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Exploring Day 1 CPT in the USA: Pros, Cons, and Legal Implications

Around March end and early April each year in the US, 2 things start trending on Google search:

If you're someone who is aspiring to study in the United States or are already studying here in the US, you might have heard about Day 1 CPT – a term that stirs curiosity and often, confusion.


In this comprehensive guide, we will unravel the world of Day 1 CPT and will answer all the questions that you may have about it. We will explore what Day 1 CPT is, who's eligible for it, Top Day 1 CPT colleges or universities in the US, The cheapest universities in the US that offer Day 1 CPT as well as compare some of the top Day 1 CPT colleges.


Moreover, we will discuss the program's legal aspects and its pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Everything about day 1 cpt
Everything about day 1 cpt

What is Day 1 CPT:

Before we understand what Day 1 CPT is (because it is not an actual term), it is important to understand what CPT is.


CPT or "Curricular Practical Training," is a program that allows international students to gain practical work experience while pursuing their academic studies in the United States.

As the term suggests, this is a program that provides international students with the support to acquire a paid position on campus or off campus.

Some of the colleges or courses are designed to allow students to begin working as early as the first year.


Your natural question to this would be, who can work off campus from the first year itself?

Graduate students are able to begin working off campus in their first year as long as their university:

  • mandates employment as a required component of the curriculum

  • requires their employment to begin immediately

As long as students meet the above requirements, students can arrive and begin working during their first semester.

And this is called Day 1 CPT i.e an international student can begin their CPT from the Day 1 of their course.

Now, the next question that should come to your mind is why would an International student want to start working full time from the first day of their course.


There are a few reasons for this.

Money

Most International students come to study in the US with a loan. Their intention is to finish off the loan as early as possible and if there is an opportunity for them to start working from the first day or the first year itself, then they would gladly take that opportunity.


Their course requires them to

Of course, that is one of the main criteria to be eligible to work full time off campus. But why would someone choose a course that requires them to work when even the onus of finding that job is on them.


Not selected in the H1B lottery

This is by far the main reason why a lot of people opt for Day 1 CPT. A lot of people who opt for courses or universities offering Day 1 CPT are those who already have full time jobs, have already studied in the US once, and were not lucky in that year’s H1B lottery selection and their post study work visa (OPT) is coming to an end. They opt for Day 1 CPT to simply maintain their legal status in the US so that they can keep working and hope to secure the H1B lottery next year.


Eligibility for Day 1 CPT:

To qualify for Day 1 CPT, a student should:

  • Maintain a valid F-1 visa and I-20 form.

  • Secure an internship opportunity that is directly related to their field of study.

  • Maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Ensure that the position aligns with their level of study and primary profession.

  • Obtain CPT authorization before starting the job, as it cannot be retroactive.

  • Be enrolled in classes at a Day 1 CPT university.

  • Not be a graduate student on Filing Fee status.

  • Ensure that the internship supervisor is not an F-1 or J-1 student.

  • Renew their Day 1 CPT authorization in accordance with university regulations.

Failure to comply with any of these requirements may result in the student's status being terminated.

Process to Apply for Day 1 CPT:

The process usually takes only a week or 10 days but it may vary from institute to institute.

Here’s the process:

  1. Get an offer letter from a company

  2. Apply for CPT: Students need to register for CPT courses in advance and submit the CPT application form, their offer letter and the CPT agreement signed by the school and their employer

  3. Receive your CPT approval and new I-20. Please ensure that the employer information on I-20 is correct and only start working after the effective date on your I-20

  4. Renew your CPT before the end of each semester. Some Day 1 CPT colleges don't require you to do so. Please, check with your institute about the same.

Now that we have a fair understanding of What Day 1 CPT is, What is the eligibility criteria and how to apply for it, let us look at some of the Top Universities in the US that offer Day 1 CPT.


Top Day 1 CPT Universities:


Not every university in the US offers Day 1 CPT. Only a select few can offer CPT from Day 1 because they offer courses that require a student to start working from the first day itself and are accredited. Day 1 CPT universities (also called “CPT Schools”) are institutions that offer programs supporting Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization right from the start of their program. Moreover, CPT serves as an alternative for legal employment, especially for those who face challenges in obtaining an H1B visa.


Below we will share a list of Good Day 1 CPT universities or Day 1 CPT Colleges in the US. You can find more information about the course, the fees, program duration, CPT renewal frequency and special scholarships.


17 Day 1 CPT Universities or Colleges in the US

  1. Westcliff University, Irvine CA and Miami, FL:

  2. Harrisburg University, Harrisburg, PA

  3. Monroe College, New Rochelle, NY

  4. New England College. Henniker, NH

  5. Trine University, Phoenix, AZ & Allen Park, MI

  6. Sofia University, Palo Alto, CA

  7. CIAM; Alhambra, CA

  8. Humphreys University, Stockton CA

  9. Ottawa University, Brookfield Wi; Overland Park, KS

  10. Saint Peter's University, Jersey City, NJ

  11. National Louis University, Tampa FL

  12. McDaniel College, Westminster, MD

  13. University of the Cumberlands, Williamsburg,KY; Florenc, KY

  14. Dallas Baptist University, Dallas, TX

  15. Sullivan University, Louisville, KY; Lexington, KY

  16. Campbellsville University - Campbellsville, KY; Louisville, KY; Harrodsburg, KY; Elgin, IL; Jacksonville, FL; Lathrop, CA; Costa Mesa, CA

  17. Avila University, Kansas City, MO


For more information on each of these universities you can check out this link of day1cpt.org. This link has plenty of information about all the Day 1 CPT colleges or universities mentioned about. Not just that, it also has answers to a lot of your FAQs related to Day 1 CPT.


Obviously your next question would be - Of these 17 Day 1 CPT Colleges or Schools, which ones are the best. So, below we’ll cover information about some of the best Day 1 CPT Colleges.


Top 5 Day 1 CPT Universities in the US


The information shared below about the Top or Best Day 1 CPT colleges or universities in the US is based on our research and opinions formed through them. Of course the idea of a top or best university also varies from person to person and is based on the courses being considered.

  • Location: Irvine, CA; Miami, FL

  • Programs: MBA (STEM), MSCS (STEM), MSEM(STEM), MSIT (STEM), DBA (STEM), MA TESOL

  • Program Tuition: $28,620(Master)/$51,300 (DBA)

  • Program Duration: 1- 4 years depends on the program

  • On-SIte Visit: 1 / month

  • CPT Renewal: Every Semester

  • Scholarship: $1000 if applied through day1cpt.org. Click here to check eligibility.

  • scholarship is guaranteed for master-level transfer students

  • Application fee can be waived if applied through day1cpt.org

You can find more information about the university here.


  • Location: Alhambra, CA

  • Programs: MBA

  • Program Tuition: $24,000

  • Program Duration: 2 years

  • On-Site Visit: 1 / semester

  • CPT Renewal: Every Semester

  • Scholarship: Application Fee Waiver & Referral Bonus Available if apply through day1cpt.org

Some important features to note about CIAM University:

  • Tuition at CIAM is much cheaper than Westcliff University (considering both of them are in SoCal); the listed tuition also already includes textbooks and parking fees

  • day1cpt.org, can help waive the application fee ($75) if students apply through through them

  • Next opening (Spring 1 2024): application deadline: 12/8/2023; semester starts: 1/6/2024

  • It is a small school and not many know about it, but if a student is interested in doing a CPT program with an MBA as their major, it is a good option to consider.

  • Of course, the downside is they currently only have one major.

  • If you’d like to apply, you may fill out the form on day1cpt.org’s CIAM introduction page: https://www.day1cpt.org/ciam-day-1-cpt

  • Location: Harrisburg, PA

  • Programs: MS Analytics | MSCIS | MS Healthcare Informatics | MS PM | Others

  • Tuition: $35,880 / Program

  • Program Duration: 2 years

  • On-Site Visit: 1 / month

  • CPT Renewal: Every Year

  • Scholarships: $600 if apply through day1cpt.org, check eligibility before applying

Harrisburg University is considered to be one of the best Day 1 CPT universities with many STEM major options if you’re located in the East Coast To get additional information about Harrisburg University, check out this link


If you’re on the East Coast and would like to explore another Day 1 CPT college for MBA, then you should definitely check out New England College (NEC). NEC offers EMBA which requires students to have a job offer before they start their semester. Otherwise, it is really a good value school/program.


  • Location: Henniker, NH

  • Programs: Executive MSDA | Executive MBA | MSIT | MSPM

  • Tuition: $16,944-$18,704 / Program

  • Program Duration: 20 Months - 2 years

  • On-Site Visit: 3 days of onsite classes every semester (usually on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday)

  • CPT Renewal: Every Semester

  • Scholarships: check eligibility . Register with Day1CPT.org before you start the application to get free consultation and CPT application assistance after enrollment by applying through day1cpt.org.

Established in 1884, Trine is one of the oldest universities offering Day 1 CPT and it offers programs in business, engineering, and arts. Trine has campuses in Arizona and Michigan.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ ; Allen Park, MI

  • Programs: MBA, MSBA[STEM], MS-Engineering Management[STEM], MS-Information Studies[STEM]

  • Tuition: $17,250 / Program

  • Program Duration: 1-3 years depends on how you arrange courses

  • On-Site Visit: 1 / Semester

  • CPT Renewal: Every Year

  • Scholarships: check your eligibility

While we’ve listed the top Day 1 CPT universities, some of you may also want to know which of these Day 1 CPT institutes are the cheapest.

So, here they are.


Cheapest Day 1 CPT Universities


Before we deep dive into the 3 cheapest Day 1 CPT colleges, it is important to understand the role of tuition fees, scholarships, location and on-site frequency play in determining that.


When choosing a Day 1 CPT program, consider the following factors:

  • Cost: Tuition fees can be high, but some programs offer scholarships and financial aid.

  • Duration: A DBA program may be more expensive than a shorter program, but it offers an extended period of CPT work, which can increase your chances of getting an H1B visa.

  • Location: Post-pandemic, several Day 1 CPT universities have reverted to their on-site CPT courses. Therefore, choose a university that is close to your workplace to save time and commuting costs. Universities in metropolitan areas offer more internship and career development opportunities.

Make an informed decision based on all of these factors to get the most out of your Day 1 CPT experience.


Top 3 Cheapest Day 1 CPT Universities in the US


Is Day 1 CPT Legal?

The legality of Day 1 CPT is frequently a topic of concern and confusion. To clarify, Day 1 CPT is legal when used for its intended purpose, which is to provide students with practical experience in their field of study. However, using it for unauthorized employment or violating immigration regulations can have serious consequences, including the termination of your F-1 student status.

It is critical to understand the rules and regulations governing Day 1 CPT in order to remain compliant with US immigration laws. Violating these regulations can jeopardize your future in the United States.

Here are some tips to stay compliant with Day 1 CPT:

  • Only use Day 1 CPT for practical experience that is directly related to your field of study.

  • Obtain prior approval from your Designated School Official (DSO) before starting any Day 1 CPT.

  • Maintain full-time student status while participating in Day 1 CPT.

  • Keep accurate records of your Day 1 CPT hours and activities.

  • Be aware of the potential consequences of violating Day 1 CPT regulations.

If you have any questions about Day 1 CPT, please consult with your DSO.


RFE on Day 1 CPT

If you are enrolled in a Day 1 CPT program and living in the US, USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) may issue you an H1B RFE (Request for Evidence). Your employer, who sponsors your H1B work visa, will also seek a change of status for you. As a part of a master's program, your current status would be an F1 student visa. However, being enrolled in a Day 1 CPT program means you are working while studying.


It is fairly common to be studying in one city and working in another as a part of the CPT program. The program often requires you to attend in-person classes on a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or 12-weekly basis, depending on its structure. When your employer requests a change of status along with your H1B visa, they are essentially asking USCIS to shift your legal status from a student/F1 Visa to an H1B work visa without the need for you to travel outside the US.


To achieve an automatic change of status without leaving the US, you must comply with your current legal status in the country. Given the logistics of you studying and working in different locations, USCIS typically raises concerns about your compliance with your F1 status and demands evidence through an RFE.


Here are some tips for responding to an H1B RFE after Day1 CPT

  • Gather all the required evidence and submit it to USCIS as soon as possible.

  • Be prepared to explain any gaps in your employment history or education.

  • If you have any questions, consult with an immigration attorney.

Check out some Day1 CPT RFE Common Questions and Answers here


Pros and Cons of Day 1 CPT in the US:


Now, let's weigh the pros and cons of Day 1 CPT to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of this option.



Pros of Day 1 CPT

  • Immediate practical experience: Day 1 CPT allows you to gain practical experience from the start of your academic program, enhancing your skills and employability.

  • Financial support: Working during your studies can help offset tuition costs and living expenses.

  • Networking opportunities: The opportunity to work in the U.S. can provide excellent networking opportunities that may lead to job offers after graduation.

  • Enhanced resume: Practical experience gained through Day 1 CPT can make your resume more attractive to potential employers.

  • Integration of theory and practice: Day 1 CPT enables you to apply what you learn in the classroom to real-world scenarios, bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Cons of Day 1 CPT

  • Immigration regulations: Straying from the rules and using Day 1 CPT for unauthorized employment can lead to serious consequences, including visa status termination.

  • Limited work hours: There are restrictions on the number of hours you can work each week, which may not fully cover your expenses.

  • Balancing act: Juggling work and studies can be challenging and requires effective time management skills.

  • Potential visa risks: Misusing Day 1 CPT or failing to maintain your student status can jeopardize your future in the United States.

You can also check out this entire video we’ve done with an Immigration lawyer that shared the pros, cons, legality and the risk of RFE with Day 1 CPT.


In summary, Day 1 CPT is a valuable opportunity for international students who want to gain practical experience while pursuing their academic studies in the United States. However, it is critical to take it seriously, adhere to immigration laws, and follow your university's guidelines. By doing so, you can reap the many benefits it offers while avoiding potential pitfalls.


We hope this comprehensive guide has given you a thorough understanding of Day 1 CPT. Making informed decisions about your academic career and future is critical. We wish you the best of luck in your studies and exciting endeavors in the United States. You have a friend in your quest for knowledge and experience!


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