2.04 Adding or Dropping Courses

Medical Education

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2.04 Adding or Dropping Courses


SUMMARY- Add/drop for both preclerkship electives and advanced clinical experiences may be made online in live time based on deadlines specific to each category of electives.

  • Generally, preclerkship electives may be added/dropped up to 3 weeks from the start date of the course.
  • Advanced electives may be added/dropped up to 45 days prior to the start of a rotation.
  • Once the deadline date occurs, students cannot make further changes online. Any changes must be reviewed and processed through the Registrar’s Office. There is no guarantee that late changes will be approved.

Students access online add/drop through their Student Resources Page on MyCourses. In the Registrar section, the appropriate link will be available during the open add/drop period; after the deadline, the link will be deactivated until the next open add/drop period.

All scheduling (core and elective courses and clerkships) is managed through the Registrar’s Office. To ensure fairness in scheduling for all students, we do not allow students to contact course directors to make special arrangements (unless instructed to do so by the Registrar’s Office).

The complete add/drop policy is detailed below.

  • Any request to add or drop a one-month advanced elective course must comply with the established add/drop deadlines.
  • Add/drop changes for one-month elective courses/clerkships may be processed the 1st   to the 15th of the month at least 45 days in advance of the rotation start date.
  • To ensure that all students are treated fairly in the scheduling process, students are not allowed to "switch" clerkships with other students, nor are students allowed to be taken as “extras” into clerkships, even with approval of the course director. All add/drop requests must be processed online through the Registrar's Office database; please do not negotiate directly with the clerkship.



FULL-TIME STATUS:  Every student must maintain full-time status for each semester that he or she is enrolled (unless on a Leave of Absence or enrolled in another degree-granting program). The New Pathway and Pathways curricula are by design full time for years I and II; Year III as well for New Pathway. Any deviations will be considered on a case by case basis. Beginning with the advanced electives (Year IV New Pathway), full-time status requires a minimum of twelve-week equivalents (generally, this is three 4-week equivalent clerkships) per semester. The fall semester runs from July to December; the spring semester runs from January to May. Away rotations, independent studies, and research months may count towards the required 12-week equivalents, provided these experiences will earn 4-week equivalents (40 hours/week for 4 weeks). Criteria for fulltime enrollment in Pathways after PCE is to be determined.

NOTE:  In the graduating semester, if a student has fulfilled the graduation requirements, a student may be enrolled at least half-time (8 week equivalents) January through April.

UNSCHEDULED MONTHS:  The Registrar's Office tracks monthly activities for each student. Therefore, if a student is not scheduled for an HMS course, the student is required to inform the Registrar's Office of his/her plans for those months. In addition to the clinical clerkships for which a student is scheduled, the Registrar’s Office must track other activities, such as vacation, "AWAY" electives, research months, or independent study.

SCHEDULING PRIORITIES:  In the add/drop process, Harvard medical students have first priority for clinical electives until 90 days before the start of the rotation. Subsequently, any available spots may be used to schedule visiting students.

Adding or Dropping Courses

Preclerkship Courses:  Preclerkship elective courses may be added or dropped up until three weeks after the start of the course.

All registrations are considered tentative until after the add/drop deadline. Minimum and maximum enrollments are then checked. If a course is oversubscribed, the registrants will be entered into a lottery. Those selected will be notified by the Registrar’s Office. Harvard Medical School students have priority over cross-registered students for spaces in courses.

Any request to drop a clinical clerkship or clinical elective must be made at least 45 days prior to the beginning of the course. Once a clinical clerkship or clinical elective has started, it may not be dropped; should a student discontinue a rotation once it has begun, a “W” (withdrawn) will be the assigned grade. Signing up for a clinical course represents a two-way commitment on the part of the student and the school/hospital. Prior to the beginning of the clerkship, the school/hospital commits its faculty/patient/time resources; dropping a course at a late date may deny other students enrollment due to capacity requirements; and course/clerkship leaders rely on the student to be there on time and to be fully engaged to participate in all aspects of the experience. This agreement should be viewed as being as important as keeping an appointment with a patient or colleague; following through on work that was promised; and, in short, being responsible and professional. As a student's career choices mature, and as a student's study plans for National Board exams come into sharper focus, keeping this 45-day time frame in mind will allow a student to modify his/her schedule without causing harm to the course, other students, or their own professional reputation.

Therefore, the policy for dropping courses is as follows:

1.   Students may drop advanced elective courses up to 45 days prior to the course, without the need to obtain formal approval from faculty or their Society. Simply make the change online.

  1. Students who want to drop a course within 45 days of the beginning of the course are required to first approach their Society before going to the Registrar. A formal request by e-mail must be submitted to registrar@hms.harvard.edu. Society approval does not guarantee the drop will be made. On a case by case basis, the Registrar will consult with the Society.

These deadlines for changes in enrollment in clerkships are in place for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Many courses have minimum enrollment requirements that must be met in order for the course/clerkship to be offered. Should a course/clerkship fall below its minimum enrollment and be canceled, time is required to give adequate notification to students affected by the cancelation, who will be deprived of taking the elective in that institution at that time.
  • Course directors and administrators require advance notification of who will be taking their course/clerkship.
  • When students sign up for a course/clerkship, doing so constitutes a contract among the student, the hospital department, and the school. For the 45-day time period prior to the course, resources are committed to the student, including faculty, staff, and patients. The goal of the policy is to insure that students understand what their commitments represent while at the same time providing a pathway for addressing valid emergency situations for which exceptions are permitted.
  • Many clerkships e-mail materials to students in advance of the course start date and also prepare in advance for such things as setting up the clinical schedule and computer accounts, arranging for lockers, ordering beepers, and preparing name badges.
  • Because we have no “waitlist” on clerkship requests, should you drop a course after the deadline, the slot may go unused. If you hold  onto a clerkship slot past the drop/add deadline, you may prevent a fellow classmate from being able to take that course.

Procedure for Requesting a Change after the Deadline:  Of course, life events can prevent any physician from keeping appointments, being on call, etc. These are most often unanticipated personal or family emergencies. Allowing students to make a change after the posted deadline is permitted only for such unusual and compelling circumstances. When a student has such an emergency and needs to drop a course after the posted deadline, within 45 days of the beginning of the course, a student must notify his/her Society immediately, not the Registrar’s office. Once the Society has reviewed the student’s request and has found it to be reasonable and legitimate, only then will the student’s request be submitted to the Registrar, who has the ultimate authority to give or deny approval. This process may require a further step of getting the approval of the course director at the discretion of the Registrar, if within 30 days of the start date of the course. If this process is not followed, a final grade of "withdrawn"  may be assigned.

Both the Registrar and the course director will have a final veto. Students should not bypass the Society and Registrar by approaching course/clerkship directors directly. Students who wish to appeal a drop/add decision must discuss their request and the basis for it with their Society Advisory Dean/Director or Associate Director. The Registrar and the Society will then confer about the case and make a final decision.

Required Subinternship (ME550 and PD550): While the subinternship is requested semiannually on the online study card, the subinternship cannot be added or dropped through the online application, as the Registrar’s Office continually monitors enrollments in the subinternships. Requests to change subinternship enrollment should be submitted by e-mail to registrar@hms.harvard.edu.

NOTE:  The add/drop policies described in Section 2.04 are subject to change without notice.


Last updated on 3/3/16