Special Advising Issues for International Students

Requirements for Full-Time Enrollment

To maintain their visa status, undergraduate international students must be enrolled in at least 12 credits per semester. Because of this, it is often a good idea for international students to consider registering for enough credits so that they could drop one class and still remain full-time.

Students who are sponsored may have additional requirements set by their sponsors. For example, some students might be required to enroll for at least 15 credits per semester, while others may only be allowed to take online courses if those courses are not offered through resident instruction. Students are responsible for knowing the requirements of their sponsors, but it is helpful for advisers to know that these additional requirements sometimes exist.

Web Courses and Full-Time Enrollment

Only one 3-credit World Campus, online, or distance education course may be used toward full-time enrollment each semester. It is important to remind students of this restriction when they are planning their schedules. Details of this policy are available from the University Office of Global Programs website.

Exceptions to Full-Time Enrollment

The criteria for exceptions are listed below and are posted online by the University Office of Global Programs (UOGP) at Full-Time Enrollment and Exceptions. Possible reasons for exceptions include academic difficulty, last semester enrollment, work on thesis, preparing for comprehensive exam, and medical/psychological reasons.

If a student wants to drop below full-time for academic difficulty reasons, support from the adviser is needed. The student should first make an appointment to discuss the possibility of dropping below full-time with the adviser and then fill out the Reduced Course Load form on iStart.

An email will be sent to the adviser asking him or her to either support or decline to support the student's request. In deciding whether the request should be supported, it is important to check whether the student has made a genuine effort to be successful with the course by attending class, attempting to complete assignments, and meeting with the instructor. The course instructor may be able to give feedback that is helpful for making a decision. The student should wait until the request is approved before dropping the class.

Enrollment at Another Institution

The University Office of Global Programs states: Students are not allowed to enroll at Penn State and another institution at the same time without prior permission. Courses taken concurrently at another institution typically do not count toward the full-time requirement for international students.

Leave of Absence

If a student needs to take a leave of absence, he/she will need to follow appropriate procedures for leaving and returning to Penn State, available online.

Students who plan to take a leave of absence should be aware of how it will affect their pool semester and entrance to major, if applicable.

Plans of Study

Often, sponsored students are required to complete an academic plan of the courses that they will complete each semester and then submit the plan to their sponsor. The students should first try to create the plan on their own and can use the recommended academic plans for reference. Advisers should provide feedback and suggestions for revisions. After the plan is satisfactory and has been signed, the adviser should scan it and upload it to EARS (under "Add New Document").

Help with English

Penn State students are required to successfully complete ENGL 015, which requires students to have familiarity with English writing and grammar skills.

If a student requires additional assistance with English skills, ESL 015 provides instruction in areas such as grammar and improving cohesion and coherence in writing. ESL 005 is the tutorial supplement to ESL 015.

Other resources include:

  • Penn State Learning, which offers peer tutoring, study groups, and team work spaces, provides students writing support through their programs. For more information, go to their website.
  • Global Connections, a community-based, non-profit organization, has a list of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes as well as a list of private ESL tutors.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for all international students. If a student does not have health insurance, a hold may be placed on his or her account. For additional information about health insurance requirements, visit the University Health Services website.

Financial Aid

Financial aid for international students is very limited.

From the Office of Student Aid: Penn State does not offer student financial aid for international students. If you are in the U.S. on a student or visitor visa, you are not eligible for federal and state financial aid programs. These programs require you to be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or permanent resident of the United States. Financial aid for international students is generally limited to outside scholarships. You may be able to borrow a private loan if a U.S. citizen is willing to serve as a co-signer, but there are few of these opportunities available.

The College of Engineering does offer some financial aid to students. International students can be considered for most of these scholarships, except those scholarships that specify that only U.S. citizens are eligible.

For other resources for financial aid, go to the Office of Student Aid or the University Office of Global Programs.

On-Campus Employment

F-1 and J-1 international students are allowed to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session.

Contact Information for University Office of Global Programs

Current and prospective international students can get additional guidance from the University Office of Global Programs.

College of Engineering advisers can receive support by contacting the University Office of Global Programs at DISSA-Adviser@psu.edu or by calling 814-865-6348 (option #2).