Course withdrawals should not appear on SU students’ transcripts

Avery Schildhaus | Contributing Photographer

Syracuse University should not include withdrawals on students’ transcripts since it is only reported for financial aid purposes, not academic ones.

Preparing students for “participation in a changing global society” through quality education is part of Syracuse University’s vision and mission. This quality of education is reflected through the grade markings, enrollment history and grade-point average on students’ transcripts. When students apply for jobs post-graduation, employers may weigh students’ transcripts as a part of their selection process. But one of the markings on students’ transcripts — “WD” for course withdrawals — can create unnecessary stress for students due to the uncertainty of whether the withdrawal will affect their future career.

A withdrawal from a course is not an accurate representation of a student’s academic success or their potential for success in a career or further studies. But withdrawals are included in students’ transcripts at SU. If a student chooses to withdraw or is forced to leave a course without completing it, a withdrawal should not be noted on the student’s transcript.

A withdrawal refers to when a student leaves a course after the drop deadline set by the university. SU’s policy denotes withdrawals on transcripts with the grading symbol “WD,” with no effect on the student’s GPA. This means a student’s transcript will reflect classes they did not complete even though uncompleted courses have little meaning in a student’s academic career.

A transcript’s purpose is reporting a student’s academic record for the classes they receive grades for — listing withdrawals does not report academic information. Rather, listing withdrawals serves administrative purposes. Kelly Campbell, SU’s university registrar explained via email, “withdrawals are reported on the transcript for Financial Aid purposes.” 

Students who choose to withdraw from a course after the university’s deadline are financially responsible for the course. Those enrolled full time at SU are expected to meet financial aid requirements by taking a minimum of 12 credit hours. Withdrawing from a course while still meeting this full-time requirement does not affect financial aid — so why should a withdrawal be marked on a student’s transcript in such a case when courses dropped before the deadline are not? And why does a financial note appear on an academic record at all?


The notation of a course drop versus a course withdrawal relies on the timing of the two and how they are related to financial aid. SU lists a drop deadline for students in which students may participate and attend a course until the deadline before the class is added to the student’s transcript for the semester.


Both withdrawing and dropping mean the student did not complete the course. The distinction between the two, however, is arbitrary and solely based on the date when a student chooses not to complete a course. A withdrawal is shown on the student’s transcript, while a course dropped before the drop deadline is not. Also, despite the WD marking, withdrawals are not calculated within a student’s GPA.

SU follows an industry standard when reporting its students’ withdrawals on transcripts. Campbell said in an email that “around 80% of institutions report withdrawals on transcripts.” SU does need to report withdrawals to determine financial aid eligibility, but this can be separate from reporting grades on a transcript. While they may serve a financial aid purpose, withdrawals on a transcript are not an accurate report of a student’s education.

Eliminating withdrawals on transcripts means that a student’s transcript may reflect the appropriate information relevant to their academic career at SU. There is no real obligation by the school to report withdrawals on transcripts beyond advising students and financial obligations that do not need to appear on transcripts. Regardless of the timing of when a student leaves a course, it should not be noted on a transcript.

SU serves a purpose to prepare students for their careers, and courses that a student did not  complete have no influence on their academic career. Aside from the deadline and financial considerations, there is no difference between dropping a course and withdrawing from a course. Withdrawing from a class has no real effect on financial aid unless it puts a student below 12 credits, and it seems irrelevant to show a class that a student did not complete on their transcript.

Harrison Vogt is a junior environment sustainability policy and communication and rhetorical studies dual major. His column appears biweekly. He can be reached at [email protected]. He can be followed on Twitter at @VogtHarrison.

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