International Students Immigration Blog

Day 1 CPT as Your First Graduate Degree: What to Look Out for Yourself

Want to be eligible to earn work experience in the U.S. from the first day of school? Considering Day 1 CPT structured institutions to get your first Graduate degree (Master’s/Doctoral)? That’s awesome! But what should you look out for when picking the school and program? Let's dive in!

Day 1 CPT as Your First Graduate Degree


Scenarios to Consider

1. You Have Never Studied in the U.S. Before

If you are starting your educational journey in the U.S. and considering a Day 1 CPT program, there are crucial factors to keep in mind:

  • Universities that ACTUALLY Allow New International Students to Get CPT Authorization from Day 1: Most Universities mandate waiting periods, usually 1 academic year, for new international students to begin working under CPT, but some don’t have the wait time, like Monroe College, Westcliff University and Harrisburg University.
  • Nonprofit Institutions for Higher H1B Lottery Selection: Ensure the university you choose is nonprofit. This makes you eligible for the Master’s cap H1B lottery, which means a slightly higher chance of getting selected than just having a Bachelor. 
  • CPT and OPT Regulations: If you want to utilize the OPT after graduation, don’t use your CPT for full-time work for more than 11 months(regulation is 1 year but we recommend 11 months to be safe). Doing so can make you ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation, which is a vital period for gaining work experience and potentially securing an H1B visa. In general, people will choose to switch to part time working after the limit, or abandon their OPT completely. It's crucial to plan your work and study balance carefully to maintain eligibility for OPT. 
  • STEM vs. Non-STEM OPT: Pay attention to whether your program is classified as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). STEM graduates are eligible for a 24-month OPT extension, giving you more time to work in the U.S. post-graduation compared to non-STEM graduates. 
  • Accreditation and Recognition: Ensure the program and school are properly accredited. Ideally, the universities should have regional accreditation.

2. You Have Studied in the US for Over 9 Months

  • Everything mentioned above, but no wait time for you since you’ve finished at least one year here already.
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Additional Tips

  • Understand Visa Regulations: Familiarize yourself with the visa regulations related to CPT and OPT. Regularly check updates from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to stay informed about any changes that might affect your eligibility.
  • Network and Community: Look for schools with strong international student communities and networking opportunities. Engaging with alumni and current students can provide insights and support that can help you succeed academically and professionally.
  • Financial Considerations: Evaluate the total cost of the program, including tuition, fees, and living expenses. Look for scholarship opportunities and financial aid options that can help mitigate the cost of your education.



Choosing a Day 1 CPT program for your first graduate degree involves careful consideration of various factors to ensure you maximize your educational and professional opportunities in the U.S. Whether you are just starting your academic journey or pursuing further education, understanding the implications of CPT and OPT, as well as the quality of the institution, is essential. Always do thorough research and choose a path that aligns with your long-term career goals.


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