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Home » Academic Policies » 3. Coursework, Grading, and Academic Standing

3. Coursework, Grading, and Academic Standing

Courses taken in fulfillment of Rackham degree requirements must be approved for Rackham graduate credit. Courses at the 300 level or below may not be used for graduate credit. Courses at the 400 level must be approved by the Registrar to carry graduate credit, and usually require additional work for graduate students. Graduate programs maintain lists of approved graduate courses, which are listed by graduate program in Rackham’s Programs of Study website.

Students may request Rackham OARD to receive graduate credit for a 400-level course not normally approved for such credit, but should do so before taking the course since approval is not guaranteed. Both the instructor and the graduate chair of the student’s program must endorse the request, which must be accompanied by a memo explaining how graduate-level work will be accomplished in the course. The Registration Adjustment Request forms are available online.

Courses not approved for Rackham graduate credit appear on the transcript with the notation NFC or NDC (section 3.3). The course grade will appear but will not be averaged into the cumulative grade point average or the total credits required for the program total.

3.1 Adding, Dropping, Modifying, and Repeating a Course

Students should change course selections only after consultation with their advisors. No change to a course is allowed after a grade has been assigned. The Registrar’s Office evaluates revised course elections to determine if an adjustment in fees is necessary.

Through the third week of classes in a full term (or the second week of classes in a half term), a student may add or drop a course without a “W” appearing on the transcript. Until the last day of classes in a term, a student may change status from credit to visit (audit), or increase or decrease the credit hours for a course within the range listed in the Time Schedule. The Registrar’s Office publishes each year’s Drop/Add deadline on its website. Certain graduate programs may have additional deadlines or procedures. Approval by the graduate program is required to change course elections.

After the third week in a full term (or the second week in a half term) and until the last day of classes, students must request a late course drop or add via Wolverine Access.

A student who seeks to drop the only course for which he or she is registered must follow procedures for a term withdrawal (sections 2.3.2, 2.2.3) as outlined on the Registrar’s website. A student in a Ph.D. program who drops the only course for which he or she is registered will be considered to have withdrawn and be discontinued from the program unless on an approved Leave of Absence or Extramural Study (sections 2.2.1, 2.2.2).

A course withdrawal remains on the transcript with a notation of “W” and is not calculated as part of the GPA. A student who registers for a course and either never attends or stops attending—but does not officially drop the course—receives a notation of “ED” (Unofficial Drop). A notation of “ED” is equivalent to a grade of “E” (failure) (section 3.3).

Requests for a retroactive withdrawal from a course after the last day of the term will be considered only in exceptional circumstances and will not be approved after a grade has been submitted. A request for retroactive withdrawal must be made within 12 months from the end of the term and usually applies to all classes in the term. Applications for retroactive withdrawal require documentation of compelling circumstances why the student was unable to complete the course and unable to request a withdrawal during the term. A student must submit a “Registration Adjustment Request” to Rackham OARD that includes documentation confirming extenuating circumstances (section 2.8). At no point after the term has ended will a course be removed from a student’s record; it will remain on the transcript and noted as “W” (section 3.3). International students should consult with the International Center before dropping courses as this may affect their visa status.

For any other change of status to a course during the term (e.g., credit to visit, etc.), a student must obtain signed approval from the course instructor and the chair of the graduate program, and submit the request to the Registrar’s Office before the last day of classes. Students should contact their graduate program administrator or the Registrar’s Office.

A student may repeat a course with permission of the advisor and course instructor. Credits for the course may not be earned beyond the limit set by guidelines of the graduate program. Each election and grade for a course that is repeated will remain on the transcript and will be counted into the grade point average as separate elections.

3.2 Visiting (Auditing) a Course

With permission of the graduate chair and the course instructor, a student may enroll in a graduate course as a visitor (auditor) rather than for credit. The student should confer with the instructor to reach an agreement on what will constitute satisfactory completion of the course. The student is expected to attend class regularly and may be asked to submit assignments and take examinations. Full fees will be assessed at the current rate of tuition. After registering for the course online, the student must register for this status in person at the Registrar’s Office and present a Drop/Add form with the signatures of both the instructor and the student’s department graduate chair. Students should check their class schedule for accuracy and completeness.

A notation of “VI” appears on the transcript when the course is completed successfully (section 3.3). A visit (audit) is not counted toward degree credit requirements and is not calculated as part of the GPA if completed successfully. A student who fails to complete the course successfully, however, will receive a grade of “E” (failure) which is calculated as part of the GPA. After a grade has been issued, a course will not be changed from letter grade to visit (audit) status, or vice versa.

3.3 Grades and Transcripts

As the University has a fiduciary responsibility to maintain and report an accounting of class and student enrollment totals to state, federal, and other agencies, the academic transcript is maintained as a complete record of the student’s enrollment activity. The transcript is part of a student’s academic record. Other University offices collect and maintain necessary information about students. The transcript and these other records constitute the student’s permanent academic record. For more information about the permanent academic record, see “Student Rights and Records”. The permanent academic record is the history of a student’s academic progress and cannot be altered except in conformance with policies governing dropping, adding, and modifying courses, and the achievement of degree milestones (e.g., advancement to candidacy, receipt of a degree, etc.). This record may not be altered because of dissatisfaction with a particular instance of academic performance.

Instructor grades are entered on the student’s permanent academic record. Students may elect courses without letter grades, either as a visit (audit) or for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading.

Students must make satisfactory progress toward their degrees and have a minimum Rackham cumulative grade point average (GPA) of B (3.0 on a 4.0 point scale) to maintain satisfactory academic standing. The maximum term and cumulative GPA is 4.0. Some programs have requirements above the Rackham minimum for maintaining satisfactory academic standing. Students who fall below the GPA requirement of their program or Rackham are placed on academic probation. Courses in which grades of D or E are earned cannot be used to fulfill degree requirements.

Coursework is graded with a letter system (A, B, C, D, or E) except for special courses noted below. An instructor may add “+” or “-” to grades. Letter grades for programs on the Ann Arbor campus are converted into numbers, or points, as follows:

Grade Conversion Table
Letter GradeNumber
A+4.3
A4.0
A-3.7
B+3.3
B3.0
B-2.7
C+2.3
C2.0
C-1.7
D+1.3
D1.0
D-0.7
E< 0.7

Michigan Honor Points (MHP) and the Grade Point Average (GPA) are calculated with these numbers. MHP are determined by multiplying the number of credit hours for which the course was elected by the number of points earned on the grading scale.

For example, a grade of B for a 3 credit hour course produces 3 (credit hours) x 3.0 (points for a grade of B+), or 9 honor points. The GPA is calculated by dividing the MHP earned for a term or more by the number of semester hours (or credit hours) for the courses. A total of 45 MHP for 12 course credit hours produces a GPA of 3.75. For students enrolled in Rackham programs on the Flint and Dearborn campuses, a grade of A+ is converted to 4.0.

Other transcript notations include:

3.3.1 Visit (VI)

“VI” indicates successful completion of a course elected as a visit (audit). A student who does not complete a course and who has not dropped it may receive a grade of “F” on the transcript. These courses do not count for credit or degree credit requirements.

3.3.2 Satisfactory (S) and Unsatisfactory (U)

Programs designate courses for which S/U grading may be elected. With permission from the advisor and the instructor, a student may elect S/U grading in a course that would otherwise be letter graded. Instructors cannot assign letter grades to students electing courses designated as S/U. A grade of “S” indicates satisfactory performance and is counted toward the credit requirements of the graduate program. A grade of “S” is considered to be a grade of “B” or better. A grade of “U” is assigned when performance is not acceptable and is not counted toward a student’s required credit hours. Grades of “S” and “U” are not factored into the GPA or Michigan Honors Points.

3.3.3 Incomplete (I)

A student may receive a grade of Incomplete (“I”) if the work remaining to be done by the end of the term is small and the instructor approves an extension and determines a deadline for final completion of the work. The notation of “I” remains a permanent part of the academic record. When coursework is completed to the satisfaction of the instructor, the grade will appear on the transcript as, for example, “I B+.”

3.3.4 Drop (W) and Unofficial Drop (ED)

A course that is officially dropped after the first three weeks of a full term (or the first two weeks of a half term), will be recorded with the notation of “W,” and will not earn credit hours toward the degree program or Michigan Honor Points.

A student who registers for a course and either never attends or stops attending—but does not officially drop the course—receives a notation of “ED” (unofficial drop). A notation of “ED” is equivalent to a grade of “E” (failure) and is factored into the GPA.

3.3.5 Multi-Term Course (Y)

Programs may ask the Registrar to designate a graduate course as a multi-term sequence. For a course designated by the Registrar as multi-term, the instructor may report a “Y” grade at the end of the first term to indicate that the work is still in progress. A course must be approved as multi-term for a grade of “Y” to be given. When a final grade is reported, the grade will be posted for both terms and the “Y” notation will be removed.

3.4 Good Academic Standing

A student in good academic standing:

  • is making satisfactory progress toward the completion of degree requirements and is within the time limits of the degree program, including approved extensions (sections 3, 4.4.1, 5);
  • is demonstrating an ability to succeed in the degree program; and
  • has a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better.

3.5 Deficiencies in Academic Progress, Academic Probation, and Dismissal

Satisfactory academic standing, sometimes referred to as good academic standing, is defined by the Graduate School and the academic program of the student. The Graduate School considers students to be in satisfactory standing except as defined in section 3.5.1. Academic programs may, at their discretion, publish additional criteria for satisfactory academic standing.

Students should meet with their advisors regularly to discuss their academic performance and progress toward the degree. Graduate programs should immediately notify students in writing when performance falls below an acceptable level. The Graduate School may take any of the following actions when a student’s academic performance is deficient:

  • enter a notation of unsatisfactory academic standing on the unofficial transcript;
  • place a student on probation upon recommendation of the program;
  • require a student to withdraw from the University; or
  • not confer a degree or certificate.

3.5.1 Unsatisfactory Academic Standing

The Graduate School will place a notation of “below minimum academic requirements” on the academic record at the end of the term in which a student’s cumulative GPA falls below a B (3.0 on a 4.0 point scale). Graduate programs may have additional minimum academic requirements, such as requiring minimum grades in the overall program or in particular courses. The program will publish these additional minimum academic requirements and notify Rackham OARD when it determines that a student’s performance is unsatisfactory. The program may decide whether unsatisfactory academic standing may be a basis for placing a student on academic probation.

A student with unsatisfactory academic standing will not be advanced to candidacy, will not be awarded a degree or graduate certificate, and may change programs and transfer credits only with permission of the admitting program. Upon the recommendation of the graduate chair, and with the consent of the Graduate School, a student will be given an opportunity to correct the academic deficiency and return to satisfactory academic standing.

A master’s student with unsatisfactory academic standing cannot be approved for detached study (section 2.3.1). A master’s student with unsatisfactory academic standing when last enrolled in the Graduate School who wishes to be reinstated or change fields or degree level must petition the program and the Graduate School to modify the conditions of academic standing. The petition should: provide reasons for the poor academic record; explain how conditions that produced this performance have changed; and present specific plans for improvement. The graduate program must approve the petition before a student can be reinstated (section 2.3.3). A master’s student whose cumulative GPA falls below a B (3.0 on a 4.0 point scale), is not making satisfactory progress toward the degree, and is failing to succeed in his or her plan of studies, may be denied permission to register, required to withdraw, or dismissed from the program. Time limits for a master’s degree are discussed in section 5.

Students may also be dismissed for failing to meet the standards of academic and professional integrity (Appendix 1, Academic and Professional Integrity and Procedures for Investigating Allegations of Academic and Professional Misconduct).

3.5.2 Academic Probation and Dismissal: Ph.D. and D.M.A. Programs

Starting with the 2019 Fall Term, Ph.D. and D.M.A. programs will implement program-level policy for academic probation and dismissal that is consistent with the following Graduate School guidelines. Prior to this implementation, the policy in the 2017-18 Rackham Graduate School Academic Policies will be maintained.

In accordance with its published policy, a program may place on academic probation a student who has academic or professional difficulties, as defined by the program, that prevent progress toward the degree. Academic probation is normally required before a program may recommend to the Graduate School that a doctoral student be dismissed for academic reasons. As an exception, and only with advance notice to students, program policy may allow dismissal without probation for a student who fails to pass candidacy or preliminary exams. Academic probation will be noted on the student unofficial transcript.

3.5.2.1 Placing a Student On Academic Probation

The advisor or graduate chair or director may recommend that a student be placed on academic probation. The decision to place a student on probation must be made by a faculty group of at least three persons to include, for example, the department chair (or the chair’s designee), the graduate chair, and the advisor; the graduate committee of the program; or another committee constituted of faculty. A D.M.A. student who has been placed on academic probation will not be eligible for detached study (section 2.3.1).

3.5.2.2 Length of the Probationary Period

The probationary period may be no shorter than two months of the fall or winter term and ordinarily conclude at the end of that term. For a student placed on academic probation within two months of the end of the fall term, the probationary period will extend into the winter term for a total of at least two months. For a student placed on academic probation within two months of the end of the winter term, the probationary period may include the spring or summer half-terms or the following fall term, for a total of at least two months. A student may be placed on academic probation starting in the spring or summer half term for a minimum of two months, and does not need to be enrolled during these half terms.

3.5.2.3 Notifications

The graduate chair must notify the student and Rackham OARD in writing before the probationary period begins, explaining the reasons and conditions of probation; the start and end dates of the probationary period; funding support (see below); conditions, if any, the lifting of probation; and options for appeal (see below). A student who has been placed on probation may request a leave of absence from Rackham or withdraw (sections 2.2.2, 2.2.3). The leave or withdrawal will stop the clock on the probationary period, which resumes when the student returns to active status or is reinstated. Probation will remain in effect until the conditions are remedied or the student is dismissed.

3.5.2.4 Funding a Student on Probation

The level of funding prior to academic probation should be continued through the probationary period.

At the end of the probationary period, the program may continue the student in the program or, alternatively, dismiss the student (section 3.5.3).

3.5.2.5 Option to Appeal Academic Probation or Dismissal

The program must inform a student of options to appeal academic probation. The program should constitute a separate committee of review to consider appeals. Students may use the Graduate School’s Academic Dispute Resolution process only for procedural issues of fair and equal treatment under the policy of the program, and not to appeal the academic reasons for the decision.

3.5.3 Academic Dismissal: Ph.D. and D.M.A. Programs

Starting with the 2019 Fall Term, Ph.D. and D.M.A. programs will implement program-level policy for academic dismissal that is consistent with the following Graduate School guidelines.

At the end of a probationary period, and upon the recommendation of the graduate chair and with the consent of the Graduate School, a student may be dismissed from the program. The decision to dismiss a student must be made by a faculty group of at least three persons to include, for example, the department chair (or the chair’s designee), the graduate chair, and the advisor; the graduate committee of the program; or another committee constituted of faculty. The graduate chair must notify Rackham OARD of a recommendation for dismissal.

3.5.3.1 Option to Appeal Academic Dismissal: Ph.D. and D.M.A. Programs

The program must inform a student of options to appeal a decision of academic dismissal. The program should constitute a separate committee of review to consider appeals. Students may use the Graduate School’s Academic Dispute Resolution process only for procedural issues of fair and equal treatment under the policy of the program, and not to appeal the academic reasons for the decision.

Students who fail to meet standards of academic or professional integrity or who have been found responsible for violations of other University standards of conduct may be dismissed in accordance with separate procedures described in Rackham Academic and Professional Integrity Policy (section 8).