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I'm a 4th year (7th semester) undergraduate student at an American university. I've recently got very interested in obtaining a PhD in Computer Science.

I'm wondering whether having late drops on my transcript will impact my chances of getting accepted into a top program.

Background

My GPA is currently 3.81. During my first two semesters I struggled a bit with grades (I think my lowest may have been a B- for a 1-credit class) because I came from a different country and didn't understand how to study for college. However, since my third semester, I've only gotten As.

Since I got a lot of the credits required for my major out of the way, this semester I was experimenting taking classes in other disciplines, just for the sake of learning more. Thus, I enrolled in 2 math courses. Recently, however, a professor contacted me because he had a research project he wanted me to get involved in (I have a good skill set for the project that came up). With this opportunity (and many other commitments) I got a bit overwhelmed with work.

I'm currently considering dropping one of my math courses so that I have more time to dedicate to this project (we are going for ~2 papers). However, I was worried that the admission boards see my late drop as a bad thing. Furthermore, I have late dropped two classes before, namely, introduction to photography and introduction to chinese. However, at the time I didn't sweat much these decisions because they were outside of my major and I didn't think late dropping had negative connotations. In this case, however, the course I'm dropping is in Mathematics, and it will also leave me with only 13 credits.

It is possible that keeping this course will be manageable and that I will still be able to get a good grade in all my classes. However, I feel that I can more actively contribute to writing papers (for top conferences) and developing my thesis if I didn't have this course.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Fomite, padawan, Florian D'Souza, Buzz, Enthusiastic Engineer Sep 28 '17 at 9:03

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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While grades are an important factor in getting admitted into graduate school, demonstrating promise as a researcher will help you far more than having good grades by itself.

Having a paper or two accepted to a good conference is therefore worth far more to you than you will be hurt by a dropped course, even in an area that is an important minor in your discipline. If you are concerned about the impact, though, and want to explain the late drop, you could use whatever "special comments" mechanism the schools to which you are applying use.

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