Course Load Requirements
All international students in F-1/J-1 status are required to maintain a full course load of study during each semester in order to remain in compliance with their non-immigrant status.
|Student Type||Full-time Minimum|
|Academic English||20 clock hours|
|Undergraduate/Undergraduate Pathway||12 credits|
|Graduate/Graduate Pathway||9 credits or at least 1 credit of an A90 course|
|Summer (First or last semester only )||6 credits|
Course Load FAQ
- Online Limits
There are specific limits for online and distance education courses that are stipulated by the immigration regulations. At Illinois State, both online and online blended hybrid courses are considered distance education . For the exact definition of these course types, please see the Course-Type Definitions listed on the Office of the Registrar's website.
F-1 and J-1 students:
- Only 3 credits of online or online blended hybrid coursework can count towards the 9/12 credits to meet the full-time requirement.
- For example, an F-1/J-1 graduate student could take 6 credits in-person and 3 credits online/online blended hybrid to equal the 9 credits to be full-time.
- In your last semester, you cannot be enrolled in only online/online blended hybrid courses
Students in Academic English or Pathway Programs:
- NO ONLINE OR ONLINE BLENDED HYBRID coursework can count towards meeting the full-time requirement. You may only be enrolled in online/online blended hybrid courses if you have already met the minimum number of credits to be considered full-time and are taking additional coursework above and beyond that minimum.
- For example, an undergraduate Pathway student taking 12 credits of in-person coursework could enroll in an additional 3 credit online/online blended hybrid course.
- Summer Enrollment
If the summer semester is your first or last semester at ISU, it is NOT considered a vacation period and you must be enrolled full-time. A full course load for the summer consists of a minimum of 6 credit hours and you cannot be enrolled in only online or online blended hybrid courses.
You are also limited to 20 hours per week for on-campus work during the Summer semester, if it is your first or last semester.
NOTE: Academic English and Undergraduate Pathway students who have a required summer semester as part of their prescribed program of study must be enrolled full-time during that summer semester.
- Dropping Courses
International students in F-1/J-1 status must be enrolled full-time unless they first receive permission from ISSS for a Reduced Course Load. If you wish to drop a class after the 10th day of classes, you must submit a request to the Office of the Registrar that will need to be approved by ISSS before it is processed. Your request will NOT be approved if dropping the course will take you below full-time enrollment, unless you have already been approved for a Reduced Course Load (RCL). Please see the next section of this page for more information regarding Reduced Course Loads.
- Auditing Courses
- Credit/No Credit Courses
- Enrollment at Another School
F-1 students at Illinois State University may choose to take classes concurrently at another SEVIS-approved school.
If you will continue to be enrolled full-time at ISU while enrolled at the other school, then no other steps are required for ISSS. If the other school would like proof of ISSS/DSO approval of your enrollment at their institution, please submit an I-20 Reprint Request in the ISSS Portal. In the request, make sure to indicate the reason and confirm that you will continue to be enrolled full-time at ISU while enrolling at the other institution.
If you will be enrolled less than full-time at ISU and will need to count the additional credits from the other institution in order to be considered full-time, then you will need to request concurrent enrollment by submitting a Concurrent Enrollment Request in the ISSS Portal. Any credits earned at the other institution must be transferred back to ISU and count towards meeting your ISU degree requirements. No more than one course may be taken online at either institution.
Students who are approved for concurrent enrollment must be aware of class drop policies at both institutions and must continue to be enrolled full-time. The combined credits earned at both institutions must be equivalent to a full courseload (12 credits for undergraduates, 9 credits for graduates) and at least half of the credits earned (rounded up) during the semester of concurrent enrollment must be from Illinois State University.
Reduced Course Load (RCL)
To take less than a full course load, F-1/J-1 students must be granted permission by an International Advisor before reducing their course load. A reduced course load can only be granted for very specific and limited reasons (outlined below), which are stipulated by the US Code of Federal Regulations.
F-1/J-1 students who want to apply for an RCL should read the information below related to the type of RCL they plan to request and submit a Reduced Course Load Request in the ISSS Portal.
NOTE: Students approved for a reduced course load should contact the Student Insurance Office to ensure that they are still covered by Illinois State student insurance.
- Academic Difficulty
A reduced course load based upon academic difficulty is generally reserved for new students in their first semester due to:
- Improper course level placement
- Initial difficulty with reading requirements
- Initial difficulty with the English language
- Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
F-1/J-1 students who want to apply for an RCL based upon academic difficulty must:
- Meet with your Academic Advisor to discuss all possible options and how you will adjust your degree plan to compensate for the loss in credits
- Obtain a letter from the professor of each course you want to drop. The letter must specifically reference one of the four reasons listed above, explain the circumstances in detail, and be signed and printed on University letterhead
- Still be enrolled in a minimum of 6 credits
- Resume full-time enrollment in the next available semester (excluding summer vacation term)
PLEASE NOTE: An Academic Difficulty RCL can only be authorized once per degree level.
- Medical Condition
A reduced course load based upon a medical condition is for students with a documented illness or medical condition. F-1/J-1 students who want to apply for an RCL based upon a medical condition must:
- Obtain a signed doctor’s note on letterhead from a
licensed M.D. psychiatrist, D.O., licensed psychologist or clinical psychologist. The letter must indicate which of these three specific titles is held by the person signing the document and must contain the following information:
- Name of patient/student
- Confirmation that the student is under your care
- Confirmation that the student has an illness or medical condition (please do NOT include any details regarding the specific illness or medical condition)
- Recommendation that the patient take a reduced course load or no course load (must specify) due to the illness or medical condition.
- The specific semester (ex: Fall 2021) for which you recommend a reduced or no course load due to the illness or medical condition. Illinois State University’s academic calendar can be viewed at https://events.illinoisstate.edu/academic-calendar/
- Meet with your Academic Advisor to discuss your possible reduced enrollment and how it may impact your academic program. You do not need to discuss your medical condition with your Academic Advisor.
- Re-apply each semester
- Medical RCL(s) may not exceedan aggregate of 12 months per degree level
- You may drop to as little as 0 credits
- Final Term
A reduced course load based upon final term is for students who will graduate in the current term and need less than a full-course load to meet all degree requirements. F-1/J-1 students who want to apply for an RCL based upon final term must:
- Be enrolled in a minimum of 1 credit (NOTE: you cannot be enrolled in ONLY online or online blended hybrid courses in your final semester)