Stanford University

Replacement Petitions

Special circumstances may lead a student to request that a particular course (or more than one course) be used as a replacement for the approved options to fulfill a major requirement. In such cases, a student can submit a Replacement Petition form (Requires a Stanford Google Forms login).

Replacement Petitions are considered on approximately a weekly basis over most of the year, and sometimes require consultation with one or more faculty which can slow down the process.

General Guidelines for Replacement Petitions

  • A Replacement Petition must state the course(s) being proposed to fulfill a major requirement using the course listing number and course name as they will appear on the student's transcript.
  • All proposed replacement courses are subject to the policies described under Major Policies (Minimum Units, etc.), as well as any stipulations in the Core or Concentration requirements to which they are being applied.
  • A course should generally be proposed as a replacement before you commit to taking it. Otherwise, you run the risk that the course will not be approved, and you may discover this too late.
  • If you have received an email message from the Director or Associate Director prior to January 2021, approving a petition sent by email, you do not need to resubmit it on the form.

Replacement Petitions of the following types will be considered (note all that apply to your situation, as more than one of them may fit).

Proposed Up-Level Course

A student may want to replace a course that is approved for a requirement with a more advanced course in the same subject area, without having officially taken an approved course. For example, a student who has done work or study in that subject area in high school, or otherwise outside of Stanford, but without the ability to receive transfer credit for it, might want to avoid boredom by taking a higher level course. Note especially the following for this type of petition:

  • The proposed "up-level" course must be at a higher level and in the same subject area as one or more approved courses for the requirement. One course is generally considered higher level than another course if (i) the latter is a prerequisite for the former, or (ii) the former course's placement in its department's curriculum, the description, the syllabus, and/or testimony from the instructor imply that the replacement course is more advanced than the course it is replacing.
  • The proposed up-level course must also generally be the same type of course as one or more already approved courses are. This means that not just the subject area, but also the nature of the work required of students, must be similar to that of an approved course. For example, if the requirement is a course in programming, the replacement course must be a course in programming, rather than, say, a course that applies programming to a problem domain.
  • Your petition should include a statement of why you want to take the proposed up-level course rather than taking an approved course, as well as what you have that prepares you to take the higher level course.
  • If the petition is approved and the up-level course is used to fulfill the proposed major requirement, it cannot be used to fulfill any other requirements for the Sym Sys major that it would otherwise fulfill. For example, if a student is approved to take CS 107 as a replacement for the CS 106B/X Core requirement, then CS 107 cannot be used to fulfill the Computational Methods iii Core requirement.

Proposed Alternative Combination

A student may want to replace a course that is approved for a requirement with two (or possibly more) courses that would not, individually, be sufficient to fulfill the requirement, but that would be sufficient in combination. For example, a student who has already taken a course for another major that covers part, but not all, of the material in a required course, might propose combining the course they have already taken with another course that covers the remaining material, even while neither course on its own is approved for the Symbolic Systems requirement. Note especially the following for this type of petition:

  • The proposed courses in the alternative combination must, when considered together, cover most or all of the material in at least one of the approved courses that fulfills the requirement in question, and at a similar or higher level as the approved course(s).
  • Your petition should include a statement of why you want to take the proposed alternative combination rather than taking an approved course.
  • If the petition is approved, it will be contingent on completing both/all of the courses in the proposed combination in accordance with the policies for courses described under Major Policies as well as any applicable stipulations in the Core or Concentration requirements.
  • If the petition is approved and the alternative course combination is used to fulfill the proposed major requirement, none of the courses in the combination can be used to fulfill any other requirements for the Sym Sys major that they would otherwise fulfill.

Overlapping Requirements

SymSys majors who are doing multiple/double majors (as opposed to secondary majors, which allow unlimited double counting), or occasionally those who are doing a minor or a Coterminal Master's program, may need or want to count a course that would otherwise fulfill a SymSys major requirement for their other degree program instead. If that course is not on our list of introductory skill requirements, then the student will need to take a different course to fulfill the Symbolic Systems major requirement. If there are multiple options for the SymSys requirement, then one possibility is to take another of the approved courses for SymSys. But if no other courses are listed as fulfilling the Symbolic Systems requirement other than the one counted for another major, or if you would prefer not to take another similar course, you can submit a Replacement Petition proposing a course that is not otherwise approved for the overlapping Sym Sys requirement. Note especially the following for this type of petition:

  • A replacement course for an overlapping requirement in Symbolic Systems must be at the same level or higher and in the same subject area as one or more approved courses for the requirement.
  • Your petition should include a statement of why you want to take the proposed replacement course rather than taking another approved course if one is available.
  • If the petition is approved, it will be contingent on also completing the course that is being replaced, subject to the policies for courses described under Major Policies as well as any applicable stipulations in the Core or Concentration requirements.

Replacing an Unqualified Grade

As noted in the Grading Basis and Minimum Grade Policies under Major Policies, every course taken for the major must be passed with either a letter grade (a C- or above for Core courses, or a D- or above for Concentration courses) or an S grade (or equivalent no-option pass, i.e. not a CR grade). One of the ways to fulfill a requirement for which a student has received an unqualified grade is to submit and get approval for a replacement petition. Note especially the following for this type of petition:

  • A replacement course for an unqualified grade must be at the same level or higher and in the same subject area as one or more approved courses for the requirement.
  • The replacement course for an unqualified grade must also generally be the same type of course as one or more already approved courses are. This means that not just the subject area, but also the nature of the work required of students, must be similar to that of an approved course. For example, if the requirement is a course in programming, the replacement course must be a course in programming, rather than, say, a course that applies programming to an application domain.
  • If the petition is approved, it will be contingent on the presence on your final transcript of the unqualified grade for the course that is being replaced. The unqualified grade is part of the way that a student who gets approved for a replacement course completes the requirement, which means that taking the replacement course alone is not an approved way to fulfill the requirement. If you get approval to take a replacement course due to worries about not passing an approved course, and then you withdraw from the course that is being replaced, you will not get credit for the requirement.

 Transfer Credit

An external course taken at another institution (i.e college or university) can be proposed to fulfill a requirement as a replacement for an approved Stanford course. Note especially the following for this type of petition:

  • Evidence must be provided that the course is substantially similar in content, level, and rigor to one or more Stanford courses that meet the requirement. A link to the course description online, and a syllabus if available, can serve as evidence, along with reading material and other assignments. The course prerequisites should be similar to those listed for the Stanford course(s) it is intended to replace.
  • The proposed external course must be eligible for three units or more of transfer credit at Stanford, as determined by the Registrar's office.
  • Approval of a proposed external course is contingent on the student who proposes the course agreeing to ask the Registrar's office to send the SymSys Program office a certification that transfer credit has been received after the course has been completed and transferred. This certification must include the transcript record of the course -- including the offering institution's name, the listing number and course name, grade received and the number of Stanford units credited.
  • You can consult the Registrar’s Transfer Credit Database and Course Equivalency List to identify courses at other institutions that may be appropriate to replace a Stanford course. The appearance of a pair of courses on the equivalency list does not guarantee that the transfer course will be accepted by the SymSys Program in place of the Stanford course in the pairing, but the equivalency list is a good indication of courses that may be appropriate as replacements.

Instructor-Certified Equivalence to Approved Course(s)

Occasionally, a course as described in ExploreCourses may fail to meet the approval criteria for all students to meet a particular requirement, but the instructor can certify for an individual student that the course was equivalent, for that student, to one or more courses that are approved for the requirement. In an individual study course, for example, such as a tutorial taken through the Stanford Program in Oxford, the agreed syllabus for that student might be equivalent to the syllabus for a course offered through a Stanford department that meets the requirement. The student may petition to use such a course to fulfill a requirement if the instructor of the proposed replacement course attests to the presence of sufficient course elements not indicated in the published course description. Note especially the following requirements for this type of petition:

  • The student or instructor must submit a syllabus for the proposed course, and the instructor must certify in writing that the syllabus is accurate.

  • If the course is proposed in advance of the student taking the course, the instructor must confirm the accuracy of the syllabus after the course is completed. 

  • If there are one or more elements of the course that are necessary to establish equivalence but which are not specified in the syllabus, the instructor may certify the presence of these elements in a statement to the SymSys Program.

  • The instructor's certification may or may not express an opinion about the equivalence of the course to one(s) that are approved for the requirement in question. In either case, additional faculty may need to be consulted by the SymSys Program before granting approval. For example, the instructor(s) of approved courses may be asked to comment on the equivalence of the proposed course's syllabus to the course(s) that they teach.