International Student Advising

An international student is defined here as a student who needs a visa to enter the U.S.  It does not apply to permanent resident (green card holders) or to students with a U.S. passport who have lived abroad for all or most of their life.  Most of our undergraduate international students have been issued an F-1 visa.

Donna Van Handle, Dean of International Students, and Jenny Medina, Immigration Advisor for International Students, are the point people for international students in the McCulloch Center.

Important Information for Advisors of International Students


  • International students at Mount Holyoke must enroll in a full course of study each semester unless there are extenuating circumstances (see below).  A full course of study is defined as 12 or more academic credits.
  • Under certain circumstances an international student may receive authorization from the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) for a "reduced course load" (RCL), which gives that student permission to drop below a full-time load of 12 credits abd still maintain valid immigration status.  Normally, this is only permitted when a student has a documented medical reason for doing so.  The student must meet with staff from the McCulloch Center and the student's academic dean before dropping below 12 credits.


  • While classes are in session, international students may work on campus for up to 20 hours per week and up to 40 hours per week during breaks and the summer.
  • International students are not allowed to work off campus unless they have applied for and received permission to do either Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT).  Students may apply to do CPT or OPT after they have completed one full academic year. Students who have paid (or unpaid) internships during the semester or summer generally apply for CPT and "save" their 12 months of OPT for the year following graduation.  The McCulloch Center approves students for CPT and there is no cost to them.  OPT costs $410.00 and students apply directly to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).  According to immigration regulations, for both CPT and OPT, the student's employment may be a paid (or unpaid) internship, or any other work experience which is directly related to the student's major.
  • Students in STEM majors, can apply for an additional 24 months of OPT. They must be working for a company that is part of the Everify program and is willing to adhere to a formal training program as outlined in the Form I-983. Special majors at Mount Holyoke do not qualify for the STEM extension as they are considered multi disciplinary. 
  • After graduating, a student may be hired by an employer who is willing and able to file an H-1B (temporary employment in a speciality occupation) petition for them, which could enable the student to work longer than the 12 months of OPT. The student must possess "theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty or its equivalent" to qualify. There is a numerical limit on the number of H-1B's awarded each year (65,000 plus an additional 20,000 for students who have graduated with a Masters or Doctorate degree from an US institution). 

Study Abroad

  • International students are eligible to study abroad.
  • International students must fulfill the College's language requirement and must officially request exemption if they believe they qualify.

Honor Code


Special Opportunities for International Students

Thanksgiving and Winter Break

  • There is a special Thanksgiving Hosting Program for first-year international students, co-sponsored by the McCulloch Center and the Class of 1980, to introduce new international students to this uniquely American holiday.
  • International students are allowed to stay on campus during Winter Break, the time between the end of first semester and the beginning of intersession.  However, students must sign up in MyMountHolyoke.

Emergency Loans

  • There are emergency loans for international students to cover medical, dental, or other expenses not covered by the College's health insurance. 


If your advisee is an international student, please refer the student to the McCulloch Center for answers to questions dealing with immigration or visas.  Similarly, if you as an advisor have any questions, please feel free to call the McCulloch Center (x2072) or email us at