The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Experiential Learning (EXEL) Program FAQ

The "Questions about EXEL and CPT" section contains questions pertaining to all potential applicants for an EXEL experience.

The "Questions about CPT for International Students" section contains information that will only be relevant for F-1 visa students who might want or need Curricular Practical Training authorization to participate in the EXEL program.

Questions about EXEL and CPT

Can I enroll in EXEL during the summer?

Yes, currently enrolled continuing students will be able to register for an EXEL experience for PE credit (PE 400) during the summer term (approximately mid-May through late-August). There is no additional cost to enrolling in an EXEL PE credit during the summer or any other term. Enrollment for summer will close in late May or early June each year.

Is EXEL available during winter break?

No, EXEL is not available during winter break.

Can the EXEL program pay me if I work in an unpaid internship?

No, the EXEL program doesn't offer any kind of funding or payment.

When should I submit a request for an EXEL experience in Handshake?

At least three weeks before the start of the term (quarter or summer) in which the experience will take place. Every application will take a different amount of time to process, but three weeks will be a sufficient amount of time for most applications. If you have questions about your situation please contact CLBR (

How many times can I participate in the EXEL program?

There is no limit on how many times a student may enroll in the EXEL program. However, only two EXEL PE credits may apply towards satisfying the PE/CE/EXEL graduation requirement. Therefore, F-1 students are limited to two segments of CPT authorization through participating in the EXEL program. F-1 students who have exhausted their two segments of CPT may be able to utilize pre-completion OPT for additional off-campus experiential learning opportunities while completing their Reed program.

If I register for EXEL in the first quarter of a semester, am I eligible to complete my experience in the second quarter?

Students must complete their proposed EXEL experience within the registered quarter. Work may extend beyond the quarter, but you must complete your minimum of ten hours during that quarter. If you are an international student using CPT, CPT will be authorized for the full academic semester or summer term in which the EXEL quarter occurs. Example: if an EXEL experience takes place in the first quarter of fall semester, the CPT authorization end date will be the final day of classes in the fall semester.

Can I get a regular PE credit and an EXEL PE credit in the same quarter?

No. You can enroll in more than one PE course during a quarter, but you may only receive PE credit for one of them.

Can I receive PE/EXEL credit for an experience I had in the past?

No, EXEL experiences must be requested and approved before they can begin.

How many hours of participation are required to satisfy an EXEL experience?

At least ten hours of participation in the experiential learning opportunity are required to satisfy an EXEL experience. A student may participate in more than ten hours of activity if they wish, but will only earn PE credit for one EXEL experience per quarter.

Can I receive payment and an EXEL PE credit at the same time?

Yes, some students may earn PE credit for a paid experience. However, some organizers of unpaid opportunities require F-1 international students to have CPT or OPT work authorization in order to participate. This plan aims to support students in either scenario.

Who determines whether the EXEL experience is directly related to my academic program?

Staff in CLBR and ISS will determine this based upon responses from the student in the application for an EXEL experience in Handshake. CLBR or ISS staff will follow up with the student if needed, and potentially ask for input from the academic department if the relationship to the major is not immediately clear.

Why does the EXEL course sit in the PE/CE requirement instead of within a new academic unit-bearing course?

The impetus for creating the EXEL program came from looking for a way for international students to participate in Curricular Practical Training (CPT). The college chose to focus on satisfying CPT requirements by focusing on academic program requirements that apply to all undergraduate students to ensure equity in access and to avoid quantifying practical experiences in terms of Reed academic units. PE/CE credits are required for graduation, thus they are an integral part of the established Reed curriculum. Therefore, the EXEL course under the PE/CE requirement (in lieu of being academic-unit bearing) is in accordance with the F-1 visa federal regulations. This was also presented as the least resource intensive option to implement.

My Handshake account is blocked. Can I still apply for an EXEL experience?

Yes. Email and let us know you'd like to apply for an EXEL experience. We'll send you an alternative method by which to apply via email.

Questions about CPT for International Students

What does CPT authorization cost?

Free. There is no cost to enroll in the EXEL program, and there is no cost for F-1 students to request CPT authorization through ISS.

How early should I submit an application to participate in EXEL with CPT authorization?

We recommend you submit your EXEL experience request at least three weeks before the start of the term (quarter or summer), as your host employer will need to submit confirmation via Handshake within five to ten business days before the first day of work. This allows ISS staff sufficient time to review, request additional information (if needed), and authorize CPT. International students must receive an updated I-20 with CPT authorization prior to beginning work.

I am applying for EXEL with CPT authorization. When may I begin working via EXEL?

International students may not begin work until they receive their updated I-20 confirming CPT authorization from the International Student Services office. If a student in EXEL needs CPT authorization, the ISS office will wait to approve your application in Handshake until the I-20 with CPT authorization has been issued to the student.

If I already have six PE credits can I still enroll in EXEL and CPT?

Currently, you can still register for an EXEL experience, but if you already have six PE credits, then any further EXEL experiences won’t count toward your degree requirements, and thus won’t be eligible for CPT. The same is true if you’ve already received two CE credits or two non-directed PE credits.

If you are in this situation and you're still hoping to be able to use CPT, please contact us at

I am an international student in F-1 visa status. If I want to work off campus do I need to get authorization through CPT and/or OPT?

Yes. Currently enrolled international students (F-1 visas) must apply for CPT or pre-completion OPT if they are planning to participate in a paid position. CPT authorization is strongly recommended for all unpaid internships (see “Is CPT authorization recommended for unpaid internships and volunteer positions?” below for further discussion on unpaid internships).
Graduating international students may utilize post-completion OPT after they are no longer enrolled at Reed.

Is CPT authorization recommended for unpaid internships and volunteer positions?

CPT (or pre-completion OPT) authorization is required for paid experiences, and strongly recommended for all unpaid internships and volunteer positions. It is important to differentiate between employees and unpaid interns:

  • For-profit employers (this is most employers) are required by federal law to pay employees for their work. However, there are some situations where an intern with a for-profit employer may not be considered an employee, and thus does not require compensation for their work. The U.S. Department of Labor has provided this fact sheet to help determine if an intern at a for-profit company is an employee, or if they can be considered an unpaid intern.
  • Public sector and non-profit organizations are allowed to have unpaid interns and volunteers without expectation of compensation (see footnote 1 from that same fact sheet).

If an activity is unpaid and a student is not able to obtain CPT authorization, a student should ensure that the prospective supervisor is aware of U.S. Department of Labor guidance concerning unpaid internships, and the student is advised to document this confirmation from the organization prior to beginning the position. We also recommend that at the end of the activity, students ask the organization to provide written confirmation that there was no remuneration or any other type of compensation provided in any form during the dates of participation. Students should keep this documentation for their permanent records.

May international students be approved for CPT through enrollment in an independent study course?

Potentially, yes. A student enrolled in an independent study course that requires off-campus hands-on practice may request CPT authorization from ISS. This would be an alternative pathway to obtaining CPT authorization via enrolling in the EXEL program to receive EXEL PE credit. Due to the limited and department-specific nature of these current offerings, F-1 students interested in pursuing CPT authorization in this way should schedule an advising appointment with ISS to talk about their off-campus opportunity and course requirements.

If you still have questions about Reed's Experiential Learning (EXEL) program, please contact the Center for Life Beyond Reed at If you have questions pertaining to Curricular Practical Training (CPT), please contact International Student Services at

EXEL Homepage