Graduate Student Handbook
International Graduate Students
The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allows a duration of not more than three years for a master’s degree and not more than six years for a doctorate, after the B.S. degree. Students entering a Ph.D. program with a master’s degree are allowed not more than four years to complete the degree. Extensions can be made by the DHS, with approval from the student’s academic adviser and the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA).
All international graduate students should become familiar with DISSA. This office is designed specifically for the special needs of international students, including their visas. Each semester, DISSA conducts a mandatory orientation program for new students. This orientation is held one week prior to registration. Some of the many benefits of this program are:
- Providing an opportunity for international students to become familiar with campus before the arrival of other new students
- Providing an opportunity to obtain a social security number, telephone service, etc.
- Providing information about shopping, apartments, school registration for children, etc.
All international students on F-1 or J-1 visas must be registered as full-time students during both fall and spring semesters in order to maintain a proper visa status. The minimum load for full-time student is nine credits per semester. A student must get written approval from DISSA for registering less than nine credits in a semester, with the consent of the academic advisor. This could happen when the student is working on his/her thesis or dissertation, after completing all required course work.
International graduate teaching assistants must obtain a score of at least 250 on the American English Oral Communicative Proficiency Test (AEOCPT) administered by Penn State. There is a fee of $60 per student taking the test. Only students authorized by the department are permitted to take the AEOCPT at Penn State.
Find more information on the Global Penn State website.