watch Out For Throughout the Semester

Keep An Eye Out For Any of These Developments

Most professors try to put their best foot forward on the first day of class, so you may not know right away that a class is a dud. As the semester progresses, you’ll want to keep an eye on the deadline to drop, swap, or withdraw from a class, especially if you begin to feel like the class isn’t working out for you.

Person behind pile of books
College is important, sure, but you should still have free time at the end of the day. If you’re spending all your time on one class and still not seeing results, it might be time to drop.

Tests can be a make or break for many people, and while a bad grade doesn’t always mean you should drop the class, think about the reason why you got a bad grade. Some professors will openly tell you that there will be material on the exams not covered in class, and for many this is a red flag.

If a professor has office hours, that kind of implies that’ll be in the office. If you have difficulty getting in touch with your professor and find that your emails go unanswered and the office is always empty, it’ll be difficult for you to get the support you need to make the most out of the class. 

Pay attention to the teaching style of your professors. Do they teach straight off of a powerpoint? Only use YouTube videos in class? Is your textbook teaching you more than they are? 

online class
Diversifying your learning and using your resources is great, but you shouldn’t feel like your class is unnecessary and sub par compared to what you can teach yourself.

If your professor’s teaching style relies on them reading out information and failing to answer any questions, the class can quickly become boring and frustrating. Remember, you’re there to learn and be taught. You can read powerpoints and textbooks on your own, so the class should consist of more than reading.

A potential red flag is a course where a group project is a major component of your final grade in the course. Some people love group projects, and they can be fantastic opportunities to meet others that share your interests and to work collaboratively. But they can also be fraught with difficulty. If you’re not a group project person, consider avoiding classes where group projects are a key part of your grade.

Some classes might be well-taught and fun, but that doesn’t mean they’re useful. There are classes you’ll take for a major requirement that turn out not to be a requirement. There are intro courses going over information you’re familiar with. Sometimes you can’t get out of a useless class, but it’s always good to talk with your advisor anyway.

If you do decide to drop a class, talk to your adviser about it to see what effects it may have on your course requirements and to see if there are any recommended substitutions. And remember, there’s no shame in dropping a class! Do what feels best for you.

Aug 21, 2020