What You Need to Know

Academic Difficulty

During the freshman year or during a new transfer's first semester, a student may begin to experience exceptional difficulty in one or more classes. Don't suffer in silence.  If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by a course, keep attending class and reach out to your professor, your academic advisor and your class dean.

Talk To Your Professor and Academic Advisor

Speaking with the professor as quickly as possible is the best way to get help for any difficulties you are experiencing with the class, and also demonstrates your commitment to the course.  You can start by talking to your professor before or after class, but the most important conversations will take place when you go see your professor during their office hours.  Also, go see your academic advisor.  Your professor and academic advisor may be able to help you arrange for a peer tutor, assist you with getting tutoring help at the Moss Quantitative Center, and connect you to your class dean.

Talk To Your Class Dean

A student experiencing academic difficulty also has an open invitation to schedule an appointment to talk with the Dean of New Students. Your Dean will listen to your concerns and challenges, then help you plan a strategy for success.  The Dean can also discuss with you the possibility of using the Freshman/Transfer Drop as a last resort.  You must exhaust all available Academic Support Services (see below) and seek guidance from the course instructor before considering a Freshman/Transfer Drop.

Academic Support Services

Resources abound for students in need of academic support. Below are descriptions of some of those resources. Your Dean can also recommend other services based on your specific needs.

Peer Tutoring:  The Office of Student Affairs coordinates the Peer Tutoring program, which matches students with academic department-approved tutors. Students who wish to work with a Peer Tutor must first receive approval from their professor. The next step is to visit the Office of Student Affairs to request a tutor for the course. It is then the responsibility of the student to make contact with a tutor, arrange for sessions, and follow up with the Office of Student Affairs to let us know with whom you will be working.  There is no cost to the student.

The Moss Quantitative Center:  The center, commonly referred to as the Q Center, is headquartered in the Merrill Science Center.  It offers walk-in tutor services for math, science, and economics courses, as well as sessions specific to particular courses. The Q Center's schedule will be online at https://www.amherst.edu/mm/31795 once the semester gets underway and tutors are approved. The Q Center staff can also be reached at 413-542-8331.

The Writing Center:  In the center you will find trained peer tutors, a professional staff, and even faculty to help with academic writing. The Writing Center can help you get started on a paper, as well as editing on advanced drafts.  In addition, the center can help you with time management and can even help you work through anxiety issues. The Writing Center’s website at  https://www.amherst.edu/mm/31732 can give you more information about this valuable resource.

Above all, if you find yourself falling behind or struggling in a class, be proactive. Seek out the resources that are here to help, or talk to your class dean for help.

The Mid-Semester Freshman/Transfer Drop Option

The Freshman/Transfer Drop is a widely-misunderstood option.  It is  granted to first-year students or first-semester transfer students when academic difficulty sets in, and after it is demonstrated that the student's use of the available resources - peer tutors, Q-Center, and Writing Center - cannot get them back on track with their work.

Important:  You must continue to attend class until the Drop has been approved by the Dean of New Students, your academic advisor, and your professor. Students who stop attending class might become ineligible for the Freshman/Transfer Drop.

To qualify for the Freshman/Transfer Drop, students must initiate conversations with the Dean of New Students, usually between the fifth and eighth week of classes.

Qualifications for the drop requires the approval by the student's professor and advisor, so it is a good idea to schedule a meeting with both of them to discuss challenges you might be facing in the course, and to work out a strategy for success.  In the event that you are allowed to drop a course, the petition form is given to you by the Dean, and you are then responsible for securing both your advisor and professor's signatures and returning the petition to the Office of Student Affairs by the deadline.  Only when the completed petition is handed in to the Office of Student Affairs and signed by the Dean is your drop officially approved.  Only then can you stop attending class and stop completing assignments and examinations.

If your petition to use the Freshman/Transfer drop is approved, your transcript will list the course, and will report a "W*/Freshman Drop Rule".  Since you can graduate from Amherst College with 31 courses, it will not be necessary to make up the course deficiency. You are not expected to retake the course, but you are free to do so if you need it for your major.


  1. Students should establish relationships with their course instructors.
  2. In the event of any academic difficulty, students should first speak with the instructor and their class dean, not about dropping the course, but rather about ways of better comprehending course material.
  3. Students are expected to seek out resources, e.g., professor's assistance and office hours, Q Center, Writing Center, and Peer Tutor.
  4. To qualify for the drop, students must initiate conversations with the Dean of New Students about the course by the end of the sixth week of classes, or the week after the meeting of the Committee on Academic Standing (whichever comes later).
  5. Students MUST continue to attend class until the student has received the signatures of approval from their professor, academic advisor and class dean, and the completed form has been returned to the Office of Student Affairs.

For information on specific academic deadlines, please see the academic calendar