Frequently Asked Questions
Reduce Course Load
International students must be enrolled in a full-time course load of at least 12 credit hours each semester. Of those 12 credit hours, nine must be taken in the face-to-face, blended or hybrid format.
RCL stands for Reduced Course Load which is an approval required for any international student wishing to enroll in less than full-time credits. International students should never drop below full time without first consulting a Designated School Official (DSO).
A RCL form is an authorization form required for international students who want to drop below full time (below 12 credit hours). RCL forms must be completed and submitted before you drop below full time.
International students must enroll in and maintain at least 12 credit hours. If you’re enrolled in more than 12 credit hours, you’re permitted to drop classes without permission or prior approval, as long as you maintain 12 credit hours. For students who want to drop below 12 credit hours, prior approval from a DSO is required in addition to a RCL form.
Per federal regulations, there’re three circumstances where an F-1 student can be authorized to take less than a full-time course load:
- Academic difficulties
- Medical conditions
- Completion of a course of study
You must meet with a DSO to discuss your situation and explore options before dropping below full time. If it becomes necessary to drop below a full course load, you’ll need prior approval from a DSO and must complete a RCL form.
If you’re ill and must drop a class or classes due to medical reasons, you’ll need a note from a licensed doctor stating a recommended course load that you will maintain and the time period of the RCL. You may use a medical RCL for a year. Students authorized for a medical RCL will need to provide a doctor’s note for each semester and will need an RCL form for each semester.
International students in their final semester of classes only need to take the classes required for graduation. For example, if you only need six credit hours to graduate, you’re permitted to enroll in only six credit hours. Students in their final semester must take at least one face-to-face or hybrid class. You aren’t permitted to take all your courses online. You’re required to submit an RCL form and an evaluation showing that you’re enrolled in all the classes you need to graduate.
COA has an attendance policy that requires you to attend at least 90 percent of the semester. If you miss more than 10 percent, you’ll be withdrawn from the course by the instructor. International students who fall below full time, without prior approval, will have their F-1 status terminated. Students who are terminated can seek reinstatement of their F-1 status by USCIS. For more information on reinstatement and the costs associated with reinstatement, see a DSO.
COA offers tutoring to all students at no cost. If you’re enrolled in a class and having difficulty, go to the tutoring lab at your campus. We also offer Tutor, which is available 24 hours a day. You’re also encouraged to seek assistance from your instructor. After consulting all the options, you can meet with a DSO to see if you qualify to use an Academic RCL. Never drop below full time without first consulting the DSO on your campus.