All F-1 and J-1 students must enroll in a full-time course load each fall and spring semester. Summer enrollment is generally not required unless it is your initial semester on your I-20/DS-2019. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) permits a limited number of reasons for requesting a reduced course load per semester.
Reduced Course Load
Exceptions to a full course of study
- Academic Difficulties – Can only be used one time per degree level. You must remain in at least half of your full-time enrollment requirement.
- Initial difficulty with the English language (only acceptable in your first year on campus)
- Initial difficulty with reading requirements (only acceptable in your first year on campus)
- Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods (only acceptable in your first year on campus)
- Improper course level placement
- Medical condition
- May be used for up to 12 months, but must be applied for each semester.
You may enroll in any number of credits your medical professional recommends for you.
If your medical professional recommends you to enroll in 0 credit hours, you must complete the Registrar’s Office Withdrawal Form.
- Only the following medical professionals can recommend you for a medical reduced course load:
- licensed U.S. medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. A licensed clinical psychologist is a mental health clinician with a doctoral level degree in psychology who holds a license to practice psychology in the state of Wisconsin (or the state in which they are authorized to practice).
Your medical professional must provide you a letter, on letterhead, to substantiate the illness or medical condition and recommendation to reduce your course load.
For medical professional: Template for Medical Reduced Course Load Letter of recommendation
- Final Semester of Study
- If you need less than a full-time course load to complete your program of study in your final semester. (If you are enrolled in summer semester, that is your final semester.)
- Coursework completed
- This option is only available for PhD and Master’s students.
- You must have completed all coursework and have only your thesis/comprehensive examination (Master’s) or preliminary examination (PhD).
- At a minimum, you must enroll in 2 graduate level (300+) credits. Check with your academic department and the Graduate School Academic Policy on enrollment requirements.
- PhD students whose dissertator status is still pending at the start of the semester should apply for this authorization.
How to apply
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Step 1: Meet with your academic/faculty advisor or medical professional
Discuss your reasons for wishing to reduce your course load. If you are eligible and your academic/faculty advisor or medical professional supports your request, you can move to step two.
Medical reduced course load:
- Your medical professional must provide you a signed letter recommending the reduced course load.
Step 2. Complete the Reduced Course Load in TerraDotta
Complete the Reduced Course Load request form in TerraDotta. Include your advisor’s email information so that they can approve the request.
If requesting a medical reduced course load, upload the recommendation letter from the medical professional.
Final Semester and Coursework Completed:
Please submit before the start date of classes for the semester.
Once you have confirmed your enrollment requirements for the upcoming semester, apply for the reduced course load. Enroll in your courses as soon as your enrollment period opens in the preceding semester.
Dissertator students: If your dissertator status has been approved by the Graduate School, but the Office of the Registrar has not processed it by the start of the semester, please submit the RCL form for Coursework Completed and follow enrollment requirements for your dissertator status.
You are responsible for following the Registrar’s dates and deadlines, as well as any deadlines within your school, college, and academic department.
During the add/drop period, work with your academic advisor to determine a course that is a better fit for you.
Please seek academic resources for help as a first option. If you have exhausted all your options and you still are having academic difficulty, talk to your academic advisor about an Academic Difficulty reduced course load.
You are responsible for following the Registrar’s dates and deadlines, as well as any deadlines within your school, college, and academic department. After the official drop date, you must get approval from your academic dean (not your academic advisor) on your RCL form. When a drop requires a dean’s approval, the RCL form must be signed by an academic dean in your school/college.
ISS must receive your documentation before the last day of classes for the semester.
Submit the completed application as soon as soon as possible. ISS must receive your documentation before the last day of classes for the semester.
If your request meets SEVP criteria, it will be approved.
You will get a notification from ISS to your university email address. You are responsible for dropping your course within a timely and manner and for following the Registrar’s dates and deadlines.
If your request does not meet SEVP criteria, ISS will be unable to approve the RCL.
You must enroll for a full-time course load to maintain your visa status.
Graduate students with on-campus appointments
Your full-time enrollment requirement may already be adjusted depending on your appointment percentage. Policies vary by academic department. Please see your appointment offer letter, and verify Graduate School Enrollment Requirements. You are responsible for fulfilling any other enrollment obligations you may have. Also, see the Add/Drop policy from the Graduate School.
Familiarize yourself with your academic program policies, which may require that you submit other documentation to reduce your course load. Check the Guide for your program details. Be advised that the institutional policy may permit certain exceptions, but if they do not meet SEVP criteria, ISS cannot approve them and you may jeopardize your immigration status.
Adapted with permission from New York University.
You are responsible for enrolling full-time each semester or securing a reduced course load from ISS no later than the add/drop deadline each semester. Attempting to request a reduced course load after the add/drop deadline will be subject to additional permissions and review. We advise you to plan ahead and get approval from ISS as early as possible.