Retaking and Dropping Classes
(Pre-OT, PT, and PA students)
Your goal must be to earn excellent grades across your entire transcript, including general education courses; professional programs want to see that you can succeed in a variety of subjects, so you should be able to demonstrate that you have the ability to adapt to different classes and develop a variety of skill sets.
It is also true that you must pay particular attention to prerequisite courses, which often count double during the occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant admission processes. Along the same lines, doing well in your prerequisites indicates that you have grasped the course material and skills, which will better prepare you to succeed in a rigorous graduate program.
To this end, we urge you to utilize the HPPLC time and stress management tools, and to rigorously follow the academic suggestions therein. By doing so, you will dramatically increase the odds of maximizing your performance in each class, and reduce the chances of having to drop or retake a class.
Whether you should withdraw from or retake a course depends on your circumstances; for example, how well you have done in your other prerequisites, how strong your other application components are, and your reasons for considering a course withdrawal.
If you have multiple W's or retakes, then in addition to reading the information below about course withdrawals and repeats, also read about the option of including an addendum with your application.
Potential impact of W's on program applications
Most OT, PT, and PA graduate programs will not be overly concerned if you apply with one or two W's on your transcript, provided your academic record is otherwise strong and consistent.
However, multiple W's, and repeated attempts to do well in prerequisite courses, might serve as a red flag to admission committees, who may ask themselves whether a student who struggles with undergraduate courses has the ability to succeed in even more demanding graduate coursework. Likewise, a pattern of W's, even in general education courses, might be detrimental, because it may be seen as reflecting an inability to follow through on a commitment, poor judgment in course selection, an inability to succeed in challenging course loads - any number of things, which, whether true or not, would not reflect well on your application.
Still, it is usually better to drop a course when keeping it seems likely to result in an especially poor grade, or could harm your performance in other classes. Program admissions representatives should not advise in this regard, but they can tell you what their program's related policies are.
The broader implications of dropping courses
It is also important to consider the possible broader implications of dropping a class. If, for instance, you are dropping a science prerequisite because you are struggling with the course material, you should take this experience into consideration when determining your next step.
Someone who, for example, gets extra help with their science prerequisites, meets with instructors consistently, and invests a reasonable amount of time in their classes (25 - 30 hours outside of class each week), but nonetheless continues to struggles along with low B's, C's, or D's in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and/or physics, etc., may want to consider whether their chosen path is a reasonable one to pursue, since someone who struggles in undergraduate preprofessional coursework may very well struggle in intensive graduate-level professional coursework.
On the other hand, people who struggle in a given science field, but who have never gotten extra help or met with the instructor, or only spend 10 hours per week studying, should probably reconsider their approach to academics and time management, and whether they are sufficiently devoted to their chosen professional path to continue pursuing it.
Personal difficulties can also impact one's academic performance. If you find yourself in this situation, there are many resources at IU Bloomington that offer help; for example, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
In most cases, a grade of C- or lower in a prerequisite necessitates a retake, since a C- will not usually meet minimum standards. If you find yourself struggling in one prerequisite after another, despite your best efforts, you should seriously reconsider your circumstances, and at the very least formulate a reliable back-up plan.
People often consider retaking a class to boost their GPA, even if they have met the minimum grade requirement. How repeating a prerequisite will impact your application will vary by program. Some programs may allow the second grade to substitute for the first grade. The Central Application Service itself will calculate the second grade into your GPA (which amounts to averaging the first and second grades), but there is a place in the central application where you would list any retaken courses.
In some circumstances, a retake or two could somewhat strengthen your application, but whether or not this is the case depends on how strong your other grades and other admission components are; and on what your GPA is in relation to whatever GPA tends to be competitive for admission to your programs. Multiple retakes may not be as helpful, and may not be worth the investment of time and money - it depends on your circumstances. Program admissions representatives should not advise in this regard, but they can tell you what their program's related policies are.
This information was prepared for Indiana University Bloomington students by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Please note that specific requirements and policies can change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for obtaining the most current information directly from application and testing services, and the schools and programs in which they have an interest. Refer to each program's web pages, bulletins, and other publications for the most current information. Students are responsible for understanding degree course requirements, as well as other requirements, policies, and procedures related to the degree(s) they are pursuing; for enrolling in appropriate courses; for understanding IU policies/procedures; and for following through properly with regard to all of the preceding.