The F-1 immigration regulations allow a once per degree-level Academic Reduced Course Load (RCL) if a student has a valid academic reason for dropping below full-time. 

Acceptable reasons for an Academic RCL as noted in the regulation are:

  • Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements; (available only in a student’s 1st academic year of study in the U.S.).
  • Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods; (available only in a student’s 1st academic year of study in the U.S.).
  • Improper course level placement (in most cases only available if a student has enrolled in a course for which they do not meet the minimum prerequisites. Special circumstances may be considered).

Reduced Course Load in Final Term: The F-1 regulations allow schools to authorize a reduced course in a student’s final term. Students in their final semester must submit the Confirmation of Final Semester e-Form (available in MyISSS portal). If when completing the Confirmation of Final Semester e-Form the student and their academic advisor confirm that less than a full-time course load is needed to complete the academic program requirements,  then ISSS will automatically approve the student for an Academic Reduced Course Load. An Academic Reduced Course Load Request e-Form is not needed in this situation. Please note, if a student has been authorized by ISSS for a reduced course load in their final semester but does not finish as expected, a second consecutive reduced course load is permitted.  However, a student is not eligible for a third final-term reduced course load.

Academic RCL Request Process 

Students who feel they meet the requirements for an Academic RCL should schedule an appointment to meet with their academic advisor to discuss their eligibility.If a student is eligible, students should complete the Academic Reduced Course Load Request Form (available in MyISSS portal) after the meeting with their academic advisor. 

College of Engineering Graduate Students: 

Students should not drop any classes until their academic advisor and an ISSS advisor have approved the Academic RCL. Students will receive an email from ISSS when the Academic RCL is approved.  

Enrollment While Authorized for an Academic RCL 

Students authorized for an Academic RCL must maintain at least half-time enrollment (minimum of 6 credits for undergraduate students).

  • Distance Education Limit: 
    • No more than the equivalent of one on-line/distance education class or 3 online credits per term may count towards the full-time enrollment requirement.
    • Enrollment in on-campus/in-person credits is required even if authorized for an Academic RCL

Enrollment in the Term Following an Academic RCL 

Students are eligible for one Academic RCL per degree level and must resume a full course of study (or authorized equivalent) in the next required semester. 

Once an Academic RCL has been authorized, a student can only be authorized to drop below full-time in a future semester if they qualify for and submit proper documentation for:

  1. a Medical RCL
  2. Confirmation of Final Semester (available in MyISSS portal).