Academic Field Study (AFS) for Master’s Students

Graduate students in Engineering who meet the USCIS eligibility criteria may apply for the Academic Field Study (AFS) Option. Students can apply after their first two semesters of academic work at Penn. Students must complete at least 6 CU’s (course units) between their first two semesters during their first year. Students must be in good academic standing (minimum GPA 3.3) with their program and the University. Those that are not, are unable to apply for AFS.

Students aware of an internship offer lasting longer than the Summer term, should submit their AFS documents (steps 1-5 below) by early/mid July. Students that receive an offer to extend their Summer internship or start a Fall internship, should turn in their AFS documents (steps 1-5 below) no later than August 1st.



The procedure/steps is as follows:

1. Obtain an offer letter from an employer on company letterhead that is signed by your employer (digital signature is okay) that will verify the work you will do. The number of hours you will be working, the start and end date of the employment, and the internship location (onsite physical address or stating remote) must also be listed in the letter. The start date must start on or after the term begins, and the end date must end prior to the start of the next term. (Example: Summer internships must start after the last day of the Spring term and must end before the first day of the Fall term.)
If you are continuing your Summer CPT into Fall, your employer should provide a new offer letter with the dates of your extended internship and verifying support for the work you propose to do. If your letter for the Summer CPT was the full Summer and Fall dates for the full six months, this is okay.

AFS must be a total of 12-15 weeks (excluding your time on the Summer CPT). Students must work full-time (35-40 hours/week) at the company during AFS. Part-time AFS is not allowed.
A sample offer letter can be found here. Please grab the CPT checklist to use as well to help you.


2. If you are continuing your internship from Summer into Fall, your CPT-IS Supervisor should be continuing as your AFS Supervisor. Like the Summer CPT, your supervisor should be a faculty member within Engineering and typically within your program/department. Again, your supervisor’s area of work and specialization should substantially overlap with your proposed internship work. Please discuss with them that your internship is continuing and you’re requesting AFS supervision.
If you didn’t do Summer CPT first, please identify a faculty member who will serve as your CPT Supervisor. Your supervisor’s area of work and specialization should substantially overlap with your proposed internship work.  In most cases, the supervisor is your program director. If the supervisor is different from your director, it should be someone in your department/program; they must be faculty in the School of Engineering. Please review with your program admin if you’re unsure.


3. Please create a Proposal (2 pages max.) for the work you will do on your internship. Your proposal should:

  • Describe the tasks you will undertake and details of the technical content of your position/internship and how it relates to your degree program.
  • Describe how the continuing employment under AFS is an integral part of your studies.
  • For evaluation, all students enrolled in AFS must provide a mid-point report during the CPT period and a final report at the conclusion of the AFS to their supervisor and program. State in the proposal that you will submit both the mid-point and final reports.


4.  Please complete the Proposed Course Plan From here and turn in to your master’s program for review and approval.


5. Submit the AFS Application Form (found here) to your program coordinator/program admin along with the offer letter, proposal, and course plan as one pdf file. They will submit it to Graduate OAS. Please allow 5-7 business days for Engineering approval. You will receive notification via email once this step is complete.


6. Once step #5 is complete and you have received the email approval from Engineering, you will need to request a CPT for Fall online through the International Student and Scholar Services using the online F-1 Curricular Practical Training Form. Processing time by ISSS is typically 5 business days. Students cannot continue any work past their Summer CPT end date, or start work on AFS until they have received CPT authorization from ISSS.



Additional Information

Evaluation and grading: A mid-point report and a final report must be submitted to the supervising faculty detailing your work during the field studies period.  In some cases, this may require the faculty member to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDAs) with company.  If reports include company proprietary information, it is the responsibility of the supervising faculty and student to sign company NDAs before embarking on academic field studies.
Note that if your supervisor requires additional work beyond what was done during AFS, the evaluation must be substantially based upon the AFS internship experience. All AFS course registrations will be issued either an “S” grade or a “U” grade. No letter grades (impacting GPA) will be issued.


Course Registration: Upon final approval as indicated above from Engineering, you will be registered for EAS 8950. No tuition and fees will be charged for this credit. This course is not for credit and cannot count towards the 10CUs for graduation.
Students are not advised to enroll in additional classes at Penn during the period of field study. However, students looking to take 1 CU while on field study, will need to permission on a case by case basis. Please speak directly to Grad OAS.


Requirement to Complete: All academic requirements for AFS/CPT must be satisfactorily completed within the term for which the student has registered for AFS/CPT. Failure to complete the academic requirements would render your employment “unauthorized” and be a violation of your immigration status. For any student who gets a “U” grade, such sanctions may include forfeiture of the post-graduation OPT allotment and the possibility of working in the United States on any other visa.
If a student is unable to complete the academic field studies (e.g. due to termination of employment from company), the student has two options: (1) find another equivalent job within two weeks that can satisfy the CPT requirements, or (2) terminate current I-20, and return with a new I-20 in the following semester to resume students without academic field studies. Please discuss option 2 with your ISSS advisor.


Please note:

  • Accelerated Masters (AM)/submatriculants that are still currently enrolled in their undergraduate degree are not eligible for AFS. Depending on the curriculum path (number of CU’s completed versus the CU plan for completion,) an AM student who has graduated with their undergraduate degree and only enrolled in the master’s program, may be eligible for AFS.
  • Students on a single master’s degree are allowed to use their second summer to finish up any remaining CUs required for graduation. However, they are not permitted to use the second summer to do another CPT. Students on a single master’s degree must graduate within 2 years. Dual degree master’s students have to graduate within 3 years.
  • Students who pursue AFS cannot simultaneously be on the thesis track.
  • AFS can only be done once for the duration of a master’s student studies at Penn, in the Fall semester of the student’s second year.
  • AFS cannot be done in the final semester in which a student is graduating.
  • Students that apply for AFS have to already have an internship offer from the company. It is not the responsibility of Penn to help students find an internship.
  • Students who do a summer and fall semester continuation for summer internship will be signed up for EAS 8970 (summer), followed by EAS 8950 (fall).  Students will graduate with “Academic Field Study” on their transcript if they complete the Fall credit of EAS 8950.
  • Only on campus students are eligible for CPT /AFS. Online program students are not eligible for the academic field study track.
  • AFS is only full-time. Pre-Completion OPT may be available for some part-time jobs still in line with the student’s degree. Please talk with your ISSS advisor directly if you’re interested in learning more about this option.