F-1 and J-1 students must be enrolled full-time at all times except the summer vacation quarter. For most students, ‘full time’ means three classes each quarter. Check with your department to verify what is considered ‘full time’.
Generally, doctoral students who are finished with coursework and working on their thesis in advanced residence will still appear as full-time enrolled with the registrar (pro forma registration is considered a full-time status; extended residence is not considered full-time). However, Master's or Bachelor's students working on a thesis who are not considered full-time enrolled cannot be approved for a Reduced Course Load and must finish their thesis while on OPT or AT.
Summer is a vacation quarter and you are not expected to enroll unless your program requires summer classes (such as some PhD. programs in Chemistry or Computer Science) or you are planning to graduate at the end of Summer Quarter.
With proper authorization, limited exceptions can be made to the full-time enrollment requirement. All of these exceptions must be authorized in advance by your international student adviser.
Note: You are not authorized for a Reduced Course Load unless you receive a new I-20 showing the authorization on page 3 (F-1 students) or a letter of authorization (J-1).
Exceptions to full-time enrollment include:
Students who are in their last quarter and require less than a full course load to complete their degree requirements can apply for reduced course load authorization. If approved, you can take less than a full-time course load during your final quarter, but you must take at least one course. Reduced course load authorization does not affect your eligibility for OPT or CPT.
To Apply for Final Quarter RCL: Submit the Drop Below Full Time Registration Request to OIA before your final quarter begins.
Note: Final quarter reduced course load authorization is only available to students enrolled in degree programs.
If you have a medical reason that prevents you from attending class, you can obtain reduced course load authorization (no more than four quarters).
To Apply for Medical RCL: Submit the Drop Below Full Time Registration Request, along with documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or licensed clinical psychologist stating that you are not able to attend classes this quarter or not able to attend classes full-time this quarter. The documentation does not have to contain a diagnosis or details of your condition or illness. Reduced course load authorization does not affect your eligibility for OPT or CPT.
Academic Difficulty RCL can only be granted for one quarter. Only one class may be dropped.
To Apply for Academic Difficulty RCL: Submit the Drop Below Full Time Registration Request, and a letter from your department or academic adviser attesting to one of the following difficulties: initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements, unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods, or improper course level placement.