Full-Time Study Requirement & Reduced Course Loads
One of the most important requirements of F-1 international students is maintaining full-time student status throughout the degree program. For undergraduates, this means taking at least 12 credits in both the spring and fall semesters. For graduate students, this means taking at least 6 credits every trimester (spring, winter, and spring). F-1 students are not required to take courses during the optional summer term. Dropping below the full-time credit minimums listed above is a serious violation of F-1 status and will lead to the termination of the student’s SEVIS record.
Reduced Course Loads
There are three circumstances where a P/DSO can authorize an F-1 student to take less than a full course of study, often referred to as a Reduced Course Load (RCL):
- Academic difficulties
- Medical conditions
- Completion of a course of study
In order for a student to obtain authorization to drop below a full course of study, he or she must first receive permission from the P/DSO, who will record the authorization in SEVIS.
A. Guidelines to Drop Below a Full Course of Study for Academic Reasons
A P/DSO may authorize a RCL for F-1 students for academic reasons in the following situations:
- Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements
- Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods
- Improper course level placement
Authorization for a reduced course load due to academic difficulties is limited to one term at each program level. A RCL must consist of at least six credit hours or half of the minimum requirement for a full course of study for the program for which the student is enrolled. To maintain status, students must resume a full course of study in the next regular session. An authorization to drop below a full course load for academic reasons does not impact a student’s eligibility to take a reduced course load for medical reasons.
B. Guidelines to Drop Below a Full Course of Study for Medical Conditions
F-1 students with documented medical conditions can take a reduced course load or no course load at all. A student must provide the P/DSO with medical documentation, which is kept in the student’s file. The documentation must be from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist in order for the P/DSO to authorize a reduced course load. The authorization period cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months per program level. If the student has already had 12 months at less than full-course load, the student is not allowed any additional part-time study based on a medical condition until advancing to the next program level.
C. Guidelines to Drop Below a Full Course of Study for Completion of a Course of Study
In some cases, F-1 students in their final term do not need a full course load in order to have enough credits to graduate. In these cases, students can take just the courses needed to complete their program. SEVIS authorization is optional (there is functionality in SEVIS but recording a partial course load in the final semester is not required).If a student fails a course during the last term consisting of a reduced course load, the student may again have a final session with less than a full course load. A second consecutive authorization for a reduced course load in a student’s final semester should be reported in SEVIS in order to ensure that the student is continuing to make progress toward program completion. The student is not eligible for a third reduced course load.
How to apply for a Reduced Course Load
Contact the P/DSO in the Center for Global Learning to obtain the appropriate RCL form and follow the instructions listed on the form.