International students in F-1 status are required to maintain enrollment as fulltime students during the time they hold F-1 status. They may be eligible for reduced course loads only under certain limited circumstances. In addition to the normal academic procedures for managing the reduced course loads, immigration requirements dictate that international students in F or J status obtain approval from their immigration advisor in International Student and Scholar Services prior to reducing their enrollments below the required levels or withdrawing from study at the University.
Initial Difficulties with English Language or Adjusting to U.S. Academic Environment
During the first semester of an educational program, a student may be authorized to carry a reduced course load to ease the transition into full-time study at a U.S. academic institution. This may arise when the student is struggling with either:
- difficulties associated with English language or reading assignments, or
- difficulties adjusting to the U.S. academic environment (different teaching styles, different performance expectations, etc.)
To obtain permission for a reduced course load for initial difficulties, students should complete a Request for Reduced Course Load, have their academic advisor sign off on the request and bring it to ISSS.
Improper Course Placement
At some point, a student may find that he/she has been placed in a class that is too advanced or, perhaps, is not appropriate for their course of study. If the student has not already received a reduced course load based on English language or adjusting to the U.S. academic environment, he or she may be eligible to request a reduced course load for improper course placement.
To obtain permission for a reduced course load based on improper course placement, students should complete a Request for Reduced Course Load, have their academic advisor sign off on the request and bring it to ISSS.
Sometimes a student may experience a temporary medical condition that interferes with his or her ability to study. In cases where a licensed health care professional believes that taking a full course load interferes with the student's medical condition and/or the ability to recover from it, the student may be able to request a reduced course load under this condition. This is the only reason for reduced course load that allows the student to no classes at all while still remaining legally in the U.S..
A student may have up to 12 months of reduced course load for medical reasons.
To obtain permission for a reduced course load based on a medical condition, students should complete a Request for Reduced Course Load, have their academic advisor sign off on the request and bring it to ISSS along with documentation from a licensed health care provider recommending the reduced course load. Because of the confidentiality laws surrounding medical conditions and care, ISSS does not need to know all the details of the medical condition.
Pregnancy: ISSS will grant a reduced course load for women who are pregnant only after receiving a letter from a doctor recommending the reduced course load. Examples of situations where a doctor may recommend this include:
- Medical complications during the pregnancy
- Medical condition (physical and/or emotional) experienced by the mother after the birth of a child.
Research/Teaching Assistantships for Graduate Students
In the Graduate Announcements, Catholic University defines full time status for its graduate students as being eight credits. The Announcements list the various conditions under which a graduate student is considered to be full time, even when enrolled for fewer than eight semester hours. Students granted research and teaching assistantships are considered to be full time under the following circumstances:
# Number of hours worked per week Minimum required enrollment
ISSS does not automatically know that a student has received an assistantship. Graduate students who are enrolled for fewer than 8 credit hours and who have an assistantship should either provide ISSS with a copy of their Appointment to the Research Staff form (generally completed by the School/department when processing the student for payroll purposes) or provide a completed a Research/Teaching Assistantship Verification Form.
Final Semester of Required Course Work for the Degree/Academic Program
When a student reaches the stage in their academic program where he or she has almost completed the coursework required for the academic program, the student does not need to carry the full level of enrollment under the following conditions:
To obtain permission for a reduced course load based on final semester of required course work for academic program, students should complete a Request for Reduced Course Load, have their academic advisor sign off on the request and bring it to ISSS.
Course Work Fulfilled, Working on Other Degree Requirements
Graduate students who have completed all required coursework, are considered to be full time students if:
Level of Study is ... And enrollment is ...
- Enrolled for comprehensive exams - one semester limit
- Enrolled for master's thesis guidance (#995, #996) - limit two semesters
- Music school: enrolled for master's graduate recital and at least 1 credit of music private instruction - limit four semesters
- Enrolled for doctoral comprehensive exams - limit two semesters
- Enrolled for doctoral dissertation guidance (#997, #998)
- Registered in absentia, with school or department approval
- Registered for required internship
- Music School: enrolled in doctoral recitals, doctoral compositions, or completion of repertoire list
ISSS has designed a simple form that should be completed by the student and academic advisor to serve as notification that the student has taken all classes needed for the degree, but is now at the stage where he/she is working on other requirements. By completing and submitted a Notification of Course Completion form, the student and the academic advisor estimate the length of time it will reasonably take the student to fulfill the remaining degree requirements. The student is required to maintain his/her full-time enrollment status as outlined above.