Reduced Course Load
F-1 and J-1 international students who wish to enroll in a course load that is less than full-time must request authorization for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) from Cranwell International Center before doing so. Please note that applying for an RCL does not guarantee approval - your request must be thoroughly reviewed within the context of related federal regulations and university policies before this can be determined. If you or your department have questions about RCLs, please contact one of our International Student Advisors directly.
Students who are having academic difficulties, are in their final semester, or are experiencing a medical condition or temporary illness are eligible to apply for authorization to enroll below full-time.
Students who are experiencing academic difficulties due to one of the following reasons are eligible to apply for an RCL:
Will require approval from Professor:
- Initial Difficulty with English Language
- Initial Difficulty with Reading Requirements
- Unfamiliarity with American Teaching Methods
Will require approval from Academic Advisor:
- Improper Course Level Placement
- Students must resume a full-time course load in the next available semester in order to maintain student status.
- Students previously authorized to drop below full-time due to academic difficulties are not eligible for a second authorization due to academic difficulties while still pursuing a program at the same education level. This restriction does not apply to additional RCL authorizations due to medical reasons or being in your final semester.
- If authorization is granted for the requested RCL and the current program end date listed on your Form I-20 or DS-2019 is later than your new anticipated completion date, then you will be provided with an updated Form I-20 or DS-2019 that lists your new program completion date (which will be the offical end date of the current semester).
Students that are in their final semester and do not require full-time enrollment in order to complete their course of study are eligible to apply for an RCL. If approved, students must still maintain a minimum enrollment requirement, as follows:
- Undergraduate students must enroll in at least 1 credit hour (on-campus or hybrid).
- Graduate students:
- Non-thesis students must enroll in at least 1 credit hour (on-campus or hybrid).
- Students NOT defending within first 5 weeks of semester must enroll in at least 3 credit hours (on-campus or hybrid).
- Students defending within first 5 weeks of semester are required to submit the Start of Semester Defense Exception (SSDE) form to the Graduate School after obtaining the appropriate departmental signatures so they can be enrolled in the required 1 credit placeholder.
Once approved, a student's program end date will be updated if it does not already match their newly anticpated program completion date.
- If a student's current program end date is later than their newly anticipated completion date, then their end date will be updated to the official last day of the current semester.
- Graduate students defending within the first 5 weeks of the fall/spring semester will have their program end date updated to the end of the 7-week SSDE period in the fall/spring or the official end date of summer semester in August, if defending during the summer.
- If you are enrolled for 3 or more credit hours, you must maintain full health insurance coverage for the semester. hey must continue to maintain their medical insurance coverage. Full health insurance is not required if you are enrolled for Start of Semester Defense Exception. For any questions regarding medical insurance requirements, please contact the Student Medical Insurance office.
- If you are authorized for an RCL in your final term but do not complete your program, you will need to speak with an International Student Advisor about your options as soon as possible.
Students who are experiencing a medical condition or temporary illness are eligible to apply for an RCL. Per federal regulation, students are required to provide a recommendation letter from Schiffert Health Center, Cook Counseling Center, or another licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist that supports the student's request to reduce their course load to below full-time. The letter should:
- Be on official letterhead
- List the student's full name and date of birth
- Recommend either reduced enrollment or no enrollment
- Verify that a medical condition or temporary illness is or was present that impacted or is currently impacting the student's academic progress; Specific details of the medical condition or illness should not be stated in this documentation – only that a medical condition or illness exists.
- Students may request an RCL for medical reasons more than once, but may not exceed an aggregate of 12 months total per academic program level.
- RCL requests for medical reasons that exceed one semester must be requested and reauthorized for each new semester, including submitting new documentation.
- Students may not participate in on-campus or off-campus employment while authorized for a medical RCL.
- Students must resume a full-time course load in the next available semester in order to maintain student status unless they are reauthorized for a medical RCL.
- If a student will remain in the US while on an authorized medical RCL, they must continue to maintain their medical insurance coverage. For any questions regarding medical insurance requirements, please contact the Student Medical Insurance office.
You will need to submit the Reduced Course Load e-form that applies to your situation through the IntlHokies Portal, as follows:
Reduced Course Load Request (Academic) – for those having academic difficulties or in their final semester.
Reduced Course Load Request (Medical) – for those experiencing a medical condition or temporary illness.
Please be sure to have your recommendation letter ready before submitting your request. If you are a graduate student who will be requesting no enrollment, you are required to also submit a Request for Leave of Absence with your request. Please be sure to review the Graduate School's Leave of Absence policy completely and thoroughly if requesting no enrollment.
Full-time enrollment requirements during the fall and spring semesters are as follows:
- Undergraduate students must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours
- Graduate students without an assistantship must be enrolled in at least 9 credit hours
- Graduate students with an assistantship must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours
Virginia Tech recognizes that significant medical, psychiatric, or psychological problems can interfere with a student's ability to meet academic responsibilities. In some instances, students will wish to receive academic relief. At Virginia Tech, academic relief comes in the form of the Medical Review Advisory Committee and the student’s Dean devising a way of easing the student’s burden, whether by dropping a course, allowing the student to take an incomplete on courses, delaying exams, or, in some cases, withdrawing the student from the university for medical reasons.
Undergraduate and graduate students requesting a medical RCL may consider applying for academic relief either through Schiffert Health Center or Cook Counseling Center. If a student wishes to consider this option, we highly recommend that students review the website of the office they are already working with or that applies to their situation, and reaching out to them directly, along with their Academic Advisor.