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Requesting an Incomplete

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The Incomplete (I) grade is restricted to cases in which the student has satisfactorily completed a substantial part of the course work.  No credit will be given until the course is completed and a passing grade received.  

Students (not instructors) must request an Incomplete grade by the last class meeting.  Under no circumstances should your student request an Incomplete if they plan to re-enroll in the course in a future quarter.  

If a student does not officially withdraw from your course but also does not contact you regarding the missing work, they should NOT be awarded a grade of Incomplete.  Instead, you should assign them a grade that reflects the amount and quality of work submitted.  

The Stanford Clock Tower. Credit: Linda Cicero

Agreement for Incomplete

The Agreement for an Incompleteform is a planning/advising tool, and is intended to assist students, faculty, and advisors with outlining how and when students will complete remaining work in a course for which the student received a grade of Incomplete.

Considerations to keep in mind before agreeing to an Incomplete

As an instructor, you may determine whether to grant the Incomplete request or not. You are free to determine the conditions for resolving the Incomplete, including setting a deadline of any time up to one year.  When a final grade is received, all reference to the initial ‘I’ is removed.

Many instructors award Incompletes because they wish to support students during a time of difficulty.  But though it may seem like a kindness in the short term, Incompletes often create unintended negative consequences.  Before granting an Incomplete, we recommend that you have a conversation with the student who is making the request. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  • An Incomplete grade yields no units.  If a student is hoping to earn enough units to remain in good academic standing or meet the conditions for their current Academic Progress Status, a grade of Incomplete will not be of any use.  Potential units earned are not the same as actual units earned.  Keep in mind that academic standing is determined during the end-quarter Academic Progress Review.  Incomplete units that are earned after that review are not taken into consideration.
  • Incomplete grades may have impacts. All students—but especially international students, financial aid recipients, varsity athletes, and those with an Academic Progress status—should have already taken care to ensure whether an Incomplete would impact any of their federal, organizational, or University requirements.  However, the student you are meeting with may not have thought to check these requirements.
  • Some students may be struggling academically and may believe that receiving an incomplete will immediately alleviate their academic difficulties.  This assumption may be incorrect.  In fact, receiving an Incomplete may exacerbate their academic difficulties. 
  • Incomplete grades convert to NP/NC after a year.  While it may seem like a good idea in the moment, experience shows that students are often unable to finish their Incomplete courses during the allotted time.  If you do grant your student an Incomplete, encourage them to modify their course load for next quarter to take into account the extra work involved. 
  • Students may have multiple Incompletes if they have been struggling to complete requirements in several courses. It is always a good idea to find out whether your student has any other Incomplete grades-- and if so, how many they currently have.

Strongly encourage your student to meet with their Undergraduate Advising Director to discuss their current situation.

Instructors are always welcome to contact an Academic Advisor from the Office of Academic Advising for further guidance (advising@stanford.edu).

Academic Policy Considerations

Remember that if a student does not officially withdraw from your course but also does not contact you regarding the missing work, they should NOT be awarded a grade of Incomplete.  Instead, you should assign a grade that reflects the amount and quality of work submitted.

Under no circumstances should a student request an Incomplete if they plan to re-enroll in the course in a future quarter.  This would invoke the Repeated Courses rules rather than resolving the Incomplete.  Instead, the student should withdraw from the course by the deadline and retake it later.  (Note that Ws are not replaced by the repeat course policy.)  If the deadline to withdraw has already passed, the student should accept a grade earned based on the amount and quality of work already submitted and retake the course later.

The deadline for the Incomplete and the expectation for finishing any remaining work remain the same whether the student is enrolled in classes, on a Leave of Absence, or Discontinued (e.g. academic suspension, etc).  Students may engage in and submit work for an Incomplete while not currently enrolled, unless doing so places an undue burden on the instructor, department, staff, or other University resource. As such, students should make detailed arrangements with instructors regarding the completion of any remaining work whether the student is on or away from campus.

Requests for an Extension of Incomplete require a consultation with the Director of Academic and Educational Support Programs in Academic Advising.  These requests are subject to verification of appropriate extenuating circumstances.  If Academic Advising approves the request for extension of an incomplete and it is accepted by the Registrar’s Office, the incomplete is extended for one quarter. If an 'NP' already existed on the transcript (as the 'I' naturally turns over to an 'NP' after a year), the approval and processing of the request does not result in that 'NP' reverting back to an 'I'. Rather, the 'NP' is now eligible to be replaced with a new grade, provided that the instructor submits a grade change card within the extended timeline granted for that incomplete.

Before endorsing any Request for Extension of Incomplete, we strongly recommend that the instructor and student complete an Agreement for an Incomplete.

Previous Incomplete Policies

For courses taken before 1994-95, satisfactory completion of the course work when an ‘I’ has been given is expected within a year from the date of the course’s final examination, but an alternate time limit may be set by the instructor. Students may submit a request to the office of the University Registrar that these courses with an ‘I’ grade be removed from their records. For a course taken in 1994-95 or later, ‘I’ grades must be changed to a permanent notation or grade within a maximum of one year. If an Incomplete grade is not cleared at the end of one year, it is changed automatically by the office of the University Registrar to an ‘NP’ (Not Passed) or ‘NC’ (No Credit) as appropriate for the grading method of the course.