Petition Process: Statement Guidelines
Here is advice on:
- Writing your personal statement
- Obtaining confirming statements from your advisor, instructor, and others
The CAP reviews each petition individually in the context of MIT's policies. It seeks to make consistent decisions while remaining sensitive to individual circumstances.
When reading student statements the Committee looks for honest evidence of your intention to meet the deadline. It recognizes that circumstances beyond a student's control (illness, family issues, etc.) sometimes prevent students from meeting deadlines or fulfilling an academic obligation.
Because the CAP is entrusted with upholding the integrity of Institute records, it is important for the Committee to confirm (as much as possible) the events you set forth in a petition. That is the purpose of statements from your advisor, instructor, and possibly other Institute personnel. A petition without this support is likely to be tabled or denied for lack of evidence.
Be concise; write only a paragraph or two. State the facts of your situation, then explain how the requested change would benefit your education. Refer to external circumstances in general terms ("I was ill on Drop Date", "My mother was hospitalized"); omit irrelevant details.
If your extenuating circumstances are of a personal or medical nature you should consult with a dean in Student Support Services (Room 5-104, 617-253-4861), before submitting a petition. The deans can offer guidance with your petition statement, and they should receive any medical records you have authorized for release. The deans will not discuss your situation with the Committee without your permission. The Committee holds all student information in the strictest confidence.
Because your advisor approves your initial registration and any changes to it, the CAP needs to hear your advisor's understanding of what led to a missed deadline or a request to exceed a credit limit. Specific questions are listed on petition forms. It is not enough for the advisor to say "I support (or do not support) this petition": she or he must provide reasons.
Instructors are asked to document your participation in their subject, again with specific data. For example, "This student has attended class from the first day of the term," or "This student stopped handing in psets after the sixth week." An instructor's signature alone is not sufficient for the Committee to make an informed decision.
Both advisor and instructor may submit their statements by email to email@example.com. Such statements must be received by the CAP directly from the author; the Committee will not accept a statement forwarded by you or someone else.
If you have asked for emailed statements, please note this on your petition form. You may then submit the form without signatures from your advisor and/or instructor.
If you have tried several times but failed to reach an advisor or instructor, the CAP will accept substitute signatures and statements from certain individuals. These people must both have permission to sign for the individual in question and be able to comment knowledgably on the petition. Substitute signers include:
- Undergraduate Academic Administrators
- Staff assistants to faculty members (the department office or website can identify these people)
- Teaching Assistants
The Committee will occasionally table a petition, pending receipt of additional information that a substitute signer cannot provide.