What is a course overload?

A course overload is any course(s) or credits (semester hours) in a semester beyond the standard number required for timely degree completion. For undergraduate students who normally take 15-17 credits for full-time status, an overload would be anything beyond 17 credits.  For graduate students who normally take 6 credits for full-time status, an overload would be 9-12 credits.

Undergraduates: Requests for course loads greater than 17 credits (semester hours) must be submitted to Records and Registration for approval. HU policy requires that students have a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher to request an overload

Graduates: After the first semester, course loads beyond 2 courses/6 credits are allowed for Graduate students who may register themselves for up to 4 courses/12 credits; 12 credits is the HU credit-load limit per semester

Why would I need to take an overload?

There are different reasons for why a student on F-1 status may need or want to overload courses.

Course Overloads for Making Up Lost Credits

F1 students are strongly encouraged to take overloads to make up for any lost credits needed to complete degree programs on time. On time means by the Program End Date listed on page one of your I-20. Degree completion by the program end date is the expectation of the US government for F-1 visa holders with very few exceptions.

ISO will implement strict adherence to federal regulations governing Program Extension requests. Ending your degree program on time is required by DHS/ICE/SEVP for maintenance of status. To protect your investment in your education, please be aware of the following:

  • Program Extensions require eligible reasons. Losing credits due to failing courses is not an eligible reason
  • Periods of Probation are not eligible reasons
  • Making “normal academic progress” is a requirement of F-1 status
  • Taking GRAD 695 in the last semester leaving no time for GRAD or Program 699 is not an eligible reason
  • Taking courses outside the degree program requirements without a declared change of program or concentration is not an eligible reason for an extension
  • Taking courses out of sequence is not an eligible extension reason

What if I fail a course in my last semester?

F-1 students are strongly encouraged to work closely and directly with their professors if there is any risk of failing a course in the final semester. A failed course in itself is NOT an eligible reason for a program extension. Please be very careful to ensure your academic success in your final semester.    

Course Overloads for Graduating Early

Graduate students may overload courses in order to graduate earlier than the expected graduation date so that they may apply for post-completion OPT earlier.  If interested, make sure to consult with the Office of Records and Registration.

Once an earlier graduation date is confirmed by the Registrar, the graduate student must inform the ISO so that the program end date can be updated in SEVIS.  A student is eligible to apply for OPT from 90 days before the program end date in SEVIS.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In the event that a graduate student discovers taking three courses in one semester is too much and they need to drop or withdraw from a course, they must withdraw from one of the online courses.  F-1 graduate students must always stay enrolled in the executive format course in order to maintain status.


Please keep yourself informed about DHS regulations: Homepage | Study in the States (dhs.gov).

If you have additional questions, please reach out isohelp@harrisburgu.edu. Please read Program Extension policy HERE.