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Articles / Applying to College / Impact of Dropping Online AP History Class?

July 22, 2016

Impact of Dropping Online AP History Class?

Question: I am going to be a Senior in August and one of the classes I took online was AP History. I have not finished the class and I am debating on dropping the class. I want to know how bad the withdrawal will effect my chances of getting into college. Will it keep me from being able to get into a University?

Dropping this class will definitely not keep you out of college entirely and may have no impact at all on your college-admission outcomes. However, if you are applying to highly selective schools and have a lack of rigorous history classes on your transcript (or a lack of AP classes overall), the fact that you are withdrawing from this one could hurt you. It definitely won't be a complete deal-breaker, but it might have some effect on your college verdicts.


If you have taken a number of other AP classes or if you're not aiming for hyper-competitive places, then you can drop the class without consequence … assuming, of course, that it doesn't fill a graduation requirement at your high school and that you've completed enough history classes to satisfy the colleges. Most high schools require American history, while European is typically not mandatory. But there is usually still a minimum number of history classes that you will need to graduate (often two years, sometimes three), so just make sure you've fulfilled that requirement. Note also that colleges normally expect two years of history study, and the pickiest places prefer three … with European history recommended.

Many students fear that dropping a class in mid-stream, whether it's at school or online, will mean death to their admission decisions. But usually this isn't true–especially when the rest of the transcript shows other multiple, challenging choices. Sometimes you simply have to weigh your physical or mental health against the advantages of sticking it out in a class you don't like or can't handle. And if you do withdraw from a class that will show up as a “W" on your transcript, you might want to include a brief note in the “Additional Information" section of your applications to explain why you bailed out.

But do heed this warning: If you drop any class after you have already applied to colleges and listed that class on your applications (and/or on the transcript sent out by your high school), then you must notify all colleges of this change immediately. Better yet, before you withdraw, email the regional admission rep at each of your target colleges to ask if this change is likely to affect your acceptance odds. The college folks can be very persnickety when they discover a final transcript in June or July that doesn't include all the classes that the student claimed to be taking. Admission officials will usually look the other way if the dropped class is an elective like ceramics or cooking, but they may rescind an acceptance when courses such as calculus, physics, or AP-anything have mysteriously vanished!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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