The retroactive withdrawal process is for undergraduate students in these schools and colleges: 

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • College of Engineering & Applied Science
  • College of Media, Communication and Information
  • 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. Petitioners who have received a degree from CU Boulder or another institution, based on credits earned at CU Boulder, are not eligible for a retroactive withdrawal.

Retroactive withdrawal petitions are accepted in the case of extenuating circumstances such as health problems (mental or physical), a family emergency (such as a death in the family) and unexpected financial difficulties (such as a parent losing their job). Occurrences of university error or nonattendance are resolved by the colleges, but are initially reviewed by a member of the Retroactive Withdrawal Committee.

Retroactive Withdrawal Process

Students submit retroactive withdrawal petitions to the retroactive withdrawal committee for their review. The petition should include a personal statement and supporting documentation.

Write a personal statement

A well-written personal statement should be 1–2 pages (preferably less than 500 words), highly detailed, chronological and well-organized. It’s 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.

It should thoroughly answer the following questions:

  • What semester/s and courses would you like to retroactively withdraw from? (For example: “I am petitioning to withdraw from the entire fall 2017 semester” or “I am petitioning to withdraw from CHEM1210 in the spring semester of 2015”). Keep in mind that petitions requesting specific classes and not the full term are more difficult to get approved since you have to give very detailed explanations why you did well enough in some classes and not in the others.
  • 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 depression and couldn’t go to class or complete my homework” or “I had a bicycle accident in September 2018 that resulted in a severe concussion and I had a hard time focusing on my schoolwork that entire semester.”)
  • 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” or “I have enclosed letters from my physician and from the tutor I have been working with.”)
  • 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?
  • The first sentence of your petition should say: “I am submitting a retroactive withdrawal petition for  _______.” Fill in the blank with the semester(s) and/or class(es) from which you wish to withdraw.
  • 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 class or classes and not the whole semester, be extremely specific about why your problems only affected those specific courses and did not affect all courses for the semester. You can discuss the things about that class that were especially difficult, such as class size, attendance requirements, structure of the course, and any other specific reason you were unable to succeed in that particular course. Petitions requesting withdrawal from individual classes, rather than the whole semester are less frequently approved. 

Include supporting documentation

Petitions are rarely approved without supporting documentation. Attach supporting documentation from healthcare providers or other sources.

 Complete your petition: Once you submit your personal statement and supporting documentation, your petition is considered complete and will be in the queue to be reviewed by the committee.

Documents should include:

  • Date you started seeing the practitioner
  • Description of the issue
  • Severity of the issue and how it affected your ability to be successful academically
  • If appropriate, an explanation of your inability to attend classes
  • Your plans for the future. What tools have you learned that will allow you to succeed going forward?

Committee reviews your petition

The committee typically meets monthly and will review your completed submission as soon as possible. However, the committee receives many petitions each month and may not be able to review yours immediately. If there is a reason that the committee should prioritize your petition, you may include that information. If it is possible to prioritize your petition, the committee will accommodate that request as long as it will not negatively affect petitions that were submitted prior to yours.

Check your CU email

The committee will notify you of their decision via your CU email. If you no longer have a CU email, be sure to include that information in your petition. The committee will email to your personal email address if you specify. All decisions are final; there are no appeals.

If your petition is approved, you will be fully withdrawn from the classes and/or semesters you requested.

Past grades will be replaced with withdrawals (W) and your GPA will change to reflect this. This final processing through the Bursar’s Office and the Office of the Registrar can take two to three weeks after you receive notification.

 Grade Replacement: If your circumstances do not fit the criteria for a retroactive withdrawal, you may consider seeking a grade replacement. Under the grade replacement policy, degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students (law and non-degree students are not eligible) may retake a CU Boulder course in which they earned a low grade in an attempt to improve their cumulative GPA.



A retroactive withdrawal is a petition process for students to be fully withdrawn from a specific class or all classes for a past term or terms after experiencing circumstances, such as mental health or physical health problems, family or financial problems that led to poor academic performance. 


Students in these schools and colleges:

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

If you are not in one of these colleges, please contact your academic advisor to learn about the process.


The committee works to review petitions as quickly as possible, but there is no guaranteed timeframe in which your petition will be reviewed. Generally, petition review takes between 60 to 90 days after the petition is completed.


International students are eligible to petition for a retroactive withdrawal, however, you must speak to an advisor in International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) because there may be visa implications. Your petition will not be processed until we receive an email from an ISSS advisor.

Retroactive Withdrawal Petition Form

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