While you know how to register for classes, knowing how to withdraw from a class can be a little more challenging. After all, your school probably didn't go over how to drop a class during orientation week; everyone is too busy planning and preparing for the start of a new semester.
Sometimes, however, your awesome start-of-the-semester plans don't work out and you need to drop one or more classes. So just where do you begin?
Step One: Talk to your academic adviser. Talking with your academic adviser is an absolute necessity, so start there. Be prepared, however; your adviser will likely want to ask you a few questions about why you're dropping and, if applicable, talk about whether or not you should drop the class. If you both decide that dropping the course is the best option, however, your adviser will have to sign off on your forms and approve the decision. He or she can also help you plan out how you're going to make up the course content and/or units that you'll need to graduate.
Step Two: Talk to your professor. You likely can't just drop the class without talking to the professor (even if they're a bad one) or at least the TA. They are accountable for your progress in the class and for turning in your final grade at the end of the semester. Make an appointment or stop in during office hours to let your professor and/or TA know that you're dropping the class. If you've already talked to your academic adviser, the conversation should go pretty smoothly -- and quickly. And given that you'll likely need your professor's signature on a form or approval to drop, this step is a requirement as well as a courtesy.
Step Three: Head to the registrar's office. Even if your academic adviser and your professor know that you're going to drop the class, you have to officially let your college know. Even if you can do everything online, check in with your registrar to make sure you have submitted everything they need and that you've submitted it on time. Additionally, follow-up to make sure everything goes through okay. While you may have submitted your materials, they may not have received them for whatever reason. You don't want your "withdrawal" to turn into a "fail" on your transcript, and it's much easier to confirm now that your drop went through okay than it is to correct things in several months when you realize an error was made.
Step Four: Tie up any loose ends. Make sure to let any lab partners know that you've dropped the class, for example. Similarly, return any equipment you may have checked out and remove yourself from the list of students who have a music rehearsal space reserved on a rotation basis. You don't want to needlessly be using resources that other students need or, even worse, be charged for their use when you don't need them any longer.