A Retroactive Withdrawal is a petition request for undergraduate students to be fully withdrawn from a previous semester, or multiple semesters, after experiencing unforeseen extenuating circumstances. These requests are infrequently granted as the expectation is for students to abide by the withdrawal deadlines set during the semester. 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.

Petition requests must include a personal statement written via the online petition form, relevant documentation, and submission of request agreement via the Retroactive Withdrawal form

The retroactive withdrawal process is for undergraduate students in the following schools and colleges.

  • College of Arts & Sciences  
  • College of Engineering & Applied Science
  • College of Media, Communication and Information
    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. 
  • School of Education
  • Leeds School of Business 
  • Program in Exploratory Studies 

If your major is not within these colleges, please contact your academic advisor to inquire about retroactive withdrawals.


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 are resolved by the college and are not subject to 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.

​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 individual courses specifically in the future, this may be the best option for you!

For more information about the Grade Replacement process please visit the website below.

Retroactive Withdrawal Process

After speaking with an academic advisor or academic coach students submit the online retroactive withdrawal petition form, which includes questions prompting a personal statement and supporting documentation, which will then be reviewed by the retroactive withdrawal committee in it's entirety.

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 help connect you with other campus resources that would aid you on your path to future success such as CAPS, Disability Services, and more.

As there are no academic deadlines to submit the retroactive withdrawal petition sometimes it is best to wait on this process until you have successfully completed more coursework. By waiting you can show academic improvement, get connected with campus resources, and continue to build the support you need. Talk to your academic advisor or academic coach to see if waiting to submit could be beneficial for you in this process. 

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 roughly 1–2 pages (preferably around 500 words although more is permitted), highly detailed, chronological, and well-organized. It’s very helpful to get feedback from your advisor; if you have been away from campus and no longer have an advising contact, please contact your college’s advising program. You can also use the writing center or a family member for support.

Your personal statement should thoroughly answer the following questions. You can also use the online petition form as guidance.

  • The first sentence of your petition should say: “I am submitting a retroactive withdrawal petition for  _______.” 
    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.

Strong documentation typically includes:

  • Letters of support from a provider, or resouce utilized on campus
  • Date you started seeing the practitioner
  • Description of the issue
  • Obituary, link to memorial services, or announcements if relevant 
     The committee may not have access to any documentation outside of what the student provides. If you utilized a campus resource, such as Wardenburg Heath Center, you will still need to submit this documentation with your petition. 
  • 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 
  • Your plans for the future. What tools have you learned that will allow you to succeed going 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 Veteren 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. 

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

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 typically meets monthly and works to review completed submissions as soon as possible. However, the committee receives many petitions each month and are not able to review petitions immediately. 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 Retroactive Withdrawal Committee is comprised of representatives from each college, academic servies, and student services. This wide range of specialists ensures a thorough and holistic review of the factors stated in each petition request.

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 is universally available to administrators on campus (such as BuffPortal logs)
  • demonstrated ability to follow withdrawal deadlines
  • history with the retroactive withdrawal process, such as multiple requests citing the same cirumstances
  • exceptions already given by the University or professors
  • severity of the issue
  • demonstrated academic improvement

If there is a reason that you feel the committee should prioritize your petition, you may include that information provided your petition is complete, however the recommendation is to prepare for the 30 to 60 day timeline. There is absolutely no guarantee due to the number of submissions that a petition can be prioritized and we cannot negatively affect petitions that were submitted prior to yours. If housing, financial aid, employment, or other deadlines may be impacted by this process we recommend reaching out to those offices first.  

Committee review is completely confidential for the student and information regarding committee deliberation and the decision making process will not be made available. 

Check your CU email

The committee will notify you of their decision by official approval or denial letter via your CU email.  If you no longer have a CU email be sure to include that information in your petition. 

​ All committee decisions are final. There are no appeals and no appeal process for official decisions.

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 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 offiial approval letter as documentation for a tuition dispute. 

Questions? Contact retrow@colorado.edu 

Retroactive Withdrawal Petition Form