Reduced Course Load

Reduced Course Load
Academic Difficulty
Medical RCL
Final Semester RCL
Thesis, Dissertation or Qualifying Exam Stage

Reduced Course Load (RCL)

International students who plan to be enrolled for part time studies must submit the Reduced Course Load form to OIS in a timely manner. Graduate Engineering students must submit the Viterbi RCL form instead. There are only a few exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement for the fall and spring semesters. Each exception has its own criteria, which are outlined below.

All RCL forms are due by the first day of classes of each semester. The form must be approved by the student’s academic advisor prior to submission to OIS:

  • Graduate Engineering students must receive approval from their advisor at the Viterbi GAPP Office using the online Viterbi RCL Form 
  • All other students must receive approval from their academic department advisor

Please note that registration is not required in summer semesters, unless it is the student’s first or last semester.

Online Courses: Only 3 units or one online course per semester is applicable to the full-time enrollment total.
Audit Courses: Audit course units are not applicable to the full-time enrollment total.

F-1/J-1 students should not drop below full-time enrollment until they have received authorization from OIS. Students who drop below full-time enrollment without the proper authorization from OIS will be considered out of status. 

J-1 students not sponsored by USC do not need to submit the RCL request to OIS (For example: IIE, BSMP, etc). The RCL should be submitted directly to your program sponsor.

RCL and On-Campus Employment

Students who will have on-campus employment during the semester they wish to be authorized for RCL should review these on-campus employment requirements.


Academic Difficulty (RCL)

Students may request an RCL due to academic difficulty only once per degree level. To be eligible for an RCL  based on academic difficulty, students must be registered in a minimum of 6 units (undergraduate), 4 units (graduate), 3 units (doctorate) and must resume a full course of study in the next available semester in order to maintain status. Academic difficulty could be due to the following reasons:

  • Difficulty with English language*^+
  • Difficulty with reading requirements*^+
  • Unfamiliarity with US teaching methods*^+
  • Improper course placement*+

* Can be used one semester only per degree level
^ Can be used during first year of program only
+ Must be registered in a minimum of 6 units (undergraduate), 4 units (graduate), 3 units (doctorate)


Medical RCL

OIS may authorize a medical RCL due to a temporary medical (physical or mental) condition with an appropriate doctor’s letter recommending the RCL for medical reasons. Students must receive prior approval from OIS for the medical RCL. To submit a medical RCL, F-1 students must meet with an OIS Counselor and J-1 students must meet with the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program Coordinator at OIS.

Requirements of Medical RCL:

  • Letter from licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist that recommends student to take less than the minimum units required for full time enrollment
  • Receive prior approval from OIS and academic department before dropping classes
  • No more than 12 months (3 semesters) total of Medical RCL is permitted per degree level. The 12 month aggregate total includes semesters in which a student has taken a Leave of Absence (LOA) for medical reasons and remained in the US to receive treatment

If a doctor believes that a student is unable to enroll in any units due to physical or mental health reasons, then the student should consider a Medical Leave of Absence.


Final Semester RCL

OIS may authorize a final semester RCL for students who are in their final semester of study and only have a few units remaining to meet academic program requirements.  Students may request an RCL due to final semester only once per degree program.


Thesis, Dissertation or Qualifying Exam Stage

Graduate students who register for thesis, dissertation or qualifying exams (GRSC 800) are considered to be enrolled full time although the number of units enrolled will be below the normal full-time course load.

An RCL form is not required for students at these stages in their academic program.