How to Take Academic Bankruptcy

by Chloe Lewis
Relieved-looking college student standing outside

Academic bankruptcy allows a student to exclude a specific term’s grades or marks from the computation of the student’s overall grade point average (GPA). This status is intended to protect a student’s GPA if they have suffered an extreme hardship, or in some cases to “repair” their GPA if they are switching from one academic program to another. Bankruptcy will result in credits and grade points being removed from the academic record, but the record of courses taken and actual grades will remain. Each institution will have very strict rules and restrictions for eligibility when applying for this status. What benefits are available under this protection also vary greatly between schools.

Determine if academic bankruptcy is the best course of action

Discuss and research possible alternatives. If you are still in the term you are trying to obtain bankruptcy status for, you should look to other alternatives that might be available, including but not limited to dropping the course or changing the course to pass/no pass. Unlike withdrawing from a particular course during the term, academic bankruptcy is only offered once the term has been completed.

If the institution allows bankruptcy when switching academic programs, generally only the courses from the previous program which are not required to be completed for the new program will be bankrupted, even if they extend over more than one term (although term limits are likely to apply).

In the cases of hardship bankruptcy, bankrupted courses may preclude students from being able to retake those courses later for a grade. Additionally, the institution may require you to complete a set number of credits following the bankruptcy with a minimum GPA for the bankruptcy to be confirmed.

Obtain your institution’s specific guidelines

Research the guidelines for your institution, either online or in person. Most institutions with a current website will post their bankruptcy guidelines online under their academic procedures and policies section. Copies of this policy should be available in-person at the institution’s admissions or registrar office.

Meet with an adviser or other member of the institution to review possible alternatives to petitioning for bankruptcy. Also, some institutions will require that your adviser sign off on your petition, so it is best to discuss your situation with them early and often.

Meet with a representative from the institution’s financial aid office before the request is submitted. Academic bankruptcy may impact present or future financial aid eligibility.

Review all applicable policies toward students with academic bankruptcy for any additional programs or institutions you intend to matriculate. Some students apply for academic bankruptcy prior to applying to re-enroll at their previous institution or when applying to a new institution. Make sure you are aware of the rules for both programs or institutions. Most students will be placed on academic probation following a grant of academic bankruptcy.

Complete and file the appropriate paperwork in a timely fashion

Obtain a copy of the required paperwork from your institution.

Ensure that you are aware of and follow all deadlines indicated by your institution’s program. Most, if not all, institutions also require that you apply before graduation, and most will limit the application and eligibility to one term’s coursework.

Confirm how long you will need to wait to receive a decision and the method of communication they will use. If an interview will be required, attempt to schedule one as soon as possible.

Check to make sure that the institution has your proper contact information, address, email, and phone number on file.

If your request is denied, meet with your adviser to discuss possible appeals processes or other alternatives available.

About the Author

Chloe began her writing career in 2001 by creating a newsletter for her company. Later, she served as an editor for the "Business Law Journal." She is an avid academic, amateur chef and technophile, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics with a minor in art history from the University of California.

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