The Ups and Downs of Add, Drop, and Withdrawal Policy

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When registering for the semester, few students expect to change their selections.  It’s only when they have a few classes under their belts that regrets and reality set in.  Maybe it turns out that Stats and Anatomy in the same semester is just too much, or the elective you thought was going to be a perfect fit with your major doesn’t mesh with your degree plans at all.  Whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student, when you want to hop off the struggle bus and get your semester back on track, it’s important to understand George Mason University policy regarding adding, dropping, and withdrawing from classes. 

The University is implementing new versions of their drop and withdrawal policies for fall 2018, so make sure you know the rules. You can find out more by reading their FAQ page.  Please note that the dates and guidelines below apply only to full-semester 15-week courses.  Courses shorter than 15 weeks will have different deadlines found here.

What are your options for course changes, when can you use them, and what are the repercussions of each? 


Adding a Course

The Upside: You can add to your course load or replace a dropped class.

The Downside: If you’re adding a course after the start of the semester, chances are you have missed a few class sessions and will need to catch up.  Pro tip:  Stop by your instructor’s office hours to introduce yourself and ask questions about the syllabus and expectations.

The Deadline: September 4, 2018


Dropping a Course

The Upside: You have a chance to evaluate your class and your course load without any financial penalties or impact on your transcript.  If you drop by the deadline, it’s as if the class never happened and, if you have already paid, your tuition is fully refunded.

The Downside: You may need to replace the dropped class by adding a new class in order to maintain your enrollment status, financial aid, and housing eligibility. 

The Deadline: September 9, 2018


Web Withdrawal

The Upside:  Withdrawing from a class results in a W on your transcript.  This can be much better than an F.  The W has no impact on your overall GPA.

The Downside:  No tuition is refunded when you withdraw from a course.  After all, Mason can’t fill your seat with another student this late in the semester and instructors still need to be paid.  A withdrawal also counts toward the number of credits attempted on your academic record.  This is probably not a big deal if you only withdraw from one or two courses over the span of your entire degree, but students must successfully complete at least 67% of the credits they have attempted to maintain the Satisfactory Academic Progress needed to qualify for financial aid and to maintain good academic standing.  Also, all students must complete their programs of study by attempting no more than 150% of the hours normally required for completion.  That’s usually 180 credit hours for undergraduates.

The Deadline:  All students may withdraw from a class via Patriot Web from September 10 – 30, 2018.


Selective Withdrawal

The Upside:  The benefits are the same as Web Withdrawal but with the added bonus of more time to try to ace the midterm and boost your grade.  Undergraduates may use a maximum of three selective withdrawals for any reason over the entire course of their degree.

The Downside:  Sorry graduate students, Selective Withdrawals are ONLY FOR UNDERGRADUATES.  Like Web Withdrawals, Selective Withdrawals don’t come with tuition refunds and the course still counts toward your attempted credit hours.

The Deadline: Undergraduates can execute a Selective Withdrawal from October 1 – 28, 2018.


Students can add, drop, and withdraw from classes online via Patriot Web.  However – and we cannot say this too much – if you’re making significant changes to your schedule, make an appointment to see your advisor!  The beginning of the semester is a busy time for you and your academic advisor, but many offer walk-in or office hours, and even those who don’t may be able to find time to give a little guidance via email.  A conversation with an advisor can help ensure that your course changes won’t have a negative impact on your degree path, financial aid, or housing status.  The Office of the University Registrar suggests you always see your advisor before withdrawing from a course.

Do you still have questions about add, drop, and withdrawal policy?  The College of Education and Human Development Office of Student and Academic affairs is here to help.  Contact us at or call 703-993-2080.