Satisfactory Academic Progress

What is Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress?

Students who receive Federal Financial Aid (aid through the Department of Education and Health Resources & Services Administration) must, in accordance with federal regulations, be in good standing and maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) toward their degree. Under Federal Title IV law, the school’s SAP requirements must meet certain minimum requirements and be at least as strict as the institution’s established standards for Good Academic Standing. This policy applies to students receiving Federal Financial Aid for semester/periods of enrollment that begin on or after January 1, 2015.

The standards used to evaluate academic progress are cumulative and therefore include all periods of the student’s enrollment, including periods during which the student did not receive federal financial aid funds.

What is the SMHS MD Program SAP Policy?

To continue receiving federal financial aid at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, students must demonstrate satisfactory progress toward their academic objectives. Federal regulations require three measurements to determine SAP: qualitative, quantitative, and time frame. In this case, a letter must be submitted to the student's file from the Dean explaining the reason for the override.

Qualitative Review:

In determining student's academic progress, the Office of Financial Aid follows the MSEC academic review policy, which is established for all students regardless of financial aid eligibility and meets the minimum Title IV academic policy requirements.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences does not compute grade point averages using letter grades. Therefore, students must achieve the minimum grade of “P” (satisfactory completion of work) in all required courses, electives, and basic clerkships as means of progress. Student’s basic courses in years one and two are graded as pass/fail/honors. Clerkships, clinical electives, advanced clerkships, and clinical sub-internships are graded on the four-tier system: honors, high pass, pass, and fail.

Quantitative Review:

Students must have academic standing consistent with the MD program curriculum and graduation requirements to maintain continued financial aid assistance. To meet graduation requirements, students must successfully complete the prescribed courses of study of the first through the fourth years (See MD Program Class Regulations).

Students must pass the USMLE Step 1 in order to progress to the first semester of their third year study. To achieve satisfactory academic progress, students in the spring semester of their second year (or prior to their 5th semester of study if a leave of absence has been obtained) must pass the USMLE Step 1. Failure to pass the exam after two attempts will result in the student failing to achieve financial aid satisfactory academic progress and in the student being denied federal student loan funding in the subsequent semester that they are enrolled. Students who fail the USMLE Step 1 after two attempts will be subject to the University's Return of Title IV Funds Policy. Students may appeal their SAP status. Directions for appealing are listed further on in the policy.

Time Frame/Pace:

Maximum time frame is the maximum number of years after first enrollment that a student may complete MD Program courses in the full-time pursuit of a degree. The maximum time frames for completion of the programs are: 

Program Expected Maximum Program Type


4 years

7 years


Treatment of Courses:

Grades for core courses and clerkships will be evaluated as follows: Attempted and earned: H, HP, P, CNP

Attempted but not earned: F, I, U, W, CN

Note: “I” grades will be changed to completed once a grade is applied. Grade not counted as attempted or earned: A (audit)

Grades earned at another institution by a student who transfers into the George Washington MD Program will not be included in the determination of the passing grade of “P.”

Treatment of Repeat Coursework:

Repeat Coursework

Students may receive financial aid funding for the repeat of a failing grade or withdrawal of any class or classes. Repeat of the same course may only be funded one additional time. Every attempt of a repeated course counts as attempted towards completion rate but it only counts once as completed.

Repeat of Entire Year Coursework

Under current financial aid guidelines, students who failed a course(s) and are required to repeat an entire year of coursework, which would also include successfully completed courses, will be eligible for federal loans for the repeat of the required academic year courses that the student failed or withdrew from. Funding will be provided only once for the repeat of the failed/withdrawn coursework from the same academic year.

Leaves of Absence:

The period of time for which a student received an approved leave of absence will be included in the maximum time frame required to complete their program.

Loss of Financial Aid Eligibility:

Students will automatically lose financial aid eligibility if they receive two failing grades, one failing and one unsatisfactory grade, or unexcused incompletes in two or more courses.

How often is SAP Reviewed?

The Office of Financial Aid will review the satisfactory academic progress of all aid recipients at the end of each academic year, excepting the first and second years of study, during phase one. Review of a student's academic status will be in collaboration with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs, or his/her designee, after the MSEC has reviewed the academic progress status of all students. Students not meeting academic progress as determined by the MSEC will be notified in writing from the committee of their status outlining their deficiencies, methods for correcting the deficiency, and consequences that may result in probation, suspension, or dismissal from the program.

Students who fail to meet the required Financial Aid SAP standards (qualitative, quantitative, and/or time frame) will be ineligible for continued financial aid funding beginning with the term immediately following the term in which the SAP requirements were not met. The Office of Financial Aid will notify the student in writing of their aid suspension status and the appeal process for possible reinstatement.

Financial Aid Warning Semester for MS1 and MS2 Students Only:

Students in the first phase of the curriculum are subject to SAP review after each semester.  Failure to acheive SAP during this period will result in the student being given a financial aid warning in the subsequent semester. This is a written warning that aid may be discontinued should the student not achieve SAP by the end of the semester in which the warning was issued. Should a student not meet the requirements of SAP they will be subject to SAP financial aid suspension. Students given an SAP warning will need to work with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and the Office of Financial Aid to regain SAP.

Academic Dismissal or Withdrawal:

Students who are academically dismissed or who withdraw from the school are not making academic progress and will no longer qualify for financial aid.

Appeal Process:

Students not making academic progress as determined by the MSEC may petition for review and appeal of their status by following the school’s policy for review by the appropriate standing committees as outlined in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences regulations. Students who successfully petition for reinstatement may regain eligibility for financial aid funding. However, the offices of Financial Aid and Student Affairs will review student progress before aid is reinstated.

Students not meeting financial aid SAP requirements (qualitative, quantitative, and/or time frame) may appeal to the Office of Financial Aid for review. The Office of Financial Aid will notify the student if they must complete the appeal process for reinstatement of aid. The appeal must state the reasons for failing to meet SAP requirements, such as special circumstances that contributed to the student’s failure to make SAP (e.g., the death of a relative, an injury or illness of the student, or other special circumstances).  All appeals must be submitted to the Office of Financial Aid within two weeks of of the date of notification that a student has not passed financial aid SAP.

» Download the appeal form

Financial Aid Probation:

Students who have appealed for reinstatement of financial aid funding and had the appeal approved will be placed on financial aid probation and allowed one additional payment of financial aid during the award period. Students must show improvement in coursework and progression in their program in order to continue receiving federal financial aid. Progress will be based upon the terms outlined by the Standing Committee’s requirements for continued academic progress.

Students will remain on financial aid probation during the period of academic review.


Students in academic difficulty will be notified in writing by the Office of Financial Aid of their status for continued financial aid funding.