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University Undergraduate

Advising Handbook

Petitions for exceptions to academic policies and procedures

(Policy Stated in the Preamble to "Academic Policies and Procedures for Undergraduate Students" in The University Faculty Senate Policies for Students)

When a student has not followed a University Faculty Senate policy or procedure and believes an exception to the policy may be warranted, he/she may submit a petition to the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education Subcommittee on Academic Standards. A petition may be used to request an exception to any policy and/or to request a retroactive procedure. The committee does not grant petitions automatically. A petition must establish why the student did not use existing University procedures before the established deadline. Strong, documented justification must be provided to establish the circumstances that warrant a retroactive action.

If a student alleges that the failure of an eLion application resulted in his/her extenuating circumstance, the student's eLion transaction will be examined as part of the petition review process.

Course substitution and exceptions to degree requirements do not require a petition. A petition is not required for correcting registration errors or changing a grade if the request is made before the deadline.

It is to the student's benefit to provide a complete, well-documented petition to the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education. All items listed under the heading Instructions for Preparing a Petition should be carefully considered and included by the student submitting the petition.



Students are responsible for the preparation of the student request, obtaining supporting documents, completing University forms, and obtaining a transcript and relevant registration records, as described below.

Trauma drop/withdrawal procedures should be followed when a student's circumstances require unusual confidentiality (e.g., the victim of a sexual assault or violent crime). This procedure is streamlined to reduce the number of people involved in processing.

Student Request

The student should prepare a brief, factual letter (see sample letters) that includes the following:

  • date the petition is submitted,
  • PSU ID number,
  • current address,
  • current phone number,
  • e-mail address,
  • a clear statement of the requested action,
  • a description of the conditions that warrant an exception, and
  • the reason University policy and/or procedure could not be followed (see Examples of Appropriate and Inappropriate Requests).

Supporting Documents

Along with the student's request, he/she should provide documentation of the circumstances that he/she claims justify an exception to University policy. Some examples are hospital records, a letter from a physician, a statement from a counselor, a statement from a student financial aid adviser, or court records.

If the student's justification is based on a medical problem, information from the attending physician should establish the impact that the medical condition had on the student's academic situation. If the student received care at University Health Services, documentation may be obtained by contacting his/her primary care clinician to request verification of illness for a Senate petition. The director of University Health Services reviews all requests and decides on the appropriate recommendation.

If the student is alleging that his/her extenuating circumstance is the result of one or more of the following problems: (a) unfair teaching practice; (b) misinformation from University personnel applying a University regulation, policy, or procedure; or (c) an administrative, advising, or clerical error then the student should provide documentation from the appropriate academic, administrative, or advising unit.

If the petition involves course work taken through the World Campus, a statement about the student's enrollment history in the course must be included in the supporting documents. The student should request this statement from a World Campus adviser.


All petitions should be accompanied by the student's most recent official or advising transcript.

University Forms

When a form is required for an action, it is also required when this action is requested retroactively. The appropriate University form, as described below, should be completed and filed with the petition.

Retroactive Withdrawal: The petition should be accompanied by a completed withdrawal form. If the student is petitioning for a withdrawal from more than one semester, a withdrawal form for EACH semester should be included.

Retroactive Late Drop: The petition should be accompanied by a completed registration drop/add form. (If the petition is approved, the $6.00 schedule adjustment fee will be charged to the student's account.)

Retroactive Grade Changes: The petition should include a letter from the instructor of the course, supporting the change and explaining the circumstances surrounding the student's request. (Disputes are addressed through the grade adjudication process.) A request for a retroactive grade change should be accompanied by a grade change authorization form.

Retroactive Late Add/Late Registration: After the student is retroactively registered, the Registrar's office will contact the appropriate instructor(s)/department(s) for the course(s) to request the student's grade(s).


Before submitting a petition for a retroactive drop, late drop, or withdrawal, students should contact the appropriate offices.

Students should submit materials as instructed below. Students should not send petitions or supporting materials directly to the Faculty Senate Office. The dean, executive director, campus executive officer, or Registrar's representative will review the student's petition and complete a University Faculty Senate Petition Cover Sheet. All materials are then forwarded to the Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education, 101 Kern Graduate Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.

Penn State York Location

Students at Penn StateYork should submit their petitions to the York Campus Registrar’soffice.


Petitions are not reviewed on a regular schedule but are considered by members of the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education and processed by the Senate Office staff as quickly as possible. The committee reads each petition and evaluates it based on its unique circumstances; there are no guarantees of approval on specific types of petitions.


A letter indicating if a petition has been approved or denied is sent from the University Faculty Senate Office to the student within three to five weeks from the date that the Senate Office receives the petition. A copy of the letter is sent to the college or office that forwarded the petition to the Senate committee.

Approved Petitions

If a petition is approved, the Senate Office initiates the appropriate action(s) with the Registrar.

Tuition and Fees

The Bursar's office is notified if a student's account must be billed tuition or fees resulting from an approved retroactive action (e.g., retroactive late registration). Tuition and fees are based on the current semester's rates as well as the student's current semester standing. After the student has paid the appropriate tuition and fees to the Bursar's office, the Registrar will add the courses and any grades already submitted to the student's record. If there are grades missing, the Registrar's office will notify the course department that a grade is needed.

Denied Petitions

If a petition is denied, the student may appeal the decision if he or she can provide additional information to support his or her case. Appeals should be prepared according to these guidelines.

The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. Please consult a Penn State academic adviser for more detailed information.

This page is part of the University Undergraduate Advising Handbook, which is maintained by the Division of Undergraduate Studies, DUS@psu.edu.

Last Update: February 23, 2005