Most students carry four courses during their first semester with no trouble. But some students will need to drop to three as they adjust to the demands of college-level work. Dropping to three courses is a good strategy for students already overwhelmed by the workload and falling behind or students who find themselves in a course at too high a level for their background. This is one of those good uses for AP credits, for students who come in with AP credits. Note that students need to take at least three courses to be considered full time.
For students who are struggling to navigate their workload, you might want to have the conversation about which course to drop. It’s not always the one they are behind in or neglecting -- in some situations, it may make more sense to drop a course for which the student is under-prepared, and which may thus be dominating his or her workload. But these are individual conversations between adviser and advisee.
As the advisor, there are a few aspects of dropping a course to keep in mind as you engage this conversation. Students without AP’s will have to make up the credit, and it is worth some discussion about how they might do this. Summer language school, for which for which financial aid is available, is one option to consider. Keep in mind that international students must take a minimum of 3 courses for visa reasons. Finally, a student with three courses will go on probation with only one grade of “D” and into academic failure with only one grade of “F.”
The deadlines for dropping a course are posted on the Registrar's website (go/registrar). Advisors should refer to these dates at the start of the semester, and check in with their first-year advisees in advance of the deadline.