Starting college means taking control of your class schedule, but making your schedule — and making changes — can be confusing. Opportunity U spoke with University Registrar Heather Turk-Fiecoat to answer our questions about adding/removing, removing, and transcripts.
Opportunity U: So first of all, what is add/drop?
Heater: Well, there are two different things we’re talking about with add/drop. The first is during what we call late registration, meaning the first eight days of classes during the 100% refund period and this is a time when students can change their schedule. A dropped class then does not appear on your transcript. It allows students who are on a waiting list to enter, so if a student drops out of a class, it opens up a slot and allows another student to enter.
It also allows students to go to class and see the curriculum and if they think, “Oh, that’s not what I thought this course was going to be”, it gives them a chance to change their job from time. So, we say add/remove, but these are really schedule changes during this initial period and there is no consequence for a student on their transcript.
The thing students want to be aware of is that if they receive financial aid, they are most often funded for a specific number of credits. If they are full-time students taking 15 credits and then dropping a lab course that is worth four credits, it could drop them into part-time enrollment for financial aid with less money coming. They could lose their financial aid or part of their financial aid if they drop courses without adding credits as well. I strongly encourage students, if they have to drop a course, to take a look and see if there is anything else they can add to keep them at that credit count. . They should work with their academic advisor and have substitutes as back-ups if they decide to change their schedule during this time.
Opportunity U: And after these first eight days, how is it going?
Heater: Then adding a class is only by exception. After those first eight days, if a student tries to add a class, we really want to take a close look at them to make sure they can be successful in that class. We make sure that it is the departments or the college that are asking for the student to be placed because we don’t want to put the students in a bad position. At this point, they have lost nearly two weeks of school. For some classes, this is not a challenge, as if it were an independent study. And a lot of class teachers are very willing to help them do this work, but we want to be sure.
And then, in the top 60 percent of the class, students can drop out. Now, this university is very, very generous in allowing students to drop out without prior intervention. A student can enter MyNevada and they can drop almost any class. Students cannot drop out of what we call the Maths and English gateway. They are mandated by the Board of Regents and you must complete them unless there are exceptional circumstances. But for the most part, students can come in and drop out of a course if they’re not doing well.
However, there are challenges to overcome. I think one of my biggest tips for students is to talk to their instructors before they drop out. Most instructors, if they know you’re really struggling, will help you. They’re going to work with you, they’re going to encourage you, because you don’t want to have to pay to retake the course.
Decode your transcript
Opportunity U: So what could a student do if they end up getting a grade they don’t like, like a D or an F?
Heater: A big chunk is that you’re probably going to want to retake the course. Nobody wants an F on their transcript. However, I can tell you that in my undergraduate career, I have an F on my transcript and of course I have a Ph.D. This was not the end of my college career. Nobody wants that, so I understand there are times when a student has to give up.
This university also has incredibly generous grade forgiveness policies. We have a grade replacement policy that has just been expanded. We reframed it and looked at what students really need to encourage them to continue in these classes. We therefore hope that this policy will encourage students to continue.
Opportunity U: What does a W look like on a transcript?
Heater: If a student drops a course within the first 60 days of classes, after this late registration period, they end up with a W on their transcript, which is a withdrawal. A withdrawal does not count for or against you with respect to your GPA. It just removes you from the class.
There may be financial aid implications, depending on how often you did. A W on your record probably won’t get you in trouble, but if you do it often enough, you’re wasting a lot of money. You want to be very thoughtful about this and this should be an exception, not the plan.
The other thing is that, especially for graduate schools or vocational schools, a lot of Ws on a transcript don’t look good on applications. Schools are going to want to know if you can academically handle the rigor of their curriculum, and if you’re constantly pulling out of class, that’s not what they’re looking for.
You should think at the beginning of the mandate about what you are going to be able to commit to and what you are going to be able to accomplish. It is not uncommon at all for students to be overwhelmed in the middle of a term. I think it’s more unusual if students aren’t overwhelmed in the middle of a term. Don’t make a rash decision based on how you feel in the moment.
How to plan your class schedule
Opportunity U: Can you tell us a bit about how students should prepare for the start of term?
Heater: Our registration period begins approximately in the middle of the previous semester. Students should certainly make an appointment with their academic advisors well in advance in order to be ready when it comes time to register. We assign enrollment appointments based on the number of credits students have. So if you are about to graduate, it is even more important for you to access the courses you need. Signing up at the earliest opportunity to get the best schedule for you is really important.
The other thing with that is that at the start of school, if you’re on a waiting list, go to class. I can’t say it loud enough. Instructors will often try to move students around the class if they made that effort to begin with because they communicate with the instructor. They have already shown that they are committed and so the instructor really wants to try and find a way to get them into this class. They may be willing to bring an extra student or two into the class, or it may mean that if another student drops out, they allow them in.
Opportunity U: Can you think of anything else you would recommend students do or learn to take control of their college schedule, especially coming out of high school?
Heater: This becomes all the more difficult as we have students who have dropped out of high school during the pandemic. It’s a whole different animal. I would absolutely say meet with your advisor early and often. Be in communication with them. Do not plan to visit your advisor’s office the day before your registration appointment. You need to make an appointment about a month in advance to be ready to go. I also think about having backups or substitutes in case the classes you want are full or in case a class is cancelled. Especially some of those higher level classes that may not have enough students.
I think it is also extremely beneficial to read your program. Each class is going to give you a schedule and this schedule is your contract of what is going to be expected during that class. Take these programs from the different classes and plan your semester. Deadlines will change often, but mark them on a calendar so you can see what’s coming up. And it will help you in the planning process to ensure that you are going to have a successful semester.
Opportunity U: Thank you for your time today and for all the great tips!