To maintain status, F-1 and J-1 students must enroll full-time during two of the three academic semesters each year. In most cases, students will be enrolled full-time for the Fall and Spring semester and take Summer as a vacation semester. At YSU, “full-time” is defined as 12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 9 credit hours for graduate students.
Allowable Reasons for a Reduced Course Load
Immigration allows for a reduced course load only in the following circumstances:
- Initial academic difficulty due to problems with English language or due to the reading requirements. This reason may be used only once, generally during the first semester. Student must register for at least 6 credits.
- Initial academic difficulty due to student being unfamiliar with U.S. teaching methods. This reason may be used only once, generally during the first semester. Student must register for at least 6 credits.
- Student placed in an improper course level. This reason may be used only once, generally during the first semester. Student must register for at least 6 credits.
- Student needs less than a full course load to complete the degree this semester. Student must register for at least 3 credits.
- Medical Reasons. A letter from a licensed medical doctor or clinical psychologist in the U.S. must be attached for IPO approval to drop below full-time enrollment for a medical reason. The letter must specify the term for which the recommendation is being made and whether the recommendation is for part-time study or zero credit hours. By regulation, medical RCL may not exceed 12 months in total. Although your academic advisor’s approval is not necessary for IPO to approve an RCL due to medical reasons, IPO strongly recommends that you consult with your academic advisor before dropping classes for any reason.
Steps to Request a Reduced Course Load
- Discuss your plans to drop below full-time with your academic advisor. If your advisor agrees and your reason for dropping below full-time meets one of the eligibility requirements above, proceed to #2.
- Submit a Request for Authorization for a Reduced Course Load to the IPO front desk.
- If approved, IPO will authorize the RCL in SEVIS and issue a new I-20.
Summer as a Vacation Semester
An F-1 or J-1 student cannot end their program on a vacation semester. Therefore, if Summer will be a student’s final term, they must enroll full-time or be authorized for a Reduced Course Load. Audited courses do NOT count toward your full course of study requirement. Thesis credits DO count toward your full course of study requirement. For immigration purposes, there are a few exceptions to the full-time requirement. If eligible for an RCL, the RCL must be authorized in SEVIS by IPO before a student can drop below full-time.
Questions About Billing or Dropping Classes
For questions about billing or dropping classes, students must contact the Penguin Service Center (2nd floor, Meshel Hall). Please note that IPO will authorize the RCL with immigration only. This authorization is not connected to the university systems. Once the RCL has been authorized in SEVIS, the student will receive an email confirmation from IPO. A new I-20 with the RCL authorization will be issued and ready for pick-up at the main IPO front desk in 3 business days. Once an RCL has been granted, it cannot be undone even if a student later chooses to enroll in a full course of studies.