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Why NOT to drop classes in US Schools without consulting DSO or Student Advisor ?

Typically, in US schools, as a student you have the choice to register for more classes/ credits than you are required to take as a full time student. Many students register for more classes in order to understand the coursework load or sometime professor’s course plan and then make a choice before the class drop deadline with full refund.  It is a normal practice for general students. But, dropping classes could be tricky for international students. Let me share why you should be cautious as an International student.

Dropping Classes without consulting DSO is a BIG Mistake
In most of the American Universities, everything ranging from course load to awarding of degree is measured in terms of credits. Read article Credit hours, Full time Vs Part time to get an understanding of the system. Typically, in the first semester, many of the international students underestimate the course load and may sign-up for more courses. After a week or two, they realize, it is hard to handle and then drop classes.  The tricky part is that many do not understand the implications of underlying credits info and visa issues.

The rule of thumb is that as an international student, depending on the school, you are required to take certain number of credits( could be 9 credits or 6 Credits)  to be in full time student and legal F1 status. Failure to take enough number of credits, takes your Full time F1 status away and you can get out of status.  Often, students tend to miss the concept of credits in American education system and think  that “if I take n number of courses I should be fine”…the trick is that not all courses may carry same number of credits. So, lets say you are required to take 9 credits per semester to be in full time F1 visa status. Lets say, initially, you take 4 courses, of which, two of them are 3 credits courses and  two of them are 2 credits courses. Now, if you drop a 2 credits course, you are left with only 8 credits, which is less than the required numer of credits to keep yourself in legal status…it will put your F1 full time student status at risk..

Why Should you talk to DSO or International student advisor ?
All your F1 Student status issues, including Working on OPT, CPT  are handled by Designated School Official(DSO) or International student Advisor.  If you have taken more courses and cannot handle load, you can get a waiver from DSO to keep yourself in status, while taking less course load. DSO needs to update the same in your SEVIS records and other immigration documents…DSO knows all the intricacies of the immigration law and will help you…But, if you do not consult DSO and drop classes, you could be in dire situation and may have to file reinstatement of status, which can be a painful experience.

Have you dropped any classes ?
Any bad/ good experiences to share ?


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  1. Some schools have continuous enrollment policy which says that you must be enrolled at all times in at least one credit hour to retain the admit you got from the university. If you have dropped out of all the courses(and hence the credits), you no longer have admit into that university for future terms and you no longer belong to that school. And you will get a “W”(meaning withdrawn) on your transcript for all the courses that you dropped out of.

  2. I’m pursuing my MS and currently enrolled 9 credits, after 2 months I want to withdraw a course with “W”. Do I need to inform this for DSO, I payed fee for full 9 credits and not expecting any refund, will I be allowed to withdraw/drop course without any change in status?

    • Please read your university enrollment policy for international students and if you talk to your advisor about it, they will tell you more clearly what you should and should not do. Talking to your advisor is a way not to get into trouble.

  3. And the number of credits to maintain for an undergrad student is 12, while 9 for masters as mentioned in the article.


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