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F-1 Full Course Study

PLEASE READ:

The primary focus of your experience in the U.S. is the successful completion of your course of study, the degree program for which you are enrolled at BYU.

This means that during your initial semester or term and each enrollment period thereafter, except for vacations and approved exceptions, you are required to be a full-time student making normal progress toward the completion of your program requirements.

Be advised that under federal regulations, you are not allowed to complete your course of study during a vacation period and still remain in lawful status to be eligible for benefits like OPT.

Since there are several nuances to this rule, please contact International Student and Scholar Services if you have questions regarding your particular circumstances.

What does it mean to be a full-time student?

As an undergraduate, you are required to complete at least:

  • 12 credit hours for each required semester
    • If you would like to take an online class, you must take at least 9 credits of in-person or blended classes in addition to the online classes.
    • If you have at least 9 credits in-person, you are not limited to the number of online classes you are permitted to take.
  • 6 credit hours for each required term
    • If you would like to take an online class, you must take at least 4.5 credits of in-person or blended classes in addition to the online classes.
    • If you are taking spring/summer terms as a full-time student, you may take a 3 credit online class if you take at least 9 credits in-person between both terms.

As a graduate, you are required to complete at least:

  • 9 hours for each required semester
    • If you would like to take an online class, you must take at least 6 credits of in-person or blended classes.
    • If you have at least 6 credits in-person, you are not limited to the number of online classes you are permitted to take.
  • 4.5 hours for each required term
    • If you would like to take an online class, you must take at least 3 credits of in-person or blended classes in addition to the online classes.
    • If you are taking spring/summer terms as a full-time student, you may take a 3 credit online class if you take at least 6 credits in-person between both terms.

Important Information Regarding Class Completion:

Independent Study credits do not count as required credits

  • We highly recommend that students do not start an Independent Study class during their last semester because extensions of an I-20 will not be approved to complete an Independent Study course.

Withdrawal (W) grades

  • Do not count toward your total minimum hours.
  • DO NOT withdraw from any class after the add/drop deadline without first clearing it with International Student and Scholar Services.

If you do not take a full course of study, you will be out of status unless you are approved to take less credits (please see information below).

You should plan to finish your course of study by the end date listed under "Program of Study" on page 1 of your Form I-20.

What if I can't or don't take the required credits?

Only the following situations, properly documented and approved by International Student Services before reducing your credit hours, will qualify you to maintain your F-1 status without being registered in a full course of study:
  • Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods or improper course level placement

    • Obtain a letter(s) from your teacher(s) and/or advisor explaining your situation and recommending the reduction in studies.
      • You must take a minimum of six hours.
      • Supporting statements must be written on institution letterhead and include the date and appropriate signature.
    • Bring your letter(s) to International Student Services and consult with your advisor. If authorized, you may reduce your credit hours for the current semester or term only.
  • Participation in a graduate assistantship which would limit your ability to appropriately attend to a full course of study

    • You must register for at least six credit hours.
    • Bring your TA or RA contract to International Student Services when you seek approval of an exception to your full course of study.
  • An illness or other medical condition that interrupts your ability to maintain a full course of study

    • You should obtain a statement from a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed counseling psychologist recommending the interruption or reduction in studies.
      • Medical statements must be written on institution letterhead and include the date and appropriate signature.
    • If you wish to work, please have your doctor indicate in your letter that you are able to do so.
      • You cannot work if you drop to 0 credit hours.
    • If necessary, you may use a total of 12 months approved medical reduction during your course of study. Beyond that, if further medical assistance is necessary, USCIS requires that you return to your home country.
  • Undergraduate — less than a full course of study is needed to complete your program during your last semester or term

    • Obtain a signed, dated letter on letterhead from your department stating the current semester is your last semester or term.
    • Submit the letter to International Services.
    • If you are employed on campus, at the same time, complete a Last Semester Option Form and submit it to Employment Services.

    Graduate — completed all course work and are preparing for comprehensive examinations or are engaged in research on your thesis or dissertation, you are only required to maintain matriculation (thesis credits)

    • Obtain a signed, dated letter on letterhead from your department that you have completed your coursework but have remaining research or dissertation/thesis hours before completion of your degree.
    • Submit the letter to International Services.
    • If you are employed on campus, at the same time, complete a Last Semester Option Form and submit it to Employment Services.
  • You are not required to register for classes during your annual vacation period — typically during the spring and summer terms —if you are eligible and intend to register for the next semester or term.

    However, you may not graduate during your vacation period, so you will need to take a full-course of study or last semester option (see the Program Completion tab) during your last semester/term.

    Check with International Services if you have any questions about your vacation eligibility.