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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Universities Need to Consider Lengthening the Duration of The Add-Drop Window

One week is barely enough time for students to effectively utilize the add/drop option



With the start of the semester comes the return of a familiar conundrum: “To drop or not to drop?” Students find themselves wondering whether to stay in a class or to swap it with a different section; whether they can cope with the course load they’ve carried; whether the professor’s teaching style is appealing to their respective methods of learning. Unfortunately, students don’t have the opportunity to unearth the answers to these questions before they are required make up their minds.  

In most universities and colleges in the U.S., the add/drop-classes deadline is usually only one week after a new semester begins. This means students have to make  decisions on the basis of their two, three classes—sometimes even just one, if it’s a class which meets once a week for three hours. Quite simply, this is not enough time for some students to make their evaluations and effectively choose classes that will be a good fit. Sometimes, uncertain students are compelled to make critical decisions before they have enough actual information about a class.

Perhaps a student chooses a particular professor whose teaching style he or she is comfortable with. But inside or outside of school, situations change—you may encounter the strange misfortune that, after the first two sessions of a class, extenuating circumstances have forced your chosen professor to switch to a different period or section. If you’re fortunate, your replacement professor will suit you. If you’re unlucky, you may have been placed with a professor that just isn’t right for you. With limited time available, you’d then have to gamble on whether or not to drop the class—you might as well flip a coin.

This stirs up the question: Why should students be forced to gamble with their classes? It is grossly unfair.

A potential consequence of the inadequacy of the add-drop schedule, which is usually overlooked, is the role it plays in the amount of withdrawals from classes after the add-drop period ends. Even though, currently, add-drop and withdrawal aren’t directly related, the potential exists and can be easily linked.

Take a student who, after being unable to make an adequately informed decision about whether or not to drop or swap a class, ends up staying in a class that isn’t conducive for him. After struggling to keep up and cope with the class, he eventually has no choice but to withdraw from the course. It is not too much of a stretch to assume that, if he had a little more time to examine and analyze the class environment, he might have avoided having to withdraw from it if the designated add-drop window was larger.

This might not seem like a substantial issue, but keep in mind that withdrawals negatively affect your future financial aid awards, stain your transcript and leave you one more step behind in the journey to complete credit requirements.

Nevertheless, one can understand—albeit not agree with—why the add-drop period is limited to a week after classes begin. From a professor’s perspective, it is cumbersome to have to cope with the large volumes of students that flutter in and out of their classes during the early days of a semester—not to mention the additional administrative mess of tracking two weeks’ worth of adds and drops. It is beneficial for professors to be able to correctly and easily determine who is or is not a member of their class—it aids with attendance taking, giving assignments and grading.

Having said all that, if the add-drop period was increased up to at least two weeks, the advantages to the students would substantially outweigh the inconveniences caused to  professors.

Besides, aren’t students supposed to be the demographic getting catered to in a university? This is an issue that needs to be seriously reconsidered and evaluated.