A Retroactive Withdrawal is a petition request for undergraduate students to be fully withdrawn from a previous semester, or multiple semesters, after experiencing unforeseen extenuating circumstances during that timeframe. The expectation is for all students to abide by the withdrawal deadlines set each semester; therefore, these requests are infrequently granted. Eligibility for this process is specifically for students who experienced debilitating mental health or physical health problems, family emergency, or financial problems that led to an abnormally poor academic performance.

Graduate students and students who have graduated and been awarded their degree are not eligible for this particular process​."Non-Degree" students must petition through the Division of Continuing Education. 


Retroactive withdrawal requests are only eligible in the case of unforeseen extenuating circumstances of debilitating health problems (mental or physical), a family emergency (such as the death of a guardian), and unexpected financial difficulties (such as a parent losing their job) that prevented a student from withdrawing during the semester.  
*Occurrences of university error or nonattendance in a course are resolved by the college and are not subject to the committee process. In those cases, please connect with an appropriate college representative.*

The following are not acceptable stand-alone reasons for petitioning:

Poor performance in class
GPA protection
Failure to verify class schedule through Buff Portal
Failure to monitor waitlist position
Change of major or program that results in a course no longer being a requirement
Failure to attend/participate in class on a regular basis
Failure to abide by withdrawal deadlines

The Retroactive Withdrawal process reviews full-term, or multiple-term, requests only.


COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented changes and challenges, and the University has continued to adapt its efforts in providing students options to succeed academically. The committee will consider all additional resources and exceptions provided by the University during COVID- 19 in their deliberations. These include, but are not limited to, extended withdrawal deadlines, pass/fail options, and incompletes granted by professors.

Students who dealt with unforeseen circumstances such as severe health problems, family emergencies, and financial difficulties and are requesting a full-term withdrawal remain eligible to use this process, as long as they submit a thorough personal statement and supporting documentation. Citing stressors from the pandemic with no documentation, changes in class format, or challenges with a virtual learning environment will not be acceptable stand-alone reasons for petitioning. As always, documentation should convey both the occurrence and impact of the challenges faced during the term requested. 

If your circumstances do not fit the criteria for a retroactive withdrawal, you may consider seeking a grade replacement. Under the Grade Replacement Policy students may retake a CU Boulder course in which they earned a low grade which would remove the grade from their GPA calculations. If you wish to re-enroll in specific courses in the future this may be the best option for you, find out more information on the website here.

If you are looking to withdraw from an individual course from a previous semester you can work with your academic advisor and Dean of your College to see if this is an option.

Retroactive Withdrawal Process

After speaking with an academic advisor or academic coach, students submit the online petition form, which includes questions prompting a personal statement and supporting documentation. The retroactive withdrawal committee will then review the entirety of the petition.

Students have until their degree is conferred, either at CU Boulder or another institution, to pursue this option.

As there are no academic deadlines to submit the retroactive withdrawal petition it is often best to wait on this process until additional coursework that is stronger academically has been completed. By waiting to submit a student can demonstrate academic improvement, get connected with campus resources, continue to build the support they need, and gather the most comprehensive documentation possible. Talk to your academic advisor or academic coach to see if waiting to submit could be beneficial for you in this process.

Speak with your academic advisor or academic coach

Academic advisors and academic coaches are an extremely helpful resource in determining if a retroactive withdrawal is the right process for you. Be sure to utilize them as a resource when drafting your petition as they can help guide you through the process and work with you to help make your petition stronger.  They can also help you determine how this process might impact your degree progress, graduation timeline, and academic standing. Lastly, they can connect you with other campus resources that would aid you on your path to future success such as CAPS, Disability Services, SSCM, and more.

Write a personal statement

The online petition form will provide question prompts that will serve as a personal statement, however, it may be helpful to draft your statement beforehand. A well-written personal statement should be highly detailed, chronological, and well-organized. When all questions on the form are completed it should total roughly 1–2 pages. It’s very helpful to get feedback from your academic advisor; if you have been away from campus and no longer have an advising contact, please contact your college’s advising program. Students can also use the writing center or a family member for support in crafting their statement.

Once completed, your personal statement should thoroughly answer the following questions. The online petition form provides questions that will help guide you as you write your statement.
  • The first sentence of your petition should say: “I am submitting a retroactive withdrawal petition for _______ semester.”
    For example: “I am petitioning to withdraw from the Fall 2017 semester”
  • Explain in the most specific way possible how the term began, how it progressed, and how your circumstances affected your academic performance.
    If you are petitioning to withdraw from an individual semester, be extremely specific about why your problems only affected that specific semester.
  • What happened at that time that made it difficult for you to keep up with your attendance or coursework?
    For example: “Because of my father’s death in January 2017, I began to suffer from severe depression and couldn’t get out of bed to go to class or complete my homework”
  • What documents do you have that would support your situation?
    For example: “I worked with a therapist from Wardenburg and have included her letter supporting my diagnosis and treatment and the effect it had on my classwork”
  • Your plans for the future.
    What tools have you learned that will allow you to succeed going forward/what will you do differently so you will be successful?

Include supporting documentation

Petitions are not approved without supporting documentation. Supporting documentation should be relevant to the circumstances outlined in the personal statement.  Documentation can come from health care providers, campus resources that were utilized, or other formats that can help corroborate any claims made. The committee may not have access to any documentation outside of what the student provides. If you utilized a campus resource, such as Wardenburg Health Center, you will still need to submit documentation from that service with your petition.

Submitting a retroactive withdrawal form with documentation does not guarantee approval.

Strong documentation typically includes the following:

  • Letters of support from a provider, or resource utilized on campus
  • The date you started seeing the practitioner
  • Description of the issue
  • Obituary, link to memorial services, or announcements if relevant 
  • The severity of the issue and how it affected your ability to be successful academically
  • If appropriate, an explanation of your inability to attend classes
  • Dates relevant to the semester(s) you are petitioning
  • Correspondence with instructors 
  • Official letterhead or signatures if applicable
  • Resources and tools have you been utilizing that will help you to succeed moving forward

International Students: International students are eligible to petition for a retroactive withdrawal however, because there may be visa implications, must speak to an academic advisor in International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) in order for your petition to be processed. Military Affiliated Students are also eligible but must speak with Veteran and Military Affairs before moving forward in this process.

Your petition will not be considered complete until we receive an email confirmation from both an ISSS advisor, or VMA advisor, and yourself that you have spoken. 

Complete your petition

Once you submit your petition request form, which includes your personal statement through prompted questions and your supporting documentation, and receive an email confirmation from the Retroactive Withdrawal Coordinator your petition is considered complete and will be in the queue to be reviewed by the committee.

Your petition is not considered complete until you receive a confirmation from the Retroactive Withdrawal Coordinator which will not be automatic. If your petition is incomplete due to lack of documentation, editing requirements, or needing additional information, the timeline for review will be longer. 

Committee reviews your petition

The Retroactive Withdrawal Committee is comprised of representatives from each college, academic services, and student services. This wide range of specialists ensures a thorough and holistic review of the factors stated in each petition request.

The committee typically meets monthly and works to review completed submissions as soon as possible. While there is no guaranteed timeframe for petitions to be reviewed, generally petition review takes between 30 to 60 days after the petition is marked as complete. Campus closures and holidays can also impact the review process timeline.

The committee considers all information they have available to them which includes but is not limited to:

  • The completed petition form 
  • Academic history 
  • Information that may be available to administrators on campus (such as BuffPortal logs)
  • Demonstrated ability to follow withdrawal deadlines
  • Previous history with the retroactive withdrawal process, such as multiple petition requests citing the same circumstances
  • Exceptions that are already given to the student by the University or professors
  • The severity of the issue
  • Demonstrated academic improvement

Check your CU email

The Retroactive Withdrawal Coordinator notifies students of the committee's decision through an official approval or denial letter via the student's CU email address. If you no longer have a CU email be sure to include that information in your petition. 

If your petition is approved, you will be fully withdrawn from the requested term(s).

  • Earned grades will be replaced with withdrawals (W) and your GPA will change to reflect this.
    • This final processing through the Office of the Registrar can take one to two weeks after you receive a notification.
    • If an approved retroactive withdrawal changes your academic standing, please note that changes to your record cannot be made by your college until the withdrawal has been processed by the Registrar’s Office and W appears in place of the earned grades on your record
  • Tuition Disputes are a separate process completed through the Bursar's Office. If approved for a Retroactive Withdrawal you can use your official approval letter as documentation for a tuition dispute. 

As a retroactive withdrawal petition request is an appeal of University procedure regarding withdrawal deadlines, all decisions are final and requests for the same semester will not be reviewed in the future. Once the official decision has been reached by the committee students are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor as soon as possible to discuss their options moving forward.

The grade replacement policy remains a helpful avenue for eligible coursework. Students can work with academic advisors, in conjunction with the Deans of each college, to explore any other options that may be available. 

Questions? Contact retrow@colorado.edu 

Retroactive Withdrawal Petition Form