Standard Responses for Academic Review

Require to Withdraw is the standard response to a second consecutive unsatisfactory record or for failing to meet the College’s minimum academic requirements, as defined in the Handbook for Students. A requirement to withdraw means that the Board believes the student needs to be away from the College in order to address and resolve his or her academic difficulties. Requirement to withdraw for academic deficiency is an action designed to maximize the student’s chances of completing his or her Harvard degree.

The Board has found that time spent away from the College is an effective step in preventing a record from declining further, and for getting academic progress back on track. Most cases of academic difficulty have little to do with a student’s ability, but rather are related to personal or medical problems or circumstances that are almost always best resolved away from school. In fact, virtually all students who are required to withdraw for academic reasons use their time away from Harvard to gain a fresh perspective on their educational and personal goals before returning to successfully complete their degrees.

The length of a requirement to withdraw is normally two terms, although the Board may stipulate a longer period of time. Requirement to withdraw changes a student’s status in the College (from “in good standing” or “on academic probation” to “required to withdraw”) and is therefore disclosed to parents or guardians. A requirement to withdraw for academic reasons is also disclosed to graduate or professional schools under certain circumstances.

When a student is required to withdraw for academic reasons, the Board expects him or her to leave the Harvard community completely and to hold a full-time, paid, non-academic job in a non-family owned or run business for at least six consecutive months before petitioning for readmission to the College. Readmission to the College after a requirement to withdraw is not automatic and requires a vote of the full Administrative Board. A student readmitted after a requirement to withdraw for academic reasons is readmitted on academic probation. Should such a student achieve an unsatisfactory record in the term immediately following readmission, he or she will ordinarily be required to withdraw a second time. A second requirement to withdraw (whether the result of academic difficulty or a disciplinary matter) is ordinarily final. A student must make an extraordinarily strong case in order to be readmitted a second time. The vast majority of students who are required to withdraw are readmitted in one year and successfully complete their Harvard degree.

Place on Academic Probation is the standard response to a first unsatisfactory record, as defined in the Handbook for Students. Probation puts the student on notice that his or her academic performance gives considerable cause for concern. A student on academic probation is expected to pay especially close attention to his or her course work. Academic probation is also an opportunity for a student to develop a more structured advising relationship with his or her Resident Dean of Freshmen/Allston Burr Assistant Dean and academic advisers.

A student is relieved of academic probation provided he or she achieves a satisfactory record during the next term in the College. Academic probation is a formal action by the Board that changes a student’s status in the College (from “in good standing” to “on academic probation”) and is therefore disclosed to parents or guardians.

Should a first unsatisfactory record result from especially compelling and well-documented extenuating circumstances, the Board could decide to Take No Action and warn a student about his or her academic record instead of placing him or her on academic probation. An unsatisfactory record remains so, however, regardless of the action taken by the Board. Therefore all students who have an unsatisfactory record must take care to ensure that they earn all satisfactory grades during their next term in the College.

Students have the option to request that the Administrative Board reconsider any of its decisions provided either of the following conditions are met:

  • new materially relevant information becomes available
  • there is reasonable evidence of a procedural error

Students who believe they have sufficient grounds for reconsideration should consult with their Resident Dean of Freshmen/Allston Burr Assistant Dean, the Secretary of the Board, or their personal adviser (a faculty member or officer of the University affiliated with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences).

In keeping with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a student with a disability who believes that the Administrative Board or the Honor Council did not properly consider any claims pertaining to his or her disability may seek further review from the Director of the University Disability Services, including in disciplinary case decisions. For information on grievance procedures, visit the University Disability Services website