A Retroactive Withdrawal Petition is a request for degree-seeking undergraduate students to be fully withdrawn from a previous semester*, or multiple semesters, after experiencing unforeseen extenuating circumstances during that timeframe.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.  A petition review is not possible if a degree has been conferred after the petitioned semester.

*Summer Sessions and the Winter Session can be reviewed separately from their respective semester of record.


  • Undergraduate students
  • A degree has not been conferred since the petitioned semester
  • Requests are for a full-term withdrawal; the following are considered terms:
    • Fall
    • Spring
    • Each Summer Session
    • Winter Session

Retroactive withdrawal requests are only eligible in the case of unforeseen extenuating circumstances that prevented a student from withdrawing during the petitioned semester:

  • Debilitating health problems (mental or physical)
  • Family emergencies (such as death of a parent/guardian)       
  • Unexpected financial difficulties (such as parent/guardian losing their employment, housing insecurity, legal challenges)

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

  • Poor performance in class
  • GPA protection
  • Failure to verify class schedule
  • 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

Grade Appeals and Academic Sanctions:

A petition for a retroactive withdrawal is not a Grade Appeal or an appeal of academic sanctions applied as part of Honor Code procedures. 

For students who would like to appeal a grade, lodge a complaint, or submit a grievance, please visit the Campus Policies website for guidance.

An approved retroactive withdrawal of a semester will not change grades documented as a result of an academic sanction.  For information on the Honor Code procedures, please visit the Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution office’s Honor Code website.

For assistance navigating either of these considerations, the Ombuds Office is a helpful resource.

Retroactive Withdrawal and COVID-19

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.

1. Connect with your academic advisor or coach to discuss considerations:

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 use 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.

2. Research the petition process (finish reviewing content on this page)

3. Review the online petition form questions and gather supporting documentation to support your reasoning:

  • Which semester(s) are you petitioning?
  • Please provide specific and detailed information about how your circumstances affected your coursework.
  • If you are petitioning for multiple semesters, explain why you were successful in some semesters versus other semesters. 
  • If you are petitioning for multiple semesters, explain why you continued to enroll despite your ongoing circumstances.
  • Why did you not withdraw at the time?
  • What have you been doing to ensure success since the term(s) when you had these challenges?

4. Draft a thoughtful statement that clearly provides the relevant details and important dates:

A well-written personal statement should be highly detailed with references to the supporting documents submitted, chronological, and well-organized. When all questions on the form are completed, a typical submission is roughly one or two pages. It’s 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 previous advising unit.  

If you would like to connect with an impartial and confidential office that is familiar with the Retroactive Withdrawal Petition process, please connect with the Ombuds Office: 303-492-5077.  Their office does not participate with the committee decisions, but is familiar with the petition process, and as detailed on their site: “We listen without judgment, help people untangle issues, develop options and strategize. We provide an impartial perspective and maintain what is shared with us in the strictest confidence.” They may be of assistance to help think through considerations for submitting a petition.

5. Submit the online petition form with supporting documents uploaded:

Please note: CU Boulder has a responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment. If you disclose having been impacted by sexual misconduct, protected-class discrimination or harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, or related retaliation, we are required to share that information to the CU Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) for outreach regarding support and reporting options. You are not required to respond to OIEC. If you are in need of support, here is a list of resources, including confidential assistance. If you have questions before you want to submit this type of information, please contact the confidential Office of Victim Assistance.

Additionally, please note that the university takes disclosures around threats of harm to self or others seriously. When information of this nature is received, it will be shared with the appropriate offices to offer additional support and resources. 

Petitions are not reviewed without supporting documentation. Supporting documentation should be relevant to the circumstances outlined in the personal statement.  Documentation can come from healthcare providers, campus resources that were utilized, or other records that can help support the reasoning provided in the statement. Committee members may not have access to documentation other than what is provided. 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

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.

Once the online petition form (which includes your personal statement through prompted questions and your supporting documentation) is submitted, the Retroactive Withdrawal Coordinator will review the petition for completeness, provide feedback, and update you with next steps.  

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

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.

Please note - a submitted petition is only marked complete after communication with the Retroactive Withdrawal Coordinator (retrow@colorado.edu).  The coordinator will typically email the contact listed on the petition form within 5-10 operating days of submission.  Adding retrow@colorado.edu as an email contact may prevent messages from the coordinator going to a "Junk", "Spam", or other unintended email folder.

International & Military Affiliated 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 (VMA) before moving forward in this process.