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In our university, we are allowed to drop or cancel our classes before a certain deadline within the semester. The reason for dropping is, officially, not required but most professors I know usually asks the student why before agreeing since the professor's consent is required.

I'm planning to drop out since I'm not finding enough time to research and read outside of class hours. Don't get me wrong, it is interesting but I'm currently struggling in my thesis. I want to tell the professor that I'll drop because I don't think I'll be able to focus on his/her subject, especially since it also has a lot of required work outside of class, but how do I do this without insulting the professor or sounding rude? I'm worried he/she might not take it too kindly when the reason given is someone 'don't have enough time for their class.'

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    There is really no big issue here. It is pretty common to get overextended. "Sorry Dr. You, I just got in a bit over my head." A lot of us have been there. Rudeness is about the "person". This is about the subject. They aren't the same. – Buffy Mar 7 at 12:07
  • @Buffy For some, maybe. But I have seen professors say in other classes how dropping because you have to focus on another subject is a really lame reason and that it is insulting to them. This is why I was worried. It might be unheard of from where you are but it definitely happens here. – I. Am Mar 7 at 12:16
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    Please keep in mind that dropping classes is explicitly allowed, thus, there is nothing wrong with it. You won't be the first person ever doing this, you won't be the last one. In my experience, many professors do not even care and are very understanding. Maybe you are overthinking this... – J-Kun Mar 7 at 20:53
  • @J-Kun I hope I am just overthinking this. – I. Am Mar 7 at 22:21
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Tell them that you need to focus your efforts on fewer things especially your thesis as you find it challenging.

Be polite and don't forget professors have heard it all before, they will understand or should do.

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Just tell him you are too busy. Don't tell him you're not interested. (Obviously there is some scale of business to interest. But you don't need to reference this tradeoff.)

"Would love to stay if I had more time but I'm struggling on other priorities. Need to spend my time on research."

Let him sign the paper, don't open a discussion, and get out.

  • Noted. If all goes well, then I hope it'd be fast, with not much of scrutiny as to the reasons I'm dropping. Thanks! – I. Am Mar 7 at 22:23
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State your case with full honesty. You only do a disservice to yourself to do otherwise.

Faculty who say that dropping their course is an insult to them have their heads in the wrong place. When they are roadblocks, request that your thesis advisor take your petition to the department chair for approval.

This all presumes that you have already gotten pre-approval from your thesis advisor to make this change in your program of study for this semester. In one sense, I should wonder with some experience why your thesis advisor did not warn you in advance not to take the course in the first place because you would have a harder workload this semester. Your insult here may be to have purposely ignored any such advice. Alternatively, you may be in a situations where you feel that you must do these type of things (schedule courses) on your own for whatever reason. I should wonder what new input as caused you to realize that you mis-judged your own abilities. Your insult here may be to have incorrectly pre-judged the work you would need in the course.

Lessons are sometimes best learned the hard way. In the case that you ignored your advisor, apologize and be honest about it. You may need his/her support to get the change done. In the case where you are working on your own, you may need to reflect carefully on what exactly you misjudged. Perhaps you do owe the instructor an apology because you are ducking out of the course that you thought would be easier (instead of dropping out of the course because you are faced with an unanticipated increase in the work load of your thesis). I am not judging either way, just providing a counter point for reflection.

Finally, you have presumably made yourself fully aware of whether/how dropping a course may impact (decrease) any financial support that you have. Alternatively, you are fully prepared to pay for a late registration fee should their be one to register now for a different course in order to re-fill you program of study in place of the dropped course.

  • While "Faculty who say that dropping their course is an insult to them have their heads in the wrong place." is correct, there is often such faculty with heads in the wrong place who makes your life more difficult when you are honest. – anewguest Mar 7 at 18:30
  • I also agree with what @anewguest said. Regarding my thesis advisor, he/she has a don't care attitude, doesn't even reply to emails and doesn't even give comments during progress reports, hence I try and work on my own, even if it's hard. But, we have separate advisers that approve dropped classes, so I think on this part it's fine, since this advisor didn't have any idea on what the class I took was anyway or the workload it entails when I first asked for advise at the start of the semester. Thanks! – I. Am Mar 7 at 22:30
  • @anewguest Though they exist, and though yes they do make life harder, they are never a reason for one to figure out how to be dishonest. – Jeffrey J Weimer Mar 8 at 1:04
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    @I.Am I added an update to reflect the aspect of facing this on your own. – Jeffrey J Weimer Mar 8 at 1:15

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