Reduced Course Load

Full-time Enrollment

F-1 regulations require students to pursue a full course of study. During each Fall and Spring semester, KU defines full-time enrollment:

For undergraduate students:

  • 12 credit hours (including any AEC courses)

For graduate students:

  • 9 credit hours
  • 6 credit hours plus a GTA, GRA, or GA appointment
  • Doctoral candidates who have passed the Doctoral Oral Comprehensive exam should be enrolled according to Graduate Studies Doctoral Candidacy policy.

Limitation on counting ONLINE course credits towards minimum requirement:

Generally, only one online class (up to 3 credit hours) can count towards the full-time enrollment requirement. 

  • Note: students taking any AEC classes cannot count any online class towards the full-time enrollment requirement.

Reduced Course Load (RCL) is a permission from an ISS Advisor to enroll below the full-time requirements for a given semester.  Federal regulations provide limited circumstances for when an F-1 student may be authorized for an RCL.  These include medical reasons, academic reasons, and completion of studies during the final term.  In some cases, a graduate student enrolled part-time may be considered pursuing a full course of study for immigration purposes. Each request requires review by an ISS advisor before it is approved; approval is granted on a semester basis.

Important: Dropping below full time without ISS permission is a deportable offense. If KU ISS has not approved the RCL by the deadline or prior to dropping below full time, you will be considered in violation of your legal status.

Reduce Course Load


In some cases, a student will need an RCL due to a temporary medical condition.  Students will need to submit a letter on letterhead signed by an appropriate licensed medical doctor, psychiatrist, doctor of osteopathy, licensed psychologist, or clinical psychologist recommending the RCL for the specific semester. The following wording is suggested:

As a “licensed medical doctor” (or psychiatrist, or doctor of osteopathy, or licensed psychologist, or clinical psychologist), I recommend “Student’s full name and DOB” reduce his/her course load (or withdraw from all classes) due to a temporary illness or medical condition for the “appropriate semester.”

Approval for medical reasons must be obtained each semester requested.  Approval cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months per program level.


An RCL may also be granted in a situation where a student is experiencing academic difficulties.  Approval of an academic RCL can be granted only once per program level (i.e. Bachelors, Masters, PhD), and a student must complete at least six credit hours in that semester.

Permissible academic RCL reasons include:

  1. Initial difficulties with the English language (usually only 1st semester)
  2. Initial difficulties with reading requirements (usually only 1st semester)
  3. Unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods (usually only 1st semester)
  4. Improper Course Level Placement (can apply if student is unprepared or in jeopardy of failing a course).

Final Semester

Students who need less than a full course load to complete degree requirements in their final semester may qualify for a final semester RCL.  A final semester RCL is available even if a student has previously been authorized for a medical or academic RCL.

Graduate Students with Part-Time Enrollment

Graduate students who have finished everything except their dissertation, thesis, final project or equivalent may get permission to enroll part time. For example:

  1. Masters students who have completed all required lecture coursework and are solely completing their thesis or final project.
  2. Doctoral students who have completed all required lecture coursework and are solely completing their dissertation.
  3. Graduate students who are taking their final required lecture course(s) in the current term before starting a thesis, dissertation, or final project.

To be considered pursuing a full course of study, you must request and be approved for a Reduced Course Load by an ISS advisor (follow instructions below).

 An RCL approval must be obtained:

  • before the 20th day of classes each Spring and Fall semester, or
  • if after the 20th day of classes, before a student drops below full time.

RCL requests may be submitted and approved before the requested semester begins, with the exception of the FINAL SEMESTER RCL which can only be approved:

  • on/after  August 2nd for Fall semester
  • on/after  January 2nd for Spring semester

Step 1

  • Make sure you are eligible for a reduced course load based on the above reasons. 
  • For a Medical RCL, you will need medical documentation to submit with your e-form request. 
  • For a non-medical RCL, meet with your academic advisor (or course instructor if dropping a course) before submitting the e-form.  You will need to provide the name and email address of the advisor/instructor in your e-form request. 

Step 2

  • Log into iHawk and complete the appropriate form under F-1 Student Services > Reduced Course Load.
  • If you are dropping more than one class, you must submit a separate eForm for each class you are dropping.
  • Wait until you receive an e-mail notification saying that you should come to ISS.

Step 3

  • Meet with an ISS advisor during drop-in advising, who will review your request with you. Please refer to our Advising webpage for more information.
  • Receive a new I-20 indicating ISS advisor’s approval of your RCL request.
  • If necessary, drop the course(s).  This should be done only after getting permission from ISS.

Students should consider potential issues of part-time enrollment, and may be disqualified from:

  • Working on campus (especially in student hourly positions)
  • Living on campus
  • Receiving scholarships and/or
  • Receiving other student benefits in accordance with university policies (e.g. health insurance coverage).