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Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Office of International Services

F-1 Student Status > F-1 Full Course of Study Requirement

F-1 Full Course of Study Requirement

F-1 students under U.S. immigration regulations are required to pursue a full course of study while at Teachers College. Failure to comply with this regulation may lead to termination of your status as well as all F-1 employment benefits, including on-campus employment.

You may meet the full course of study requirement in one of two ways.

  1. Full-time Coursework (register for 12 points/credits of coursework): TC defines 12 points of coursework credit as full-time; anything below 12 credits is considered 'half-time' or 'part-time.' If you register for 12 credits you are automatically considered full-time and in compliance with F-1 requirements. You are also automatically considered full-time if you register for certain advanced doctoral / dissertation advisement courses, including:
    • Dissertation Advisement 8900 or 8901
    • Clinical Psychology Internship CCPX 6430
    • Counseling Pscyhology Internship CCPX 6460
    • School Psychology Internship HBSK 6480
  2. Full-time Equivalency (register for the equivalent of 12 points by filing a Certificate of Equivalency, orCOE).  If you are taking fewer than 12 points of coursework credit, you may still obtain 'full-time equivalency' if you are also engaged in non-credit academic activities directly related to your degree program.  These activities must be indicated on a Certificate of Equivalency (COE) form from the Office of the Registrar. The COE must be approved by both your academic advisor and the Registrar by the end of the add / drop period (two weeks after classes begin), such that the total number of coursework and equivalency points equals 12.

A COE may be approved for appropriate non-credit academic activities, such as:

  • Preparation for required language or comprehensive examinations
  • Supervised research for the master's thesis or integrative project
  • Supervised research for the doctoral dissertation requirement
  • Required or elective internship / fieldwork / practicum / student teaching
  • Graduate research or teaching assistantship

For the autumn / spring semester the Registrar will grant the equivalent of 1 point for every 3 hours of approved activity. For example, if you are spending 6 hours per week studying for your comprehensive examinations, you would be granted the equivalent of 2 points of coursework. You must have a total of 12 points of coursework or COE-approved activity in order to be considered full-time.

Study During the Summer Vacation Period

You are not required to study during the summer vacation period. If you choose to study, you may study on a part-time or full-time basis according to your own interest.

On-Line / Distance Education

During the autumn / spring semesters, no more than one on-line/distance education class (for a maximum of 3 credits) per semester may be counted toward the full course of study requirement. An on-line/distance education class is defined as one which does not require physical attendance at Teachers College to complete the course.

Concurrent Enrollment

In certain exceptional situations, you may find it necessary to take courses at an outside (non-Columbia) institution in order to meet your degree requirements. This may arise if you are required to take prerequisites or other required courses that are not offered by Teachers College or another Columbia faculty. In such situations, you may request authorization for 'concurrent enrollment,' which allows you to meet the full course of study requirement by taking courses at both TC and an outside institution such that the combined number of credits is 12 or more. TC must be your primary institution, and the outside course(s) must receive the approval of your department and the OIS.  In order to receive approval for concurrent enrollment, bring a copy of the course description and registration to the OIS. Approval is semester-by-semester.

Reduced Courseload for F-1 Students

In certain circumstances, an F-1 student may request authorization to engage in a reduced courseload (part-time study). A reduced courseload may be granted only in specific situations. You must request pre-approval for a reduced courseload directly from the Office of International Services. Please note that authorization for a reduced courseload may be granted only for the following situations:

  • If you are new to U.S. higher education and are having initial difficulty with the English language or with academic adjustment, you may be authorized to reduced from 12 credits to 9 credits (students who have completed previous graduate work in the United States are not eligible for this type of reduced courseload)
  • If you have a documented illness or medical condition, you may be authorized to enroll for fewer than 12 credits (or for no credits at all, if medically warranted). This authorization is granted for one semester at a time and must be re-authorized if the illness or condition persists. A reduced course load for medical conditions can be granted for no more than 12 months in the aggregate during any one course of study.
  • If you are in the final semester of your degree program and do not need 12 points (or the equivalent) to complete the degree.

You may request approval for a reduced courseload by downloading and submitting to the OIS a Reduced Courseload Request Form. If the OIS approves your request, you will receive an updated I-20 indicating the dates for which the reduced courseload has been authorized.

A Summary

How an F-1 student maintains a "full course of study" for Immigration purposes:

Fall and Spring Semesters

COE filed by end of Add/Drop Required?

Pre-Approval by Int'l Services Required?

12 points of coursework (no more than 1 course/3pts. through on-line/distance ed. may be counted toward full course of study)

NO

NO

Activities directly related to degree program (prep. for exams; thesis, project, or dissertation research; student teaching, internship, etc.)

YES

NO

Internship, Practicum or Fieldwork under Curricular Practical Training provisions

YES

YES(if paid)**

Research, teaching or graduate assistantship (less than 20 hrs/week)

YES

NO if TC, YES if CU***

Reduced course load for initial difficulty with English, unfamiliarity with US teaching methods, improper course level placement, illness or medical condition

NO

YES

Last semester of degree program (fewer than 12 points needed to complete degree requirements)

NO

YES

**For paid internship, practicum or fieldwork, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) must be authorized by the Office of International Services before employment can begin.

*** Employment paperwork through TC or CU Human Resources must be completed before employment can begin.

Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
Box 7, 525 W 120th Street
New York, New York 10027-6696
Phone: (212) 678-3939 ♦ ~ Fax: (212) 678-3990 ♦ Email: