Disclaimer: W stands for withdrawal, it’s when a student withdrawals from a course regardless of grades after a certain deadline for course changes.

I graduated from a Big10 Engineering school with a 3.6 GPA and now work for a fortune 50 company.

I currently am looking at masters programs in engineering (these are non thesis/course work classes) and I am certain I can do very well on the GRE. I am looking at M. Eng degrees and professional masters programs, not MS research based ones.

The concern I have is I have some Ws scattered throughout my transcript(2 were for classes I took and realised slightly after the deadline that I didn’t fit into the topic nor was I interested, they were not relevant to my career) and 3 were because of financial distress and health issues that arose.

My letters of recommendation from industry are from supervisors that have PhDs and prestigious careers, although as for an academic ones I currently am trying to obtain very good ones. It’s been difficult as I only developed a close relationship with 2 and the one I want I did my senior project with. The downside is the project didn’t go as well as it should’ve but I earned an A and a B+ in both semesters of the project, the professor is also very difficult to get in touch with.

Am I in jeopardy for applying to masters programs? These are not super competitive ones like MIT, Berkeley, U Mich. etc. They’re for working professionals and they’re M. Eng degrees with schools like RPI, UConn and UMass. I’m just worried about those W’s. The courses that are relevant to what I want to study in grad school had entirely As and B+‘s, especially upper level math and engineering courses despite one C.


2 Answers 2


Short answer: The Ws aren't great, but they're basically unimportant in light of the rest of your portfolio.

I'm a little wary of withdrawals, because I know from personal experience that my own university's academic advising tends to use them as a way to help students avoid failing classes. So they're not great on your transcript, especially multiple Ws.

But if I saw a record like yours, that included graduation from a good school, good grades in the most relevant classes, successful time in industry, good recommendations from respectable professionals, AND it was for a professional-oriented graduate program on top of all that, I would almost certainly discard them as meaningless to appraising the current you.

Of course, this is based on my experience, and it's possible the departments you apply to could think differently. But I wouldn't advise anyone in your situation to fret over it.


I don't think a few W's will hurt your chances of grad. school since the rest of your transcript is good. Also, a W doesn't necessarily mean that the person couldn't handle the work, all it says is that you withdrew from the class. As in your case, this often happens because of financial difficulty or health issues. A transcript laden with W's might look suspicious, but I think a few are okay.

Although I'm in a different field, I can relate to your post because I'm in a similar situation (not with W's but with having a hard time finding LORs). My situation is worse because I do want to pursue a research degree (MA with a thesis), but if you're pursuing a professional-track degree, your letters of recommendation won't be expected to speak to your research ability. They just want to know that you can handle the work (which you clearly can with mostly A's in the relevant courses) and that you show up to class/participate etc. So even if the project didn't turn out as well as you'd have liked it to, it's not going to be relevant to the degree you're pursuing.

Again, this isn't my field, nor am I professor (just another student hoping to get into grad. school in my field), but your application sounds fine to me. Just be sure to do good on the GRE, as a high score will improve your chances. Good luck!

  • 1
    I downvoted because this doesn't demonstrate any relevant knowledge or experience of this subject area or field, and so doesn't really answer the question - it's just a guess.
    – Rdd
    Jun 18, 2020 at 11:09

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