Preparing for College

Impact of Dropped Class on Ivy Admissions

Question: My daughter is a junior who is contemplating withdrawing from her World History class (where her current mark is 94) because she is self-studying for AP exams and wants the extra time to prepare. (Her school does not offer AP courses nor do any others in our region.) Do Ivy league colleges look upon withdrawls negatively even if there is a justifiable explanation? I'm quite worried and do not want my daughter to withdraw from the class unless I am confident that it will not have an adverse effect on her admission chances.

One of our great concerns is the mental health of today's teenagers and the pressure that the specter of elite-college admissions puts upon it.


We would suggest that you okay your daughter's plan to drop her history class. When it comes time to apply to colleges next year, both she and her counselor should briefly note the withdrawal (your daughter in a short supplementary letter; the counselor in his or her recommendation). Explain that she was receiving a top grade at the time she withdrew but that she decided to self-study for AP exams since her school (and neighboring schools) don't offer the appropriate courses. Point out that she needed that extra time to do the additional independent study required. In other words, emphasize that she took on a new challenge--not that she bailed on an old one. If your daughter is not admitted to the Ivies on her list, it won't be because of this decision.

If, however, she was dropping her only math class or her only science class to ease the pressure, our counsel might be different. We assume that she will have other history classes on her transcript and that one of the AP tests she is prepping for may even be in history, as well. (Is that correct?)

We understand the complexities of this decision and the worry it is causing you, but we also worry when we hear that a student is overextended. Such stress can have significant repercussions down the road, even if (or perhaps especially if) that student heads off to an elite college after graduation.

Good luck to you, whatever you decide.