Withdrawals under Extenuating Circumstances (WE)

Withdrawals under Extenuating Circumstances (WE) are requests to withdraw from a course or term due to unplanned and extenuating circumstances. Extenuating circumstances are defined as unexpected and uncontrollable events that seriously threaten academic obligations.

If extenuating circumstances arise within normal drop deadlines, the expectation is that you drop through Go.SFU when the situation occurs. If it is after the withdraw deadline (week 10 or later) it is recommended you speak to your course instructor(s) to review the possibility of deferring for your remaining coursework (DE notation). For deadline dates see here.

Enrollment in a thesis, project or capstone are considered being enrolled in a course. Therefore, all details included in this section apply even if the course is graded on a competency grading basis.

Applying for a WE

A withdrawal under extenuating circumstances will be considered only if no other option is available to successfully drop or complete the class.

Learn how to apply for WE

Before you apply for WE

Student must understand the following:

Tuition & Fees
It is still the student’s responsibility to pay tuition and fees by the fee deadline, regardless of whether an extenuating circumstance arises. If a WE is granted, a partial tuition refund may be assessed and the refund will be applied to the student's account.

Student Loan, Scholarship, Bursary or Tuition Waiver
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 prior to submitting your WE application, as it may impact funding that has been disbursed to you.

WE Applications are not accepted for the following reasons:

  • if the course has been completed with a passing grade
  • before week nine (drop the course in go.SFU, no permission is needed)
  • poor academic planning (course no longer needed, mistakenly enrolled in the course)
  • financial hardship
  • the class was too difficult
  • adverse weather conditions
  • exams or assignments could have been rescheduled or deferred but were not
  • having a chronic medical condition (see medical grounds)
  • if your course was more than three years ago (eg, withdrawal under extenuating circumstances for a class in Spring 2019 must be requested before the end of Spring term in 2022)
  • if you've applied to graduate and your degree was officially granted/approved by Senate

WE Request Types

Withdrawal requests may be complete or selective, in-term or retroactive.

Complete Withdrawal WE

Since the reasons for a WE request are likely to have a pervasive influence on a student's academic performance, they will typically affect all the courses in which a student is enrolled. For this reason, most WE requests are for a complete withdrawal from all courses in a term.

Selective Withdrawal WE

Occasionally, however, circumstances may be such that not all courses are affected, in which case the request is for a selective withdrawal. Students applying for a selective withdrawal must specify the reasons why the specific course(s) is/are affected, but others are not.

Retroactive Withdrawal WE

Occasionally, circumstances may not allow a timely WE application, in which case procedures for retroactive withdrawal under extenuating circumstances may be used. Requests submitted after the term deadline (last day of term), or requests relating to a course taken in a previous term, are referred to as "retroactive". Retroactive WE applications require a personal statement on why the WE application was not made within the normal deadline.

Rationales for WE

It is not possible to apply blanket rules for how all WE applications will be assessed, because the reasons for such requests are so varied (often unique). The following criteria are stated in a general manner intended to help students determine whether they are eligible to apply for a withdrawal under extenuating circumstances.

There are two rationales for WEs at the graduate level: medical or compassionate. 

Impacted by sexual violence?

The Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Office can provide assistance in various areas and support you in applying for a WE.

Connect with the SVSPO 

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Medical WE

Students have rationale for a WE request if they suffer a medical condition during the term which impairs their ability to complete the course requirements. Typical medical rationale include unplanned hospitalization or severe illness during weeks 10-13.

  • If a surgery is scheduled during the term but was known prior to week 9 it is the student’s responsibility drop their course or discuss with their instructor if any extensions to course work will be needed.
  • Having a chronic medical condition is not in itself justification for a WE by itself. If a unique and/or unexpected circumstance impacted or exacerbated a chronic condition, this rationale may be considered.
    • Students with chronic medical conditions are advised to assess their health prior to the final drop date in week 9.
  • An illness of one or two days, or similar, typically will not be sufficient grounds for a WE unless documentation is included from the course instructor on why completion of the course is not possible.

Documentation from a medical professional must be included for a Medical WE.

Compassionate WE

Students have rationale for a Compassionate WE request if they have a traumatic experience during the term which impairs their ability to complete the course requirements.

Typical compassionate grounds include:

  • Death of an immediate family member
  • Severe illness to a person that you are the caregiver for
  • Legal proceedings

Supporting documentation must be included and specific to the compassionate grounds.


All WE applications require a high standard of documentation. 

Some examples of required documents include:

  • An ICBC or Police Report for motor vehicle accidents or crimes committed resulting in victim services
  • The Medical and Compassionate documentation detailed below

Documentation not in English must be translated by a certified translation service.

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Medical WE Documentation

If you have a medical condition severe enough to warrant a WE request you must have consulted with a medical practitioner and must document that consultation. You will need to attach the SFU Health Care Provider Statement form or a doctor's note on letterhead that includes the information requested in the Health Care form. If you did not see a doctor at the time of accident or illness and/or cannot provide evidence/documentation, you will not be awarded a WE.

Compassionate WE Documentation

Supporting documentation must be included and specific to the compassionate grounds. For example, an obituary, death certificate and/or prayer card must be submitted (verification of relationship may be requested), or health care letter from the doctor, on letterhead, of the patient for whom you are providing care.