There is a hypothetical situation I've wondered about. When an undergraduate student receives an undesirable class grade, that grade is typically left on their transcript (with the exception of sparing "grade forgiveness" allowances) for the rest of their academic endeavors. Naturally, this allows the student's Grade Point Average to be viewed as a decent reflection of the student's academic aptitude.

It is my understanding that if an undergraduate student leaves a university for some years before finishing their degree program, but returns at a later date, the old class grades will still be on the student's transcript and factored in with the new grades to derive the new GPA for the student. However, this new GPA does not appear to reflect the student's current academic aptitude to me; the student may now have far more experience and skill now than the years before when those old grades were given.

Although I understand that universities typically do not remove select class grades from a transcript, is it common for a university to allow an undergraduate student to simply restart a degree program tabula rasa, with a new blank GPA and no previous class credits?

  • No. If you want a total wipe, why not go to a different university and start over, without claiming any transfer credits. – RoboKaren Aug 26 '16 at 22:58

One important thing to consider with these "fresh start" programs is that the only place that guarantees honoring them is the institution that grants them. Your transcripts will still include the previous bad grades (probably with a notation about the forgiveness policy), and employers or other universities or graduate schools are free to consider them however they wish.

That said, most faculty who have sat on admissions committees that I've spoken with weigh past grade problems very little, if at all, as long as they are overshadowed by a solid body of more recent good work. In that sense, an official "fresh start" isn't really very relevant - outside places are going to get the same info either way.

Obviously if what matters revolves around within-university criteria, or if you only ever need to report your school GPA, this won't be a relevant issue for you. But if you'll need to send transcripts elsewhere, a "fresh start" won't hurt anything but also isn't likely to change much.

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I'm not sure whether it's common, but my university has a policy like this, called Fresh Start. A student who returns after an absence of at least five years can have their GPA recalculated, omitting all classes with grades of C− or lower.

As far as I know, they still get to keep credits earned for those classes, and those grades still appear on their transcript; they just aren't included in the GPA calculation.

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  • These kinds of "Fresh Start" policies are becoming very common across the United States. – Brian Borchers Aug 26 '16 at 18:16

Many schools have a policy known as academic bankruptcy.
Yours might as well.

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