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I'm changing my major to philosophy from computer science in the middle of a semester, and I'm doing pretty poorly in one of my math classes. My advisor told me it would be a good idea to drop it since I'm changing my major. Would it have any impact in grad school admissions, especially if I want to go to a highly reputable school?

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    You might want to explain what "W" means? – Thomas Oct 20 '19 at 19:37
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    Nobody cares if you dropped a class. – Sean Roberson Oct 20 '19 at 20:16
  • This question is probably country-specific. Could someone add the relevant tag? – Tommi Oct 21 '19 at 12:11
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In general, no single thing like this would have much impact. In this case, I'd say even less. People aren't looking for small reasons to reject your application, but for evidence that you will be a success in your chosen field as well as in the program you apply to.

So, if you do well overall and do especially well in Philosophy then you should be fine. Good letters of recommendation will overcome a simple thing like a W.

But be prepared, if asked, to talk about why you wanted to switch. And make the reasons positive, about philosophy, not negative about math or CS.

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A "W" on your transcript typically comes with no explanation. A pessimist reading your application might conclude that you withdrew from the math course because you were failing the course. In comparison, a B or even a C in the course would look better.

Whether this would be a significant factor in an admissions decision depends a lot on the person reviewing your application.

  • I once dropped a course (non-major, but required) and got a W, but there were no consequences. No one ever mentioned it. I was over-extended with extra courses and all were suffering. It would be different, perhaps, for a major course. But, like all things negative, you want to have an acceptable explanation if asked about it. – Buffy Oct 20 '19 at 21:18
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    you withdrew from the math course because you were failing the course — My university doesn't allow students to withdraw from a course (after the usual drop deadline) merely because they're failing; withdrawal requires extreme circumstances beyond the students' control, like serious illness or injury. So this pessimistic explanation would never have occurred to me. – JeffE Oct 21 '19 at 4:35
  • Our institution has 3 time limits for getting out of a course. In the first 3 weeks, a student can drop the course with no mark on their transcript. Between weeks 3 and 10 they can withdraw from the course with a W on the transcript. After week 10, they can only request a "withdrawal without prejudice" for unusual circumstances. Policies on this vary. – Brian Borchers Oct 21 '19 at 11:56

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