Carnegie Mellon University

Courseload & Course Delivery Mode

To comply with immigration regulations, foreign students must meet certain course delivery modality and courseload requirements throughout their time at Carnegie Mellon. Students in F or J status must register for and complete a full course of study during each fall and spring semester in which they are enrolled. Students must check with their academic programs to confirm if full-time enrollment is required in the summer semester or if summer is considered a vacation semester.

Full Courseload

Immigration regulations require F-1 and J-1 students to enroll in a full course of study and make normal progress toward the completion of their program requirements. If allowed by the academic program, students may take an annual vacation semester, which is typically in the summer. At CMU, a full course of study is at least 36 units per semester, and may be higher in some graduate programs. Students should check with their graduate program for specific full-time enrollment program requirements.

Reduced Courseload

There are limited reasons why an F-1/J-1 student may enroll in less than a full-time. Students enrolled for less than full-time during the fall or spring (or summer for students who begin or will complete their program in the summer) must receive approval from their academic advisor and an OIE advisor before dropping to part-time to maintain legal status with immigration with an approved immigration Reduced Course Load (RCL) authorization.

Students requesting immigration approval for a reduced courseload or part-time enrollment need to complete the Advisor's Recommendation for Reduced Course Load Authorization (pdf) and submit this to OIE through the MyOIE portal. The student will be notified if OIE is able to approve the reduced courseload. Acceptable reasons for a reduced course load approval to maintain immigration status are:

  • During the first semester, a student may need to adjust to the English language and U.S. academic system. The academic advisor can recommend a lower courseload.
  • A student may have been placed in a course for which they do not have the background necessary, generally during the first semester. The academic advisor may recommend the student drop the course.
  • During the student's last semester. This applies only if allowed by the academic program, and fewer than 36 units are required to meet degree requirements. The academic advisor must document this on the Advisor's Recommendation for a Reduced Course Load (pdf) form. Some programs do not permit less than full-time enrollment even in the final semester.
  • If the student is experiencing an illness or medical condition, with documentation from a U.S. doctor advising that a withdrawal or reduced courseload is medically necessary, it may be possible for OIE to authorize a reduced courseload. 

Course Delivery Modality

Students must attend the school they were authorized to attend. Physical presence on campus is expected, and remote only or distance education is restricted. The HUB identifies the various course delivery modality types at Carnegie Mellon.  

Only one remote only course per semester may be used to count toward the full-time enrollment requirement.