Enrollment Requirements & Academic Part-Time Authorization

Full-Time Courseload

F-1 & J-1 students are required by federal law to register full-time every fall and spring semester during their programs of study.  Full-time registration is considered to be 12 s.h. for undergrads and 9 s.h. for graduate students.

Summer Sessions

Registration during the summer session is not required unless it is the first semester of study OR a student has changed to a new degree level which becomes effective during a summer session.  In these cases, 6 s.h. is considered full-time for undergrads and 5 s.h. for graduate students.

Concurrent Enrollment at Another College or University 

Students may also wish to take a course or two at a nearby college and apply that credit to the degree program at the University of Iowa.  This is called concurrent enrollment.  Students must have been enrolled at the UI for a minimum of one semester to be eligible and must still be enrolled in a minimum of 6 s.h. at the University of Iowa to qualify.

Study Abroad

International students who participate in a formal study abroad program through the University of Iowa Study Abroad office can be considered full-time if registration with the University of Iowa is maintained each fall/spring semester and at least 12 s.h. (undergrads) or 9 s.h. (graduate students) will be transferred to the University of Iowa following the program.  Students must also fill out a special form with their Study Abroad advisor.

Registering Below Full-Time

In some situations, F-1 & J-1 degree-seeking students may qualify to enroll below full-time.  The reasons are very limited, and generally relate to first-year adjustment and academic situations.  The reasons include:

  • Academic Difficulty - If a degree-seeking student is in his/her first year of study in the U.S. and is experiencing (1) initial difficulty with the English language, (2) unfamiliarity with American teaching methods, or (3) initial difficulty with reading requirements.  It may also include Improper Course Level, where a student is at any point in the program of study and has registered for a course that is too advanced or difficult for their level.  Academic Difficulty can be used only once, and students must still take at least 6 semester hours.
  • Undergraduate or Master's degree candidates in their final semester of study.  This option may only be used once per degree level.  Students must graduate in the semester for which they received this approval.
  • Students who are experiencing serious medical issues may also seek limited permission to drop below full-time, not to exceed 12 months.

Other students who may qualify for a reduced course load are students whose enrollment is considered "full-time equivalent."  These students include:

  • Graduate degree-seeking students who have completed or will complete all course work during the current semester and are making normal progress on a required thesis/dissertation or comprehensive examination.
  • Graduate degree-seeking students who hold an assistantship and are registered for a minimum of 6 s.h.
  • Students participating in a full-time on-campus clinical program in Dentistry
  • Students participating in the TAPE or Iowa Intensive English program.  These courses earn no credit but are considered equivalent to 3 s.h. by the ISSS.  Ex. Undergrad is registered in one IIEP class and 9 s.h.; consequently, the student's enrollment may be considered full-time equivalent

Permission for a Reduced Course Load

Students who wish to receive authorization to register below full-time, or who are engaged in concurrent enrollment at another college or university, must request permission from ISSS.  You can get this permission by following the instructions below:


  1. Login to your iHawk account (click the blue login button) using your HawkID and password. Go to "Other Student Services" and complete the e-form "Part-Time Authorization for Academic Reason."
  2. Once you complete the e-form, your academic advisor will need to review it. Your advisor will receive an email message from ISSS which will provide a link to review your request. Your advisor will be asked to comment on your request.  
  • If you are advised by the Academic Advising Center, you must make an appointment to meet with your advisor before they will approve the e-form request. 
  • If you are advised in an academic department, your departmental advisor may also prefer that you schedule an appointment to meet with them; it is a good idea to inform your academic advisor that he/she has been sent an email from the ISSS that will need to be reviewed and approved.
  1. After your advisor comments on your e-form request, ISSS will review your request.  Once we see that everything is in order, we will send you a confirmation email stating that we have received and processed your request.

Note for Academic Advisors:  If you are unable to read the full reasons on iHawk, they are as follows:

  • Academic Difficulty:  First year of study in the US and having trouble adjusting because of academic difficulty,
  • Enrolled in Iowa Intensive English Program (IIEP) courses,
  • Enrolled at an improper course level (i.e. coursework is too advanced for the student),
  • Bachelors or Masters student in final semester of study (is graduating this semester),
  • Has a Graduate Assistantship and is enrolled in at least 6 s.h.,
  • Graduate student done with coursework and preparing for comprehensive examinations,
  • Graduate student done with coursework completing Thesis/Dissertation,
  • Enrolled in TAPE (Teaching Assistant Preparation in English) Program,
  • Participating in full-time clinical program in Dentistry,
  • Student is concurrently enrolled at another institution in credit that will transfer to the UI.

Reminder about Long Distance Education/On-Line Classes

Only one on-line or distance education class (up to 3 s.h.) can be counted each semester toward full-time equivalency.  The class is considered “on-line” or “distance education” if it does not require the student’s physical attendance in a classroom for classes, exams, or “other purposes integral to completion of the class.”  These include courses offered “principally through the use of television, audio, or computer transmission, including open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, satellite, audio conferencing, or computer conferencing.” J-1 students cannot count any online course toward full-time enrollment.