COVID-19 FAQs for Students

For the most up to date information, please visit the Revision to Fall Semester Plans Regarding On-Campus Housing, Tuition and Fees and the Fall Semester FAQ released August 11, 2020.

This page provides information about academic issues and resources for students and instructors related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the Fall 2020 semester. Information will continue to be updated frequently. 

Additional information is available at the University's Fall Semester Planning website.  

For all academic matters, students should continue to work with their academic advisors and advising offices.

Last updated: August 20, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions - Students

Returning to Campus

Academics

Research

Courses

Visiting and Exchange Students

Academic Resources and Support

Graduate and Professional Students

International Students

Other

Returning to Campus

Will my course be held online or in-person? (updated 8/20/20)

Undergraduate courses for the Fall semester are being offered online, with very few, limited, in person offerings. For undergraduates in the Nursing School, the only in-person course work will be clinical simulations, experiences in the hospital, and clinical settings. For students in the other three undergraduate schools, a minimal number of courses will be offered in-person where it is essential to have an in-person experience in order to meet curricular and/or pedagogical requirements.

Graduate and professional students should check with their program or school for the most up to date information about course formats.

What is the schedule for the Fall semester? (updated 8/20/20)

Classes will begin as scheduled on Tuesday, September 1. Fall break has been cancelled. Final exams will conclude as scheduled on Tuesday, December 22.

The last day of classes remains Thursday, December 10. Monday classes will take place on Thursday, December 10. View the Academic Calendar for the most up to date details. 

At this time, all registration dates (course selection period, drop period, grade type change deadline, advance registration) remain the same.

Graduate and professional programs may follow a different schedule. Students should check with their program for the most up to date information.

Can I take a Leave of Absence? (updated 8/20/20)

You should reach out to your academic advisor to discuss the best course of action if you have concerns about taking classes. Gather as much information as you can and speak to your advisor.

Incoming undergraduates in the Class of 2024 can request a one-year deferral or gap year in their Penn Applicant Portal no later than 5PM on August 18, 2020. 

Individual school and program policies regarding leaves of absence still apply.

Can I withdraw from my courses?

Each school's policies continue to apply regarding withdrawing from a course. You should reach out to your academic advisor if you have concerns about completing a course.

Can I be a part-time student in Fall 2020?

Normal policies regarding part-time and full-time study remain in effect for Fall 2020. Students should check with SFRS to determine how part-time study will impact their financial aid.

Undergraduate students are expected to enroll in at least 4 course units, even if all of their courses are being offered online. Undergraduate part-time study must be approved through the student’s home school advising office and is possible only if the student expects to graduate in December 2020 and has fewer than 3 course units needed to complete all remaining graduation requirements.

Graduate and professional students should check with their program regarding their ability to study part-time.

I need financial assistance with technology or other emergency funding. (Updated 8/20/20)

The Division of the Vice Provost for University Life's Access and Retention Fund provides one-time Emergency Funds or Opportunity Grants to help low-income and/or first-generation students. Visit here for more details. 

The Office of the Provost and GAPSA are funding Technology Grants for graduate and professional students enrolled in Fall 2020. The purpose of this program is to offset the cost of technology required for students to make academic progress while participating remotely in academic work during the fall 2020 semester. Visit here for more details. 

Academics

Will all Fall 2020 courses be pass/fail? (updated 8/20/20)

The expanded Pass/Fail option offered in Spring 2020 is being extended for undergraduate students in Fall 2020. All undergraduate students in all undergraduate Schools will be able to opt in, by October 30, to take any or all of their courses pass/fail, including courses taken to satisfy major or general education requirements, and these courses will not count against the total number of pass/fail courses allowed by the School.

Graduate and professional students should check with their program regarding current grading policies.

Will I be able to meet with my advisor? (updated 7/28/20)

Yes. Schools are planning to offer academic advising online during the Fall. Reach out to your academic advisor for details on how to schedule online meetings with them.

I have other concerns about my courses.

Students should contact their academic advisors and/or school-based advising offices, which remain open.

What happens if I get sick and have to miss class?

The usual policies and procedures around absences apply for both in-person and online classes. If you are sick and cannot participate in classes or finish assignments, notify your instructor via email or Canvas as soon as possible. Undergraduate students should use the Course Absence Report system to report absences for both online and in-person classes. 

Can I travel for academic or professional purposes? (Updated 8/12/20)

Very limited University-sponsored travel will be permitted and only as authorized. This will include travel that is supported by GAPSA and other student governments, graduate groups, academic departments, and schools. To be authorized, any University-related travel will need to be essential and to facilitate work that can be done in no other way. All travel will require pre-approval.

Visit Travel Guidelines and Procedures for more information.

Research

For undergraduate students: Will I be able to do undergraduate research in the Fall? (Updated 8/12/20)

Undergraduate students should pursue their research experiences online to the fullest extent possible. Undergraduate students who are involved in for-credit research experiences that are required for graduation and cannot be pursued online will be allowed in research labs on a limited basis, in accordance with the University’s Research Resumption Plan. Access to labs will require participation in PennOpen Pass and strict adherence to safety protocols as outlined in the Student Campus Compact.

For graduate students: Will I be able to do graduate research in the Fall? (updated 7/28/20)

As of July 13, 2020, Penn is in Phase II of Research Resumption. Information about resuming research on campus and individual school and center plans are available from the Vice Provost for Research at the Research Resumption: Resource Hub

At this time, graduate student participation in research is completely voluntary. If you feel that you are being pressured to return to research before you are ready, please email provost-ed@upenn.edu or submit your concerns anonymously using the Graduate Group Student Feedback Form.

If you have opted to return to research and have questions about whether your lab is following appropriate health and safety protocols, email provost-ed@upenn.edu or submit a report anonymously using the online form at 215-P-COMPLY (selecting your school and “student issue.”)

Courses

What can I expect for in-person courses? (updated 7/31/20)

The limited number of in-person courses will be held in larger auditoriums or spaces with identified seating. Procedures for entering and exiting classrooms as well as for entering and exiting rows of seating in classrooms will be clearly posted in all classroom buildings. Facial coverings will be required at all times.

What can I expect for online courses?

Taking a class online could involve any combination of the following:
•    Watching a lecture or video(s), which may be live or pre-recorded
•    Submitting reflections on lectures or other course material
•    Participating in discussion boards
•    Participating in a class discussion virtually using Zoom or BlueJeans
•    Submitting assignments online
•    Taking quizzes or exams online

All instructors are being asked to communicate to their students about how the course will be offered online.

When will my online course be scheduled?

Online course content can be provided synchronously (live sessions for the entire class at the same time), asynchronously (recordings or material that can be watched or completed at any time), or by a combination of both methods.

If your instructor chooses to provide synchronous online content, it must be offered on the same day(s) and time(s) as your course is regularly scheduled during the semester (in Eastern Time). If you will be participating from a different time zone, please alert your instructor.

The Policy on Secular and Religious Holidays is still in effect. If you have concerns about accommodations for religious observances, please contact your academic advisor or the Chaplain’s Office.

Will classes be recorded? (Updated 8/11/20)

All classes will be recorded, with content made available asynchronously.

What hardware and software will I need to participate in online classes?

You will need a computer and reliable Internet access. The University is primarily relying on Canvas but instructors may also use other web-based tools including BlueJeans or Zoom. Some individual classes may require utilizing specific software and further information will be provided by your instructor.

Links and guides to the most commonly used tools are available on the Student Remote IT Support website.

I need technical support.

Penn offers 24/7 Student IT Support for all enrolled students. Student IT Support also has information about PennKey and Two-Step Verification and guides to remote learning tools (Canvas, Panopto, BlueJeans, and Zoom) as well as Student IT Support for each of the University's 12 schools. 

Visiting and Exchange Students

Will visiting and exchange students be allowed to participate in Penn programs?

There will be no in-person programs for visiting students, exchange students, non-degree students, or students in non-credit programs. Some programs for these students may be offered online; check with your program for more details.

Academic Resources and Support

How do I access the library or course materials?

Penn libraries' digital resources and services as well as librarians are still available. Visit the Libraries’ Virtual Support and Phased Re-Start FAQ pages for a full summary of current services and additional information about forthcoming services.

I need help learning and studying remotely.

The Online Learning Initiative offers Remote Learning: Tips for Students with guidance on developing a study plan, creating space for learning, connecting with other people virtually, and other ideas for how to adapt to remote learning. Weingarten Learning Resources Center also has a list of Resources for Remote Learning and offers virtual individual consultations.

I currently have accommodations, or will need them to participate in classes. What should I do?

Please contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. If you are making a first-time accommodations request, complete and follow the instructions on the Self-Identification form online. 

The Office of Student Disabilities Services has created an enhanced web portal with extensive resources and information for students and faculty.

Graduate and Professional Students

How do I submit my dissertation remotely? (updated 7/31/20)

Penn has instituted special dissertation defense and deposit instructions. Dissertation defenses must be scheduled and presented via remote conferencing. Electronic signatures will be allowed on all required forms for depositing, and a printed copy of the dissertation will not be required.

Will I receive my PhD stipend in the Fall?  

Most fully-funded PhD students will receive their stipend during the fall semester, with a few exceptions for students whose service-related stipends cannot be completed remotely. 

Where can I get resources as a Teaching Assistant?

The Center for Teaching and Learning has a website on remote teaching that TAs may find useful. For TAs who often use chalkboards in teaching, we have created a page with suggestions for teaching recitations or office hours online using virtual whiteboards, as well as information for those running asynchronous discussion boards.

The Center for Teaching & Learning has also created several workshops specifically for students who will not be participating in TA training this fall, including: Facilitating Live Sessions, Facilitating Asynchronous Engagement, and Creating Community in Your Online Class.

In addition, Penn Libraries' Virtual Support page provides a range of guides, tutorials, and support services to help with virtual classes.

Will I be able to do graduate research in the Fall? (updated 7/28/20)

As of July 13, 2020, Penn is in Phase II of Research Resumption. Information about resuming research on campus and individual school and center plans are available from the Vice Provost for Research at the Research Resumption: Resource Hub

At this time, graduate student participation in research is completely voluntary. If you feel that you are being pressured to return to research before you are ready, please email provost-ed@upenn.edu or submit your concerns anonymously using the Graduate Group Student Feedback Form.

If you have opted to return to research and have questions about whether your lab is following appropriate health and safety protocols, email provost-ed@upenn.edu or submit a report anonymously using the online form at 215-P-COMPLY (selecting your school and “student issue.”)

International Students

I am an international student and I cannot get a visa to return to the United States for the start of classes.  What are my options?  Can I request a leave of absence?

An international student who is enrolled full-time in a degree program is able to take courses online without an F-1 visa if permitted by the institution and subject to certain government exceptions. The University supports this option, so eligible international students who are not able to come to the United States will be able to take online courses provided they are enrolled full-time in a degree program. For more information, visit ISSS.

Students who are considering a leave of absence should discuss the best course of option with their academic advisor. 

I am an international student and cannot return to campus because of US government travel restrictions.  What are my options? Can I request a leave of absence?

An international student who is enrolled full-time in a degree program is able to take courses online without an F-1 visa if permitted by the institution and subject to certain government exceptions. The University supports this option, so eligible international students who are not able to come to the United States will be able to take online courses provided they are enrolled full-time in a degree program. For more information, visit ISSS.

Students who are considering a leave of absence should discuss the best course of option with their academic advisor. 

I am an international student and I expect to arrive at Penn after the start of classes.  Can I start classes remotely and then come to campus?  

Yes, you may come to campus after the start of classes. Visit the Housing FAQ for information about the availability of housing. The cost of attendance and some requirements such as health insurance may change.

Other

A note about academic integrity

The University remains committed to the standards of academic excellence outlined in the Code of Academic Integrity. You should continue to follow the expectations outlined in the Code, and are responsible for asking your instructor for any clarifications. If you have questions about how aspects of the Code of Academic Integrity relate to your classes in this changing landscape, ask your instructor. Remember that the Code states "If a student is unsure whether his/her action(s) constitute a violation of the Code of Academic Integrity, then it is that student’s responsibility to consult with the instructor to clarify any ambiguities."

Additionally, it is important to educate yourself around the University's copyright policies and how they apply in the online space. Please take a minute to read the policies and ask questions as needed.