This post duplicates information found earlier in the blog (and accessible by clicking the “The Incomplete ‘I'” category in the right-hand column). But this is critically important information which all students need to keep in view, and so as July turns to August and the fall semester starts to rise on the horizon, let’s just make sure everyone is clear on the policy surrounding the incomplete “I.”
First off an incomplete might be granted by a professor in place of a real course grade to students who have completed most of the required work for a course and who have met attendance requirements. The incomplete is not intended for students who get buried under other work and life-responsibilities and need more time. It is intended for emergency situations, for students who experience an unexpected crisis (such as a debilitating illness or major life-upheaval) at a specific point during the term which unexpectedly interrupts their ability to complete all required work for a course by the end of the semester. Each professor has the right to not grant an incomplete and instead grant some other grade, including an F, based on whatever work the student completed during the regular term.
Students who find themselves in a situation which might warrant an incomplete must request it of the professor. Even if the professor agrees, she or he might still require you to complete a form to initiate the incomplete.
Sometimes an incomplete can be a life-saver for students who experience sudden crisis and find themselves unable to complete the work for course in a timely way, but in just about all cases students should avoid incurring an incomplete. Many students who take an incomplete never resolve it: because life goes on, new responsibilities and coursework come along, and it just becomes very difficult to find time to go back and do work on past requirements. It is also difficult for your professors to deal with incompletes because your professors’ work, responsibilities, and lives move forward too. It is a big deal for everyone when a student takes an incomplete, which is one reason why a professor simply might not grant it.
If a student is granted an incomplete for a course, the student should work to complete the missed work and so remedy the incomplete as soon as possible–and prior to the start of the next semester. At the maximum, students have no more than one year in which to remedy the incomplete: after that year the potential credits for the course and tuition for the course are lost, and the incomplete cannot be changed into any real grade. The incomplete “I” is thereafter locked permanently on your transcript.
So for example students who have an incomplete from any fall semester have at the most until the end of the subsequent fall semester to remedy the incomplete. Once that subsequent fall semester ends, if the incomplete hasn’t been fixed it becomes locked permanently as an incomplete and the student loses the potential credits for it.
In all cases it is the responsibility of a student who receives an incomplete to pay attention to deadlines and do what is necessary to fix the incomplete well before the one-year window closes: to stay in touch with the professor, to know what work needs to be done, to keep the one-year maximum deadline in view. It is not the responsibility of any professor to keep track of incompletes granted in the past, or of the one-year deadline for any incomplete. If anyone has any questions about this please, as always, contact the program director at firstname.lastname@example.org