Withdrawals under extenuating circumstances (WE) - Frequently Asked Questions

1. What will I see on my transcript if the request is approved?

The notation of WE will be placed beside any courses approved under this process. The notation does not affect your GPA, and WE courses are not counted as duplicates.

2. Does a WE notation look better on a transcript than a WD?  Can I change a WD notation to a WE?

No. The difference between a WE (withdrawal under extenuating circumstances) and a WD  (withdrawal) relates only to the date when the course was dropped, ie, either before or after the eight week mark. When you have a WD on your transcript, it cannot be changed to a WE. 

3. Do I need a WE notation on my transcript to apply for a tuition refund?  Will I receive a tuition refund should I be awarded WE notations?

Tuition refunds will not be awarded when WE notations are approved. Students who withdraw from classes due to extenuating circumstances (WE) and want to apply for a tuition refund must complete the Enrollment Appeal Form (submitted to the Enrollment Appeal Committee (EAC)) and attach a personal letter when submitting the request to Student Services.  No new information with the exception of the Enrollment Appeal form (and personal letter) need be submitted to the EAC because the original WE appeal package will be reviewed for consideration of a tuition refund.

4. Do I need permission from my instructor to drop a course under WE?

If you are requesting a withdrawal at the end of a term, your instructor(s) will be contacted to provide information about your situation and your academic progress throughout the term. A withdrawal will be considered only if no other option is available to successfully complete the class. Therefore although you do not need their signature, you are recommended to speak with each instructor to review the possibility of deferral, etc.

5. Can I apply to withdraw from a class in which I have a DE?

Classes with DE (Deferred) notations listed on an academic record will not be considered until the DE notation is either removed or replaced with a grade.

6. Will obtaining a WE affect current and future student loan and scholarship applications?

If you have a student loan or received an SFU scholarship, award, bursary, or provincial tuition waiver we strongly recommend that you speak with a Financial Aid and Awards advisor before submitting your WE application. Information on advising and eligibility requirements pertaining to financial aid and awards funding can be found at www.sfu.ca/students/financialaid.html

7. Can I apply to withdraw from a class in which I have an Academic Incident Report?

No. Any course which has an Academic Incident Report is not eligible for a withdrawal under extenuating circumstances.  Should you require information about your Academic Incident Report, please speak to the University Ombudsperson.

8. What should I say in my personal letter?

  • Be clear and concise and state what impact the event had on your ability to complete the course(s). State whether or not you asked for any academic concessions from your instructor(s). If you are in any doubt, email withdraw@sfu.ca.
  • Include a brief list of events, in chronological order, relating to the reason(s) for your request. 
  • Speak to the facts of the request only. It is not necessary to present graphic details, nor will photos, x-rays, videos, pharmaceutical medical information sheets, or empty prescription bottles and vials be accepted. Avoid presenting information not related to the withdrawal.
  • Letters that exceed more than two (2) pages will be returned and the WE application will not be processed.
  • The Ombudsperson's office has a web page on Writing Appeal Letters: www.sfu.ca/ombudsperson/writing_an_effective_appeal_letter.html

9. Can I apply for a WE for multiple terms?

Only so long as each withdrawal application has a separate application package and is based on a different explanation. Each package will then be considered on its own merit.

10. What documentation do I need:

If I'm applying under:

Medical Grounds

Your health care professional (doctors, counsellors, psychologist, psychiatrists, social workers and registered physiotherapists) must complete the Health Care Provider Statement Form. Your documentation does not have to define (or give specific details of) any illness. What is more important is that the health care provider is clear about the dates of your illness and the length of time for treatment or recovery and strongly supports your application. Medical withdrawal documentation must be presented on the Health Care Provider Statement Form; information written on medical prescription pads will not be accepted. For more information on Student Health go to www.sfu.ca/students/health.html

Motor Vehicle accidents should include a Health Care Provider Statement Form which explains how the accident has impacted your academic studies and a copy of the ICBC and/or Police Report.

Employment Grounds

Employment related withdrawals must be backed up by information presented on business letterhead regarding hours and dates when working conditions changed. 

Compassionate Grounds

Compassionate leaves due to a death must include any of the following: a death certificate, obituary, or other appropriate published announcements (proof of relationship may be required). If you are leaving the country/province, you must submit strong supporting documents that are related to your extenuating circumstances, ie, airline tickets AND boarding passes (screenshots are acceptable). Include a Health Care Provider Statement Form if applicable.


Official documentation that attests to your claim.

11. Is the information attached to the WE application kept confidential?

Yes. Normally, your application is only reviewed by the Manager, Student Academic Appeals. Once completed, your application is kept in your student file, and there are strict privacy guidelines governing who may see your student file. For further information on University procedures and policy regarding confidentiality, please see www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/information.html

12. My reasons for applying are personal and I am not comfortable supplying detailed information. What can I do?

All applications require some type of documentation supporting the reasons for the withdrawal. In some exceptional cases, this may be difficult to obtain. You are encouraged to make an appointment with the Manager, Student Academic Appeals, to discuss, in confidence, what evidence might be acceptable for your application. You may also contact the Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Office

13. What is a retroactive selective withdrawal?

Partial means you have chosen to drop only one or some of the courses taken in a particular term. If you are only taking one course and you wish to drop it that is a complete withdrawal. Retroactive normally refers to applications for withdrawal from previous terms, but may also refer to the current term if classes are over and the exam schedule underway. See www.sfu.ca/students/deadlines.html for dates.

14. I’ve heard it is easier to receive a complete withdrawal rather than a partial one. Is that true?

No. Both partial and complete withdrawals are reviewed using the same criteria and standards.

15. I want to apply for a selective withdrawal.

You must explain why you are requesting a selective withdrawal. If you have received a passing grade in any course(s) during the term you are requesting a WE from, a detailed explanation on why you were able to pass one or more courses but not the one(s) you are requesting a WE from is required. If a detailed explanation is not provided, this may result in a denied decision.

16. Can a WE notation be changed back to the original grade?

No. Once WE notations are posted they are final.

17. Can I withdraw from a Co-op term or courses within a Co-op term?

Contact your Co-op program manager. You cannot withdraw from a Co-op term or for classes enrolled while working in a Co-op term through the WE Office.  Contact your Co-op Coordinator for more information.

18. Can I withdraw from the Professional Development Program (PDP)?

Students wishing to withdraw from the PDP program (EDUC 405) must first meet with their Coordinator in the Faculty of Education. Your PDP Coordinator can provide you with the information you require to withdraw, including the Interrupt form which must be completed and approved. WE applications from the PDP program are not adjudicated in the normal way through Senate and Academic Services, instead they must be approved by the Coordinator of the PDP program in the Faculty of Education. Once approved, submit a WE application by completing the WE form and attach all documents.

19. My application has been denied. What options do I have?

If your application has been denied, you will receive a notification with the reasons from the Manager, Student Academic Appeals, through your SFU email account. You can appeal the decision by applying to the Senate Appeals Board (SAB). For impartial and confidential assistance on the appeals process, contact the University Ombudsperson at www.sfu.ca/ombudsperson.

20. Can I apply for a WE after I have graduated?  And, can I apply for a WE notation indefinately?

No.  Once a degee has been completed or recommended to Senate for consideration of graduation, your academic trancript is closed and no changes can be made to it.  Students have five years to apply for a WE notation from the term a class(es) were taken.  Following five years, a WE appeal request will not be accepted.

21. I am currently enrolled in a BOT course. How do I apply for a WE?

All BOT students must first speak to their BOT advisor to obtain a letter from them confirming that they have reviewed the rule and regulations of the WE process.  This letter must be included in the WE appeal package.

This process is for undergraduate students only. Graduate students should visit Graduate Student Withdrawals.

For the last day to drop courses with a WD notation, and other add/drop dates, visit the deadlines web site.