Information for International Undergraduate Students
International students are an important part of the Stanford community. There is so much to study and experience at Stanford, and your presence on campus adds to the rich tapestry that is student life at the Farm. From the moment you arrive on campus for the International Student Orientation, to beyond your graduation from Stanford, you are a part of the greater Stanford family.
International students often approach Academic Advisors to discuss different considerations for academic planning and performance, sometimes in the context of your status as international students at Stanford. We are here to help you, but it is very important to also be in contact with an international student advisor at the Bechtel International Center, to make sure that you are up to date on the latest international student regulations and to make sure that you remain in status.
On this page we offer some general guidelines to clarify some of the common considerations for international undergraduate students, and to help direct you to important resources on campus.
Remaining in Status
As international students, it is important for you to be aware of and adhere to current regulatory developments as they apply to your status as a student at Stanford. The Stanford Immigration Issues and Resources page has helpful information on support for international students, travel guidance, and other resources.
Academically, all international students must be enrolled full-time to maintain legal visa status. This means that as an international undergraduate student, you must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 units for each quarter (autumn, winter, and spring). For this reason, you must see an Academic Advisor for a conversation before withdrawing from a course if it could result in your being enrolled below 12 units for the quarter. Any exceptions to the full-time enrollment rule must be approved by an International Student Advisor at Bechtel, so be sure to see them if you need an exception, for example, in the case of a documented medical reason.
Leave of Absence
A Leave of Absence (LOA) is required of students who wish to withdraw from the current quarter or who do not wish to attend a future quarter (autumn, winter, or spring). If, as an international student, you need to take a leave of absence, you will have to fill out the official eForm on Axess: log in to Axess, click on the Student tab, and choose “Student eForms” from the Quick Links menu. Click on “Available Forms” to search for the "Leave of Absence for Undergraduates" eForm.
You must, first, obtain the signature of a Bechtel International Center Advisor. Once you have met with Bechtel and obtained their signature, you then need to meet with your Academic Advisor and obtain their signature, and then obtain a signature from the Dean of Students Office. While you may meet with your Academic Advisor prior to meeting with Bechtel to discuss taking a leave of absence, your Academic Advisor will not be able to sign off until after your Bechtel International Center Advisor does.
There are specific requirements when taking a leave of absence as an international student. You may be required to leave the US during your leave of absence, and you may need to obtain a new I-20 prior to returning to Stanford at the end of your leave (depending on how long you’ve been away). It is important to pay attention to the timeline of these logistics, and to leave ample time to process everything (never do things last minute!). Information on leave of absence requirements, and more, can be found on the Bechtel website here.
CPT and OPT
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are authorized periods of employment for full-time international students on an F1 with D/S status. D/S means “duration of status,” which means that your student visa is valid as long as you are enrolled full time as a student.
CPT is available for those of you who have declared a major. A condition for CPT is that the internship or employment is a requirement for your degree program (major), or when the internship is offered through an official CPT course from your major department. For a practical internship that is a requirement for the degree program, you may or may not receive academic credit (units) for the CPT. For an internship that is offered through a CPT course, you will receive credit (units) for successful completion of the CPT course requirements. It is very important that you adhere to the deadlines and timelines of the CPT requirements, including obtaining a new I-20 form with CPT authorization prior to the internship start date.
OPT is an off-campus employment option for international students on an F-1 visa. You are allowed a total of 12 months of employment (with a STEM degree, it is possible to extend up to 24 months). While you can do as much CPT as your degree program requires, if you participate in 12 months or more of CPT, you will not be eligible for OPT. As always, reach out to Bechtel for information and details on OPT.
English Writing and Language Resources
There are many resources at Stanford to support students who wish to explore and develop English speaking and writing skills. We encourage you to utilize these resources and participate in some or all of the many programs offered on campus. The Hume Center provides free resources to all students at every stage of their academic career, and has programs in writing, speaking, and tutoring. You may choose to make an appointment to see a tutor, or go to drop-in tutoring, for writing and/or oral communication guidance.
There are also 1-2 unit courses that you may be interested in, such as ORALCOMM 105, Voice and Articulation Intensive for Non-Native English Speakers, and PWR 1WS, which is a Program in Writing and Rhetoric course designed for multilingual and/or international student writers.
Thursday English Afternoons (T.E.A.) is a wonderful free program that offers conversation practice for multilingual learners at Stanford. T.E.A. sessions meet each week during Weeks 3 through 10 of the quarter in the Hume Center. T.E.A. sessions offer an opportunity for general conversation practice and an introduction to academic speaking.
Want to thrive in your academics? Check out our page on free tutoring, academic skills coaching, and support courses to learn about all the academic resources available to you.
It's important to find ways to focus on your health, happiness, and well-being at Stanford. Our list of wellness resources on campus can give you a place to start!
Joining one of our eight community centers at Stanford can be a great way to find people you connect with. The community centers also host a number of academic resources, networking, mentorship, and leadership opportunities, and can help you get engaged with a broader community.