F-1 Reduced Course Load (RCL)

Full Course of Study Requirement

F-1 students are required to register for a “full course of study” every fall and spring semester.

“Full course of study” is usually the same as “full-time” as defined by the Office of the Registrar:

  • Undergraduates: 12 credits
  • Graduate students: 9 credits
  • Graduate students with Graduate Assistantship contracts: Depends on contract; Consult your GA supervisor
  • Graduate students in proposal/dissertation stage: Consult University Catalog

Exceptions to the Full Course of Study Requirement

A student who wishes to drop below a full course of study may do so only if he or she meets one of the conditions listed in federal F-1 regulations:

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii)

1. Academic Reasons

Important: First semester of study only. Cannot be considered again until the first semester of the student’s next educational level, per SEVP Guidance 

Initial Difficulty with English Language (during first semester of study); not applicable for Academic English or Pathway students
Initial Difficulty with Reading Requirements (during first semester of study)
Unfamiliarity with American Teaching Methods (during first semester of study)
Improper Course Level Placement (during first semester of study)

2. Illness or Medical Condition

A diagnosed medical or psychological condition prevents you from maintaining a full course of study.

3. Final Semester to Complete Course of Study

The Registrar has certified that you are enrolled for sufficient credits to complete your program of study in the current semester.

How to Request an RCL Authorization

Academic Reason: complete the Reduced Course Load Request Form and submit it to OIPS with a letter from your academic advisor, providing an explanation based on one of the reasons listed above.

Medical RCL: requests are reviewed and authorized by the OIPS Executive Director.   In most cases, they are processed through the Office of Disability Services (ODS) located in SUB I, Room 2500.  The only exception is pregnancy; if you are requesting a medical RCL for pregnancy, you should bring the documentation from your physician to OIPS and meet with the OIPS Executive Director.

Last Semester of Study RCL requests for all students except law students are processed through the Office of the Registrar and OIPS.

Last Semester of Study RCL requests for law students are processed through the Law School’s Records Office and OIPS.

  • Complete the Law School graduation form available through the Law School's Records Office. Please make sure you check the Law school’s academic calendar to see when the graduation forms will be available for students through the Law School’s Records Office on the 3rd floor. Forms are placed in the students’ mailboxes just outside of the office on the date listed in the law school’s academic calendar and need to be filled out and submitted to your Records Office by the deadline listed in your academic calendar.
  • Complete the OIPS Reduced Course Load for Last Semester form.  You can submit this form even if you have not yet completed the Law School graduation form.


Do NOT drop below a full course of study until you have a new I-20 with an approved RCL endorsement on page 2. An approved RCL protects your F-1 status, but it does not mean that you are full-time according to University academic policy.