Reduced Course Load (RCL)
If an F-1 student is having specified initial academic difficulties , a temporary illness or medical condition, or needs fewer courses than a full course load in his/her last term to complete the program of study,  international student advisors (DSOs) may authorize a reduced course load (RCL). Regulations provide limited reasons for granting an RCL.

Academic Difficulties

A student may apply for reduced course load due to academic difficulties if an academic advisor verifies their situation. Immigration regulations specify four academic difficulty reasons for which a reduced course load may be approved:
  • Initial difficulties with the English language (usable only in student’s first year)
  • Initial difficulties with reading requirements (usable only in student’s first year)
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  • Improper course level placement
A student may be authorized for an Academic Difficulties RCL basis only for a single term during any one course of study at a particular program level, and must resume a full course of study at the next available term (excluding summer).
Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(A)]

Medical Conditions

A student must apply for RCL if, due to a temporary illness or medical condition, he/she is unable to be enrolled full time (or, if necessary, no course load).  The student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist, to the ISSS to substantiate the illness or medical condition.
  • A recommendation from the medical provider must recommend either that the student be part time or not enrolled due to medical circumstances.
  • A reduced course load for a medical condition can be granted for a period of time not to exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursing a course of study at a particular program level.
  • The student must provide current medical documentation and ISSS must authorize the drop below full time for each new term.
Source: [8 CFR § 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(B)]