International Student: Your Program Plan and Enrollment Choices

The idealized view of an undergraduate international student’s sojourn in the U.S. is that the student

  • Enters the U.S. knowing exactly what they want to study and never deviates from the plan
  • Enrolls full-time every Fall and Spring semester and never fails any classes
  • Never gets homesick, distressed or distracted by culture shock
  • Never becomes ill or suffers an injury that interferes with full-time enrollment
  • Completes their program in 8 semesters, no more, no less and graduates in May
  • Engages in 12 months of employment known as Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Leaves the U.S. at the end of OPT

The real student experience can be quite different

  • Indecision about a program of study – STEM or Non-STEM
  • Classes that exceed one’s ability to be successful
  • Cultural distractions that interfere with studies
  • Family emergencies that require leaving the U.S. for a term
  • Medical issues slowing one’s progress
  • Study Abroad opportunities
  • Internship and research opportunities
  • Required military service
  • Accelerating your program and finishing early

All of these things and many more can alter an ideal plan and many would require changes in SEVIS – new majors, Reduced Course Load, Leave of Absence, Internships, Optional Practical Training.

Nearly all of these topics should trigger a conversation with the ISA. Read further to learn more.