Requesting a Reduced Courseload (RCL)

All F-1/J-1 students are required to enroll full-time every semester, with limited exceptions. A reduced course load (RCL) is permission to be registered below full-time during a semester if you qualify for one of the exceptions.

Applying Online
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Beginning 9AM Friday, March 10 through 11 AM Monday, March 13, you will not to be able to submit or upload any ISSO applications (including this one) as we conduct our Compass database migration. Do not worry, you will be able to submit applications again starting 12:00 PM Monday, March 13. We are sorry for any inconvenience.

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Need to Know: 

  • You are allowed to be less than full-time in the final term of your degree program without permission or further action. You do not have to be registered full-time if you do not need a full-time course load to complete your degree requirements.  It is permitted by your status, and you do not need permission for an RCL.

    Exception: if your academic program has a minimum registration requirement of all its students, you need to follow the academic requirements of your program.
     
  • You need to inform us when your final term is earlier than your current I-20 or DS-2019.

    Once you inform us by submitting the permission for RCL form, we will change the program end date in your ISSO and SEVIS records and will issue you an updated COE (I-20 or DS-2019). We will email you when it is ready to be picked up or mailed to you. Refer to Final Term Reminders for deadlines associated with your amended program end date.
     
  • You need to request and be granted permission from us for an RCL for all other exceptions prior to dropping below full-time enrollment. 

Before You Apply

Eligibility

In order to request an RCL, you must be experiencing one of following criteria:

1) Academic difficulties during your first academic year in a degree program. This exception may be used one time only in your first year. You must be experiencing one of the following:

  • initial difficulty with the English language
  • initial difficulty with reading requirements
  • unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods
  • improper course level placement. This means not having the prerequisites or preparation for a course and is not limited to the first year.

2)  Temporary medical or mental health difficulties, An RCL is limited to a total of 12 months for the duration of the degree program.

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How to Request an RCL

Steps to apply for a reduced course load
Step 1.

Submit the RCL Form

Discuss your situation with your academic advisor. If the advisor supports your request for an RCL, submit this form and use his or her contact information.

Step 2.

Email Your Required Documents

Send an email to isso@columbia.edu with the item(s) below attached as one pdf. Put Request for RCL in the subject line.

Step 3.

We will review your request

If approved we will notify you by email (typically in 5 business days).

Step 4.

Contact your school (after approval)

Once you are approved, check with your school to determine how you may drop your course(s) if it is past the add/drop period.