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.

Full-time Coursework: TC defines full-time enrollment as 9 points of coursework. Anything below 9 credits is considered half-time or part-time enrollment. If you register for 9 points you are automatically considered full-time and in compliance with F-1 requirements. 

Please be advised starting Fall 2021 full time equivalency will be at 9 credits. More information can be found on the Office of the Registrar website

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 Psychology Internship CCPX 6460
    • School Psychology Internship HBSK 6480

Please refer to the Office of the Registrar website for additional information on full-time enrollment. 

Study During the Summer Vacation Period

You are not required to study during the summer vacation period, unless you are admitted to start your program in the summer. If you choose to enroll in courses during the regularly scheduled summer break, you may study on a part-time or full-time basis according to your own interest.

Online / Distance Education

No more than one on-line/distance education class  or 3 points per semester may be counted toward the full course of study requirement in the fall and spring terms. An on-line/distance education class is defined as one which does not require physical attendance at Teachers College to complete the course.

 *Please note: Before the COVID-19 health crisis, only one on-line course could count toward full-time enrollment. Due to the on-going public health concerns around COVID-19, temporary guidance have been applied to this limit to online courses for the duration of the health crisis. More information can be found under the FAQ section.   

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 University affiliate. 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 another SEVP certified institution. TC must be your primary institution, and the outside course(s) must receive the approval of your department and the OISS.  In order to receive approval for concurrent enrollment, bring a copy of the course description and registration to the OISS. 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 Students and Scholars. Please note that authorization for a reduced courseload may be granted only for the following situations:

  • Initial difficulty with the English language or with academic adjustment: Students who are experiencing initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements, who are unfamiliar with U.S. teaching methods, or who have been improperly placed in a course level may be authorized for reduced course enrollment from 9 credits to 6 credits. Students who have completed previous undergraduate or graduate work in the United States are not eligible for this type of reduced courseload. This type of reduced coursework may only be authorized for one term. 
  • Documented illness or medical condition: Students may be authorized to enroll for fewer than 9 credits or for no credits at all, if medically warranted. The student must provide medical documentation from a US licensed medical doctor, psychiatrist, doctor of osteopathy, licensed psychologist, or clinical psychologist to the OISS to substantiate the illness or medical condition.  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.
  • Final semester: Students in their last semester of studies may be authorized for reduced courseload, if less than 9 points (or the equivalent) are needed to complete their program.

You may request approval for a reduced courseload by submitting to the OISS a Reduced Courseload Request Form. If the OISS approves your request, you will receive an email 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

Pre-Approval by OISS Required?

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


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


Internship, Practicum or Fieldwork under Curricular Practical Training provisions

YES if paid**

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

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


Last semester of degree program (fewer than 9 points needed to complete degree requirements)


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

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


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