LATE & RETROACTIVE WITHDRAWAL GUIDELINES

Students should follow all University of Memphis guidelines and semester deadlines for withdrawing from courses. That said, in the event that a student with a declared major in the School of Health Studies (SHS) experiences "extreme and unforeseeable circumstances" and would like to request a late withdrawal, they should follow the procedures outlined below.

It should be noted that requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and all situations are unique. "Extreme circumstances" are those that would make it impossible or near impossible for a student to complete a course or courses. These include but may not be limited to:

• An illness or injury requiring hospitalization for an extended period of time
• An illness or injury requiring the use of medication(s) that impair the ability to perform in class
• An illness or injury that does not allow students to travel to and from class
• An illness or injury of a family member for which the student provides daily care
• The death of an immediate family member
• Relocation due to employment

Again, all situations are unique and items such as the specific circumstances, timeline, student standing at the time of the request, number of missed classes, communication with instructor, and related issues will be considered. All documentation must be provided in writing.

Students should do the following:

1. Discuss their case with one of the Academic Services Coordinators located in Fieldhouse 106. The case may be unacceptable and the advisor may be able to inform students of this right away. There may be better and more appropriate options aside from dropping the course(s) and a meeting the advisor may provide clarity regarding these options. If appropriate, students will work with their advisor to complete a Schedule Adjustment form.

  • NOTE: Before withdrawing from a course(s), consider the impact this action might have on financial aid or scholarships. Check with the appropriate office(s) if unsure as to how withdrawing may have an impact.

2. Discuss their case with individual faculty members for the course(s) they wish to withdraw from. Students should complete the SHS Course Withdrawal Petition Form in its entirety. Faculty members should complete the required information. It is the student's responsibility to locate the faculty member to obtain the required information. Only completed forms will be considered.

3. Students should provide a description of their request, detailing why this is needed. See final page of SHS Course Withdrawal Petition Form.

4. Students should provide supportive written documentation confirming the sickness, injury, and/or extreme life circumstance that necessitates a drop from the course(s). Such documentation includes letters from personal physicians or other healthcare providers, as well as related documents (e.g., obituary).

What is a late or retroactive withdrawal?

A late withdrawal is withdrawal from a course after the final date to drop courses. At the University of Memphis, this date typically falls near the middle of each semester. The drop is called a retroactive withdrawal if it takes place after grades have been issued. Once a degree has been completed and certified, changes to the academic record may only be made in instances where the University has made a transcript error.

What is the purpose of the late withdrawal policy?

The late withdrawal policy is designed to prevent a student from receiving an F in classes in which extreme and unforeseen circumstances that occur after the official drop deadline make it impossible or near impossible for the student to complete a course or courses that semester. The student should do everything possible to drop a course by the stated deadline. Only in rare situations will a late withdrawal be approved.

Who approves a late or retroactive withdrawal?

Before the withdrawal deadline, students can process a withdrawal on the web without seeking anyone else's approval. The only exceptions are students who are on an athletic scholarship or under a contract due to academic suspension, high school deficiencies, or remediation. In those cases, the student should be sure to contact the appropriate office to discuss the ramifications of their plans before withdrawing from any courses. After the official withdrawal deadline for the semester, the student must obtain the approval for late withdrawals from the school or college in which the student is a major. Undeclared students must obtain approval from the Academic Counseling Center. A request for a retroactive withdrawal more than one year ago may be submitted to the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs, AD 231.

What about faculty approval?

Decisions about approving withdrawals are made by the school or college, not the individual faculty members. However, information from the student's instructors about attendance and academic performance at various points throughout the semester is crucial for the school or college in considering the student's petition, but faculty are not asked to make a recommendation about whether the petition should be approved or not. The reasons for requesting a withdrawal can often be very personal or sensitive. The student does not have to discuss with the faculty member the reasons for the request for a withdrawal since the faculty member is only being asked to report to the school or college about the student's academic performance and attendance in the class that semester.

Under what circumstances will a petition for withdrawal be approved?

According to the Undergraduate Catalog, requests for late withdrawals can be approved "only on the basis of extenuating circumstances such as serious personal illness or relocation due to employment."

The two examples explicitly mentioned are not the only ones that are possible, and even serious personal illness or job relocation might not suffice if they occurred before the final withdrawal date and the student failed to take advantage of the opportunity to withdraw on time. It is the student's responsibility to make wise decisions regarding their class schedule and the number of courses taken. Late withdrawal requests will not be approved simply because students are having a hard time in a course, have a grade which is lower than desired, or are feeling stressed and challenged due to life circumstances.

There are three main criteria that are used in deciding what will count as such "extenuating circumstances" and all three must apply. The reason for withdrawing must be:
• Beyond the student's control
• Unforeseeable
• Severe/Extreme

What counts as beyond the student's control?

Serious illness or injury would count, as would death of a family member. Job transfers may or may not be chosen by the student. However, deciding that one needs to work more hours, deciding to move to different living conditions, or deciding to work a different, better-paying shift or to take a better paying job would not normally count as beyond the student's control. If a student who is working full-time to support a family and going to school part-time can show that he/she was given a shift change and had to accept this change or be fired, this would count. If a student is offered a promotion that comes with more or different hours and decides to accept it even though this will make it difficult to pass classes that semester, that would normally not be regarded as something beyond the student's control.

What does it mean to say that the event must be unforeseeable?

Even severe difficulties beyond the student's control will not count as grounds for a late withdrawal unless they could not have reasonably been foreseen and handled through the normal processes before the final withdrawal deadline. If the student knew of the difficulties before the drop date and decided to stay in classes anyway, then the late withdrawal policies are not designed to reverse this decision (or failure to make a decision) only after it has become clear that this was not a wise decision.

Unforeseeability and course completion

Difficulties that arise before the end of the course can hardly be considered "unforeseeable" if a student stays enrolled for most of the course and continues to take quizzes, tests, etc. Students who encounter difficulties should petition for a late withdrawal as soon as these problems become clear to them. Late or retroactive withdrawals are not intended to substitute for a students need to make appropriate decisions at the time. For that reason, if a student has attempted assignments, quizzes, or exams late in the semester, then it would be extremely unlikely that a case could be made that the difficulties were unforeseeable and therefore that a retroactive withdrawal would be granted.

The unforeseeability criterion and recurring or chronic difficulties

Some chronic illnesses such as diabetes, anxiety, depression or some serious and recurring family obligations or financial circumstances can present severe impediments to a student's success. During the first semester in which a student finds him or herself confronted with these circumstances and is trying to learn to cope with them, it may happen that the drop date has passed and a late withdrawal is necessary before the student has become completely aware of what is happening and what effect this will have on the student's classes. However, after that first semester the student's decision to enroll and stay enrolled in classes will be respected regardless of the outcome. Students in these circumstances will not be allowed a late withdrawal if it turns out that these were not good decisions. Late withdrawals for classes in those semesters are not acceptable substitutes for careful and realistic planning with the help of trained professionals.
In these circumstances, it is extremely important for students to take advantage of the support opportunities available through the Office of Student Development Services and the Office of Disability Resources for Students at The University of Memphis. The trained and dedicated professionals in these offices can assist the student in academic planning and decision-making and help avoid the need for late withdrawals. If something unexpected happens after the official withdrawal deadline, the student's case will be significantly strengthened if the student is already working with a professional counselor in one of these offices who can confirm that the event was indeed unforeseeable and that the student has been doing everything he or she could to work through his or her difficulties and fulfill his or her academic responsibilities within the normal procedures and deadlines.

What counts as severe/extreme?

The policy explicitly cites serious personal illness and uses job relocation and not just a change in employment circumstances as extenuating circumstances. Anything severe enough to warrant a late withdrawal should normally be so severe as to be a complete hindrance to completing the semester at all (including all courses). Several weeks of hospitalization following a car accident would count. Having the flu for a week would not, nor would spraining an ankle and being required to use crutches to get to and from class. Whatever would be severe enough to count as severe should normally prevent the student from completing any of his or her classes. That is why it is important for a student to petition for a withdrawal as soon as it becomes clear what has happened and not wait until grades have been awarded. If a student keeps going to some classes and taking exams, then this is in itself an indication that the student did not consider it severe enough to withdraw until the grade in the class became apparent. There may be circumstances where a withdrawal would still be permitted, but this would certainly weaken the case for the severity of the event.

Again, whatever is severe enough to justify a late withdrawal in any class should normally prevent students from continuing their studies at all and should normally affect all of a student's classes and not just one class. Hence it will be unusual for a petition for a withdrawal for a single class or for only some of the classes, but not others, to be successful. This includes a request to drop one "very difficult class" simply because it is taking more time than the student thought and they now feel stressed because of the demand.

Under some circumstances, requesting to drop one class might be justified. For instance if a student sustains a physical injury, that student would be allowed to withdraw from the physical activities classes without being forced to drop other academic classes. In any case, requests for anything other than a withdrawal from all classes must contain additional clear documentation of the reasons why the event affected the one class or the one group of classes differently from the others.

What if I only found out about my grades after the official withdrawal deadline?

The late withdrawal policy is not intended simply as a mechanism for students to avoid bad grades or a negative impact on the GPA. Although we encourage the professors to try to give the students some indication of their performance in the class before the withdrawal deadline, this is often not possible for a variety of reasons. If a student has doubts about his or her ability to complete the course successfully, the student should consult with the instructor and with his or her academic advisor before the drop date to get the best information available to make an appropriate decision. In any case, though, the student needs to make that decision before the withdrawal deadline and not wait until the grades are in. Poor prospects for successfully completing the course cannot by themselves suffice as a reason for approving a withdrawal after the drop date unless there are additional extenuating circumstances that are beyond the student's control, unforeseeable, and severe in the senses described above.

When should I present a petition for a late withdrawal?

Students should present a petition as soon as possible after the event occurs. For the reasons explained above, it substantially weakens a student's case if the student waits until after grades are in or until the grade has become unavoidable before presenting a petition for a withdrawal. To wait more than one semester also makes it necessary to obtain an additional level of approval. For practical purposes, it also becomes much more difficult or impossible to obtain the necessary information from the instructors if a student does not present the petition during the semester in question or as soon as possible afterwards. It can become impossible to find the instructors and obtain the necessary documentation even for legitimate cases if a student has allowed more than a semester or two to go by before attempting to present a petition. Since the student must document that he or she was making good academic progress until something happened later in the semester to disrupt that progress, the student's failure to present the petition in a timely fashion may make it impossible for the student to obtain the documentation necessary for the petition to be approved. This means that, even though there is no final deadline stated for exceptions, practical considerations will often make it impossible for a student to present a successful petition after a few semesters have elapsed.

What should be included in my petition?

The student must use the required forms as indicated above, as well as the correct documentation and written account of what happened and the reason for the request. The account should include information about a) how the student was doing in each of his or her classes until the intervening event occurred, b) the nature of the severe event that intervened, when it began, and how long it lasted, and c) the effect this had on the student's classes. This account should be supported by documentation regarding the student's attendance and academic performance from each of the student's instructors that semester and by appropriate written documentation of the external event, including medical documentation as appropriate.

How do I find my instructors to notify them of my decision to drop the course?

The best way to be sure to be able to find the instructors is to present the petition as soon as possible, best of all before the semester is over. After the semester is over, it can become much more difficult to contact them or sometimes even to find them at all if a semester or two has elapsed. Showing up to the scheduled class is the best option for finding instructors. Students can also email or call the instructor and set up a time to meet. Of course, students can also find the instructor in their office during office hours.

What if I cannot find all of my instructors?

The student is expected to make a good faith effort to contact all of the instructors. If it turns out that one of the instructors is simply unavailable and the others have provided enough information to show that the student's account of his or her performance is accurate, then that may sometimes suffice.

However, without at least some documentation of academic performance from the instructors, it is impossible to verify the claims about the quality of the academic performance of the student prior to the intervening event. Moreover, the failure to provide documentation from one of the instructors who is available would cast doubt on the accuracy of the account the student has provided. If the student cannot locate the instructors or if the instructors can no longer provide reliable information about the student's attendance and performance because too much time has elapsed, then the student's failure to process the petition in a timely manner will have resulted in a failure to be able to have the petition approved.

How do I document the extenuating circumstances?

That depends on the kind of event. For illnesses, medical documentation from a physician or a hospital would be expected. For personal circumstances, confirmation from a professional counselor would normally be appropriate. The important thing is just that the documentation needs to be able to show that the student's recollection of events as stated in the petition is accurate. For these purposes, a wide range of things can suffice and if there are any questions, one can best discuss that issue with the representative of the SHS.

Does a late withdrawal have effect on my fees or financial aid?

Not automatically. Many of the same circumstances that justify a late withdrawal may be grounds for fee reduction or an extension of student financial aid, but these questions are addressed by different offices because there are different issues involved with each of them. The colleges simply decide whether the student should receive a letter grade (A-F) or a W.

The Bursar's Office is charged with calculating and collecting student fees. They will not normally consider a petition for fee reduction unless a student has been withdrawn, but just because a student is withdrawn does not mean that the fees are automatically reduced or forgiven. To apply for a fee reduction, contact the Bursar's Office directly.

The Office of Financial Aid determines whether the student or an external agency such as the federal government will pay whatever fees are owed. Students should address questions about financial aid directly to the Office of Financial Aid.

If my petition is denied, is there further appeal?

No. Decisions made concerning appeals for late or retroactive withdrawals are final.

What if, in the end, my petition is not successful?

The repeat policy at the University of Memphis allows a student to repeat a course and replace the previous grade if the student has not taken the course before. This means that a student should be able to make up for a semester that did not go well without any long-term negative effects on academic status or GPA if this is the first time there have been problems. The important thing is for students to assess their problems honestly and make sure they have addressed them adequately before they attempt to begin the next semester. Here again, what is crucial is that students address problems early and take advantage of the many support opportunities at the University of Memphis, including one's academic advisor.