I'm already in a PhD program and, just one week after Add/Drop, both my teaching and research loads increased due to unforeseen circumstances. I have a course which would be helpful for my area exam, but I'm confident I can just teach myself and am considering withdrawing from it since it would be nice to have fewer deadlines looming over me. It's this weird grey area where I could probably make it through the semester, but this would basically require I get less out of my other 2 courses (which are exactly in the area I want to specialize in), not be able to teach as well, not be able to focus as much on research, and just be overall slightly more stressed.

Are there any repercussions to having a W on my transcript as a PhD student?

The only thing I can forsee is maybe external fellowship applications, but I am in my first year so I'm hoping they'd be understanding (it isn't like withdrawing makes it so that I am taking fewer classes than most grad students).


tl;dr: Would having a W on your PhD transcript be problematic in some way?

  • Did you end up withdrawing? I am in the same boat. I have a class I don't need but it's after the deadline. I can't figure out if I am allowed to just withdraw on my own or not? What happens if I just withdraw on my own, does it turn to an F?
    – user117015
    Dec 5, 2019 at 2:53
  • @user117015 - Lupin hasn't been active here in over a year, so you're unlikely to get a response. You could post a new question if it is on topic. in this case, though, you're probably better off asking your academic advisor, since this pertains to your institution's rules rather than academia as a whole. In any case, please do not post anything in the "answer" box that's not an answer.
    – cag51
    Dec 5, 2019 at 4:01

1 Answer 1


I withdrew from a class when I was a master's student: no one has ever cared why I did. I was later accepted into multiple PhD programs and a post-doc.

I would have a prepared answer for why you withdrew from a class. "I withdrew from Ballistics 782 in order to better focus on my research. I produced two papers that semester."

If you ever think you would have a chance to go back and complete the course in another semester, withdrawing is even less of a risk. One W will matter little in the long run. (And likely even in the short-run).

  • I withdrew from a course as a Ph.D. student because it wasn't working well with everything else that was going on at the time. However, I did finally take the course. It was the entry point for a lot of what I ended up doing. I don't think anyone really cared about it in the long run. Sep 20, 2018 at 2:25

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