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Reduced Course Load (RCL)

Last updated on Jun 28, 2022

Federal immigration regulations require F-1 students to be enrolled full time every semester, with only very specific reasons the ISAP office may authorize a reduced course load (RCL), allowing a student to drop below full-time.

All students must be approved for a RCL before they drop, withdraw, or stop attending courses. Doing any of these things without first obtaining approval from ISAP may put you in violation of your F-1 status.

A reduced course load may only be authorized for the following reasons:

Final Semester

If it is your final semester at CCA, and you need fewer than 12 credits (for undergraduates) or fewer than 9 credits (for graduate students) to finish your degree, you can apply for a final semester reduced course load. This means that you will only need to take the number of units you have left to graduate.

For final semester RCLs, you only need to submit the following document:


A medical RCL may be authorized at any point in a student’s studies, if they are experiencing a physical or mental health issue sufficiently serious that they are unable to continue with a full course load. A medical RCL is approved for one semester at a time, and a student is limited to a maximum of three semesters of medical RCL per degree level.

If you are requesting a medical RCL, you must submit the following documents:

  • Reduced Course Load (RCL) Authorization Request
  • Documentation from a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or clinical psychologist licensed in the U.S. Please see step 2 of the RCL request process below for detailed information on the requirements for medical documentation.


A student may only be authorized for an academic RCL once (one semester) per degree level. Additionally, since the academic reasons for a RCL relate to a student’s initial difficulties transitioning to American academic life, a student must generally be in their first semester at CCA to be eligible. Academic RCLs will not be approved for students past their first year, with the possible exception of the improper course level placement reason. While on an academic RCL, a student must be enrolled in at least 6 units.

Academic RCLs can be granted for the following reasons:

  • Academic reason I: Initial difficulty with the English language
  • Academic reason II: Initial difficulty with reading requirements
  • Academic reason III: Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  • Academic reason IV: Improper course-level placement

If you are requesting a RCL for an academic reason, you must submit both of the following documents:

How to apply for a reduced course load:

Step 1: Download the Reduced Course Load (RCL) Authorization Request. If you are requesting a final semester or medical RCL, you will need to get your program advisor (undergrads) or program manager (graduate students) to sign the form. A signature on this form is not required for academic RCL requests.

Step 2: Determine what, if any, supplemental documentation you must include with your RCL Authorization Request form. Final semester RCL requests do not require supplemental documentation; only a completed Reduced Course Load (RCL) Authorization Request form is required.

Academic RCL requests require completion of the Supplemental Form for Academic RCL Requests. You will fill out section 1 of this form, explaining in detail why you need a reduced course load. Please attach additional pages or documentation if you need more room. Then, based on the specific academic reason you are requesting the RCL, have either section 2 or section 3 of the supplemental form completed.

  • For academic reasons I, II, III use section 2. This means having the instructor whose class you are requesting to drop complete question I, and meeting with your academic advisor (undergrads) or program manager (graduate students) to review the academic implications of a RCL and having them sign question II.
  • For academic reason IV use section 3. Your program advisor (undergrads) or program manager (graduate students) will complete and sign section 3.

Medical RCL requests require documentation from a licensed medical provider. Documentation must:

  • Be from a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or clinical psychologist licensed in the United States.
  • Be on the doctor’s official letterhead with an original signature.
  • Confirm that in the doctor’s professional medical opinion, it would be unadvisable for you to pursue a full-time course of study for the current term.

Step 3: Make an appointment with an ISAP advisor to turn in the completed Reduced Course Load (RCL) Authorization Request form, along with any supporting documentation.

Step 4: After being notified by ISAP that your RCL has been approved, you may register for the approved number of credits or drop below full-time status to the approved number of credits.

Important Additional Information

  • If you received a scholarship from CCA, dropping below full-time enrollment may affect your scholarship. Contact the Financial Aid office to discuss your situation and the effect an approved RCL might have on your scholarship.
  • If you are living in CCA housing, please contact the Office of Housing and Residential Life to let them know about your RCL, since your ability to remain in housing may be affected.
  • Being on a reduced course load also means that you will not be automatically enrolled in CCA's health insurance plan for the semester you are on RCL. You must email and request to be added to the health insurance plan before the add/drop deadline of the semester during which you will be on RCL.
  • If you have an on campus job through the CCA Workstudy program, please note that you must be enrolled for at least 6 units to continue to work on campus. For questions about Workstudy, please contact the Financial Aid office.