I Have a Dubya
I have a confession to make: I have a “W” on my undergraduate transcript.
What does this mean? Technically, the W letter notation on a transcript denotes that a student withdrew from a course after the drop/add date.
Sometimes this occurs when freshmen—still in the exploratory stages of their education—realize that a certain class or subject area just may not be for them. The choice to withdraw can also mean that a student took on a lot in the first semester, and simply made a mature decision not to get in over his or her head.
It can also indicate that a student intended to drop a course much earlier in the semester and failed to do so for one reason or another. Thus, the student doesn’t show up for classes, gets a failing midterm grade, and has a small panic attack at mid-semester when that grade envelope is opened to reveal a failing grade, and then has to go withdraw from the course (this is the reason for my “W,” though my panic attack, as I recall, was not small).
On a more serious level, it can indicate that a student was doing poorly in a course at mid-semester, did not want the low letter grade to decrease his or her overall GPA, and so withdrew, most likely with the intention of trying to take (and complete) the course another time.
How does the “W” impact your student’s transcript? That depends. One little W in a field of As and Bs is not likely to cast a long shadow. I’ve completed grad school and had a variety of professional jobs, and I’ve never once been asked about mine. However, consistent Ws indicate inconsistent academic performance and irresponsibility.
But no matter how you look at it, a W means the student has bumped up against some sort of academic road block, so it’s worth talking about. If your student has withdrawn, especially from more than one class, now is a good time to re-evaluate skills and goals.
Does this have to hold a student back? No. Should it be taken lightly? Not at all (I will note here that a positive side effect of my W was that I spent the rest of senior year trying to bury it under good grades).
So, yeah, if you wanna know the truth, I have a dubya. I’m not proud of it, but I did learn from it. Help your student get on track to learn how to handle mistakes and setbacks by learning from them.