Harvard University is closely monitoring the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. The health, safety, and well-being of the GSAS community, on and off campus, is our top priority. We are following the advice of Harvard University and Harvard University Health Services, which are continuously monitoring information from local health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Please note HUHS has added important information on their website about benefit changes to the Student Health Insurance Plan.  

On this page, you will find answers to some of the questions you may have and links to the messages from Dean Emma Dench to students about the Coronavirus Disease outbreak. GSAS is also reviewing existing academic policies and developing emergency policies. We will continue to update this page as new information becomes available. 

This page was updated on May 8, 2020. If you have a question not noted below, email the Office of Student Affairs.

Academic Concerns

I have withdrawn from GSAS but cannot leave campus. What should I do?

Contact GSAS Office of Student Affairs. If you currently live in the GSAS Residence Halls, please also contact the GSAS Office of Residential Life.

How will students keep in touch with offices about time-sensitive issues if physical offices are partially or fully closed?

The University remains open and operational with appropriate measures to protect the health of the community. You should be able to reach out to offices via phone or email and expect normal response times unless otherwise indicated. You can also connect with the GSAS Office of Student Services for support.

If I have an academic accommodation, where should I go if I have questions or additional needs due to classes moving online?

Please contact the Accessible Education Office (AEO) at 617-496-8707, or the AEO staff member you work with, to assist you. You may also be in touch with the Office of Student Services to help you navigate resources, strategize, and figure out how to continue to access material and make progress.

If I am waiting to hear back from the Accessible Education Office or need flexibility due to my condition, what is the policy?

We ask that all instructional staff be as flexible as possible, within reason, during this time. This may be due to a student’s condition, but also due to a variety of other concerns such as technology issues, location/time zone differences, etc.

What if I am absent from virtual class or turn in an assignment late due to sickness?

Faculty understand that this is a time of great ambiguity and uncertainty, and have been encouraged to practice flexibility and understanding on deadlines. If you are ill, first prioritize your health and call HUHS at 617-495-5711 (24/7), or your primary care provider for advice and to determine whether to get assessment or treatment. Contact your course instructor to discuss protocols for missed classes or late assignments. 

My dissertation defense is scheduled for this week, can my family/friends still attend?

We understand that that your dissertation defense is an exciting and pivotal time in your PhD experience, and represents a cumulation of years of intensive courses, conversations, research, and writing at Harvard. At this time, all dissertation defenses are to be held remotely. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors should not come to campus to attend. You are welcome to share the teleconference link with your friends/family so they may be present virtually.

Should I still meet in person with my advisor?

In accordance with the University guidance, we strongly discourage any non-essential meetings to take place in person. We recommend employing video- and teleconferencing options wherever possible.

Are the official deadlines for the May 2020 degree period still in place?

Yes, but please read on to learn about policy modifications being made in consideration of COVID-19.

Must a copy of the signed dissertation acceptance certificate appear before the title page of the online dissertation submission?

If possible, students should include a completed dissertation acceptance certificate (DAC) before the title page of the online dissertation submission per standard policy. Electronic signatures from committee members are acceptable. If a DAC is submitted with electronic signatures, an additional DAC with handwritten signatures will not be required.

If this is not possible, students may temporarily include an email or signed letter of approval/acknowledgement from the program chair, dissertation committee chair, or DGS (see sample template below) when submitting the dissertation via ETDs at Harvard. The letter of approval must appear before the title page of the online dissertation submission.

Letter of approval Template:

In lieu of all dissertation committee members’ signatures, I [NAME, ROLE], appointed by the [DEPARTMENT/PROGRAM], confirm that the Dissertation Committee has examined a dissertation titled [TITLE], presented by [STUDENT NAME], a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy for May 2020 degree conferral, and hereby certify that it is worthy of acceptance as of [DATE].”

Is a signed, physical copy of the dissertation acceptance certificate required as part of the official May 2020 dissertation submission process?

Yes. The Registrar’s Office will still require a completed dissertation acceptance certificate. Electronic signatures from committee members are acceptable. If a DAC is submitted with electronic signatures, an additional DAC with handwritten signatures will not be required. If students or programs are able to complete a dissertation completion certificate by the deadline, it should be mailed to the FAS Registrar’s Office on the 4th floor of Smith Campus Center, per standard policy.

Alternate letters of approval (see above) may be temporarily used in place of the DAC when submitting the dissertation. Once it becomes possible to obtain signatures for the DAC, students and programs must ensure that completed DACs are send to the Registrar’s Office: do not send temporary letters of approval to the registrar. Delivery of important documents, such as transcripts and diplomas, will not be impacted by the delay in providing a DAC.

I am worried about how I will do in my classes this semester in light of all the changes. Can I take my classes as SAT/UNSAT?

For spring 2020 only, all GSAS students enrolled in any course at the University will be graded on an “Emergency Satisfactory/Emergency Unsatisfactory” basis. This includes students who are taking courses at other Harvard Schools. A clear notation of SEM/UEM will be included on all transcripts for the spring 2020 term to indicate that courses were graded SEM/UEM due to extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. All cases where students have already chosen the SAT/UNSAT option will have that grade option converted to the SEM/UEM basis. The equivalent of a B- or greater is considered SEM.

Will the spring 2020 course drop deadline be extended?

Yes. The deadline for GSAS students to drop a course through self-service in my.Harvard has been extended to Monday, April 13. After April 13, students should submit a petition to withdraw to GSAS Student Affairs for review. 


I had been preparing to travel internationally this summer; is it reasonable to plan travel now for the fall? If I make travel arrangements once travel is allowed but travel to that country is later restricted, will I be reimbursed?

If you are using Harvard funding for your travel (international or domestic), you must wait to purchase tickets and make travel arrangements until the University allows resumption of travel on Harvard business. If you purchase tickets after travel restrictions are lifted, and if the country to which you are traveling is subsequently placed on the restricted list, you should contact your financial aid officer to discuss options. If you purchased your tickets before the travel restrictions were imposed, please reach out to your funding source and to your financial aid officer to discuss options.

I am on a traveling fellowships but have been told I cannot travel to my country of interest. What should I do?

Please contact your GSAS financial aid officer to discuss options.

I cannot use my traveling fellowship due to traveling restrictions. Will I be able to use it later?

GSAS is committed to supporting its students through this crisis and beyond, which means trying to mitigate and minimize the impact of an admittedly fluid and unpredictable situation. We will evaluate each student’s case and work with them to figure out a good solution. Please be in touch with your GSAS financial aid officer to discuss your situation.

Financial Concerns

Where can I apply for the Emergency Support Initiative (Lost-Time Funding, Emergency Summer Research Awards, GSAS Visiting Fellow Status, Postdoctoral Writing and Fellowship Appointments)?

Visit the Emergency Support Initiative policy page for information on eligibility, applications, deadlines, and decision timelines. 

I’m a March 2020 graduate whose job search was impacted by COVID-19. I am interested in GSAS Visiting Fellow status, am I eligible?

March 2020 graduates should check in with the Special Students and Visiting Fellows Office to determine your eligibility.

Will I automatically receive lost-time funding if I have a G-year adjustment due to disruption caused by COVID-19?

No, lost-time funding applications and G-year requests are processed separately and are not automatic. G-year adjustments, which are not accompanied by additional funding, allow you more time to reach academic milestones.

Can I apply to the GSAS emergency fund for help with Coronavirus-related expenses that I cannot cover?

Students experiencing financial distress should complete the GSAS Emergency Request form. As always, we will give these requests the fullest consideration that our available resources will permit.

Will I still receive my stipend for research and teaching, or compensation for hourly research work?

The University expectation is that the work that graduate students are compensated for should continue. If work assignments are not possible to complete using online or distance learning technologies, supervisors are encouraged to find other opportunities for graduate student workers to complete their work commitments, including shifting jobs and job descriptions to alternate assignments in order to fulfill their employment obligations. If this is not possible, graduate student workers who are unable to work due to the pandemic will still be compensated to the end of work expectation within the spring 2020 term. If you have any questions, you should reach out to your local supervisor and/or employing department.

I have a spring MBTA semester pass. Can I request a refund if I don’t plan to use it? If I do plan to use it, will it still work?

As the COVID-19 situation began to evolve, GSAS made the decision not to charge students for semester passes they ordered through GSAS. If you ordered your semester pass through GSAS, you will not see a charge on your student account. The pass will remain active until the end of May 2020.

I do not have Internet access. What can I do?

Harvard University IT has tips for accessing and optimizing Internet access, including how to find free or discounted Internet and data during COVID-19 period.

Is there a new deadline for the 2019 federal and MA state tax filing? 

Yes. The 2019 federal and MA state tax filing deadline has changed to July 15, 2020.

How can I receive my economic impact payment (aka stimulus payment)?

You can find more information on the IRS Economic Impact Payments website.

Graduating Students

What are the plans for Commencement?

Harvard University has postponed an in-person Commencement this year. While the physical ceremony itself is postponed, GSAS is planning a virtual degree-granting ceremony to follow the University’s online celebration. We know how important it is to mark this milestone, and we are thinking about how we can make a virtual program feel special and celebratory. GSAS will be in touch with details as they are finalized. You can also visit GSAS’s Commencement website for updated information.

Will my diploma be mailed to me?

Yes, please update your my.Harvard with a Diploma Mailing Address by following the instructions provided by the Registrar's Office, to ensure your diploma is sent to the correct location. The deadline for November 2019 and March 2020 graduates to add a diploma mailing address is Friday, May 15 at 11:59pm EDT. The deadline for May 2020 degree candidates to add a diploma mailing address is Wednesday, May 27 at 11:59pm EDT. May 2020 diplomas will be mailed after the May 28 degree conferral. November 2019 and March 2020 diplomas will be mailed after May 15th.

International Students

Will online courses affect my visa status?

We have received government guidance that they intend to be flexible with temporary adaptations to classes. Provided international students continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations, students’ legal immigration status should not be affected.

Will my visa be affected if I go home?

Since the spring 2020 term will continue via online means, you are considered to be enrolled. The Harvard International Office has compiled a comprehensive FAQ to answer any visa-related issues connected to Coronavirus (COVID-19), including general travel and visa concerns, student issues, work authorization applications, and international scholar issues. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your HIO advisor.

I am an international student and plan to travel home or to another location. Will I need special documents to return to the US?

International students and scholars who have decided to travel home or to another location should refer to the Harvard International Office travel page for information about the proper documents you will need for your return to the US. Please ensure before you leave that you have a valid travel signature.

What do I do if I need to apply for a Social Security Number?

All local Social Security offices are closed to the public for in-person service. You may refer to the Social Security COVID-19 web page to learn more, including how to get help from the Social Security Administration (SSA) by phone and online. If you need to apply for an SSN, you must wait until they resume in-person services.

Traveling Students

My travel has been canceled and I am worried about my academic progress. Whom can I speak with?

Contact your academic department’s graduate program coordinator or director of graduate studies.

Can I apply to the GSAS Emergency Fund for help with Coronavirus-related expenses that I cannot cover?

Students experiencing financial distress should complete the GSAS Emergency Request form. As always, we will give these requests the fullest consideration that our available resources will permit.

I have been awarded funding from the GSAS Professional Development Fund to attend a conference which has now been canceled. I cannot recover the travel expenses. How does this affect my eligibility for accessing the fund going forward? Should I return the unused money to GSAS? Does the funding I lost count against the $2,500 ceiling?

Please verify with your travel provider if it possible for you to obtain a refund or credit for future travel. The GSAS Office of Financial Aid will contact fund recipients with further instructions regarding the handling of unused funds. Any nonrefundable costs incurred for canceled travel will not be counted towards the $2,500 cumulative funding ceiling.

Students with Families

A member of my family is sick. What can I do about my academic requirements?

If you are caring for a sick family member, contact the Office of Student Affairs to discuss your options.  In addition, if you feel that your academic progress has been disrupted, you can reach out to your department to request a G-year adjustment of up to one year.

My child’s daycare or school is closed, are there any options to secure backup care?

We understand the disruption this may have on your academic progress and cause additional stress for both you and your children. Care.com has curated a resource guide for parents and caregivers. Additionally, the National Association of School Psychologists has released a parent resource guide and the Harvard Graduate School of Education has developed a website to learn how to help your children cope with the Coronavirus and uncertainty.

In the event of the potential disruption of your regular care channels, using backup care via Care.com is a great way to fill that gap. Each PhD student is eligible for a maximum of 10 subsidized days of care per year. These 10 days can be used for child and/or adult care. If you have used your 10-day benefit, you can continue to use Care.com services. If you are experiencing financial hardship, you may request emergency funding


The Coronavirus outbreak has impacted my ability to conduct my research and I am worried about my academic progress. Whom can I speak with?

Please contact your academic program’s graduate program coordinator or your director of graduate studies.

I am paid hourly for research work and I am concerned that my hours have been reduced.

Researchers who are paid on an hourly basis and are experiencing financial hardship due to a reduction in hours worked should contact the GSAS Office of Financial Aid for additional guidance.

I rely on the Harvard Library to conduct my research. What can I do now that the libraries are closed?

Read the Harvard Library’s announcement to evaluate how this will impact your research. Virtual services and resources will be available as usual, as well as a service for picking up books, and librarians continue to provide chat, reference and consultations through online venues.


How can I teach my class remotely?

Moving your sections online does not mean that you must employ a single tool (like Zoom) in order to replace every in-person teaching function. You should experiment with Zoom and the suite of tools available on Canvas (like online annotation tools and polling software), or Google Docs, as you plan with your course head and consider strategies that will work best for your class.

The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning has compiled a growing list of resources dedicated to teaching remotely, including help available at the Bok Center, the University, and beyond. They have prepared a checklist to help you prioritize as you develop your plan for teaching remotely. They also offer advice for teaching seminar- and section-sized courses

The Office of Undergraduate Education has developed a primer on using Zoom for various aspects of classroom teaching (lecture, section) and office hours/conferences. 

Harvard University Information Technology (HUIT) has resources available, including best practices for remote teaching and general information about getting ready to work remotely. You may request additional assistance with Zoom or other technology resources through the IT Help Portal or by calling 617-495-7777. You can attend a Zoom Training session with ATG, and additional resources will continue to be added to HUIT’s Get Ready to Work Remotely website.

What training and support is available for Teaching Fellows?

The Bok Center is offering online pedagogy sessions designed to support teaching fellows during the transition to online teaching. Whether you are using Zoom, expanding your use of Canvas, or both, these sessions are an opportunity for you to explore and practice online teaching tools via Zoom as you adjust to teaching remotely. 

Learn more and register for sessions regarding general section advice, discussion-based sections (Humanities and Social Sciences), and problem-based Sections (STEM).

Individual consultations are available for instructors who would like one-on-one assistance.

How can I best support undergraduate students during this challenging time?

The Bok Center has tips for instructors on Sustaining Community. It is important to remember that students may also be new to the online platforms you are using, and given the unusual circumstances, they may be dealing with situations outside of your virtual classroom that may affect their ability to engage with your course. Remote teaching and learning is at least somewhat new to almost everyone at Harvard, and flexibility and open-mindedness will be crucial as everyone adjusts to it.

How can students get accommodations for online instruction, if they need them? 

Students who may need new or additional accommodations for the online learning environment can be referred to the Accessible Education Office at 617-496-8707.

Health Care and Other Health Concerns

I am not sick but have a health condition that makes me susceptible to illness. How can I avoid campus and maintain academic progress?

All graduate students have transitioned to remote work wherever possible. Please contact your academic department’s graduate program coordinator or your director of graduate studies if you still have concerns, to build a plan that is best for you. 

Have there been any changes to my Student Health Insurance Plan?

Due to the extraordinary circumstances that we are all facing, The Student Health Program has implemented benefit changes to your Student Health Insurance Plan. Please review their FAQs, which addresses these benefit changes. This list is not all-inclusive and will be updated as the situation evolves.

What do I do if I suspect someone (in the halls, an undergrad in my class, lab-mate, professor, etc.) is sick and isn’t self-isolating?

If someone you know has flu-like symptoms, you can encourage them to consult with Harvard University Health Services by calling 617-495-5711 (24/7). We also advise taking many of the same precautions recommended when protecting oneself against the flu.

I share an apartment with someone who is sick and self-isolating. Can I find somewhere else to live?

Contact the GSAS Office of Residential Life to discuss resources and options.

I am sick and have waived Harvard insurance coverage. Should I still call Harvard University Health Services to report I am unwell?

Yes, you can still access services at Harvard University Health Services (HUHS). All active/enrolled students are charged the Student Health Fee, which is separate from insurance. The Student Health Fee covers the cost of most services at HUHS. If you receive care that is not covered under the Student Health Fee and you waived the Student Health Insurance Plan, your alternative insurance will be billed. Please let HUHS know if you recently traveled. They will help you determine whether to get assessment or treatment.

I have incurred medical costs that are not covered by health insuranceAre there any resources to help me pay my health bills? 

If you have concerns about health care costs, contact your financial aid officer.

What is “social distancing?”

Social distancing is a way to reduce exposure, slow the spread, and minimize transmission of contagious diseases. To practice social distancing, use video- and teleconferencing tools like Zoom instead of holding in-person meetings when possible. Try to maintain at least a six-feet distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Make preventive measures part of your routine now (cough/sneeze into your arm, replace handshakes with elbow bumps, don’t share food/bottles, hand wash more often than usual, avoid touching your face). Avoid close physical contact with anyone displaying symptoms.

What does it mean to self-isolate?

Self-isolation means remain at your residence, do not attend class, work, and other group gatherings (such as social events, meetings, rehearsals, team practices, etc.). If you have recently been in an area of high concern for COVID-19, you can complete the confidential health form provided by Harvard University Health Services for more assistance and advice.

I need emotional support and would like to talk to someone. How can I obtain mental health support remotely?  

During these unprecedented and often stressful times, CAMHS clinicians are working remotely and business remains open Monday through Friday, 8am to 6pm and after-hours urgent care consultation by phone is available nightly from 6pm to 8am and weekends 24/7 at 617-495-5711. 
Please be sure to visit the  CAMHS website for up to date information, and keep in mind the following information: 

  • Beginning the week of April 13, patients will have the option to conduct their therapy session via telephone or video (for telephone sessions, a clinician will call you directly; for video sessions, a clinician will send you a web link invitation) 
  • Video-based group therapy will be offered once clinician training and individual video therapy sessions are successfully implemented. 
  • Use the  patient portal  to schedule an Initial Consultation or call 617-495-2042 to book follow-up, same-day or urgent care appointments.  

If you’re already being seen at CAMHS, you can reach out to your clinician directly for more information or to schedule an appointment. 

HUHS has also prepared a factsheet with information and resources to manage fear and anxiety.

If you need assistance connecting with CAMHS or navigating community support, please reach out to The Office of Student Services to assist you.  

Is Harvard University Health Services still taking appointments? 

While HUHS clinicians will continue to see patients in-person at our Smith Campus Center and Longwood Medical Area locations for urgent and essential appointments, other services will transition to either telemedicine or telephone visits. HUHS operations and hours have temporarily changed. Please view the operating hours for specific departments online. 

Housing and Dining

I could not use my meal plan, can I be reimbursed?

You will be fairly reimbursed for an unused portion of your meal plan.

Other residents are coughing and sneezing. How can I protect myself? Can you stop them?

The best way to protect yourself is to follow proper hand-washing techniques. Wash your hands after touching communal items that others may have touched. Avoid touching your face. Just because someone is coughing and sneezing does not mean they are sick with COVID-19. The common cold, influenza, and allergies can also prompt people to sniffle and sneeze.

Exercise judgment when interacting with others. If you believe someone is sick, encourage them to contact Harvard University Health Services or their medical provider.

Can the residence halls be temporarily evacuated so they can be properly disinfected?

Facilities staff have increased cleanings in communal spaces. You can also be proactive and wash your hands when entering a communal bathroom or kitchen as well as washing your hands when leaving a communal space.

I live in the GSAS residence halls. If I decide to leave campus, will I need to vacate my room?

Yes. Follow guidance from the Office of Residential Life about leaving campus.

I moved off-campus and have requested a prorated refund for GSAS housing and the unused portion of my meal plan. How will I receive this refund?

Direct deposit is the quickest and most secure way to receive a refund from your student account. If you have a US checking or savings account, you are eligible to receive refunds by direct deposit. If you have not already, we recommend you follow the steps provided by Student Financial Services to set up direct deposit.

I moved out of Harvard University Housing. Can I receive a rent adjustment for the early termination of my lease?

Harvard University Housing maintains a Frequently Asked Questions page, which includes information about how adjustments will be made for early termination.

I live in Harvard University Housing, but the number of bedrooms in the apartment outnumber bathrooms. Will I need to move out?

Harvard University Housing maintains a Frequently Asked Questions page, which includes information about whether apartments are subject to the same bedroom-to-bathroom ratio as residence halls (as of March 26, 2020, HUH residents are not required to move, however, you should check HUH’s FAQ for the most current guidance). ​

Has Harvard University Housing made any changes to its leasing options for current residents in light of the pandemic?

On April 22, Harvard University Housing sent an email to all current residents regarding changes to their leasing options for the upcoming year. If you are a current resident and did not receive the email, please check your junk and spam folders or request a copy by sending an email to leasing@harvard.edu.

Student Engagement

Has GSAS canceled events?

In-person events at the GSAS Student Center have been canceled; the Center will provide refunds for dance classes and pre-purchased event tickets.

The GSAS Student Center and many graduate student groups are developing virtual programming to help you stay connected!  Visit Engage for more information.

Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Discrimination

Whom do I go to if someone is discriminating/harassing me because I’m from or look like I’m from one of the countries associated with Coronavirus?

The University and GSAS have policies against racial discrimination and procedures for handling it. If, at any time, you are concerned for your safety, contact the Harvard University Police Department at 617-495-1212 (617-432-1212 for the Longwood Medical Area).

You may make a video-conference appointment with Danielle Farrell, the Director of Student Services, to talk through options, connect with available resources, and receive support. You can also email the Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs to speak with a staff member.

You can also contact the 24/7 Anonymous Reporting Hotline, which is run by an independent, third-party provider, toll-free by calling 877- 694-2275 or submit a report online. The hotline is for reporting issues in situations where you don’t feel comfortable speaking with a supervisor or other resource. (Please read about the hotline to better understand the reporting process, including information regarding non-retaliation and confidentiality, before submitting a report.)

I’m working remotely and I have a concern about sexual or gender-based harassment; how do I ask for help?

As Title IX coordinators for GSAS students, Danielle Farrell and Seth Avakian continue to serve as a resource to GSAS students adjusting to a remote community. They can help regardless of when or where an incident occurred, and regardless of the identity of the other party. 

You can schedule a meeting with Danielle or schedule a meeting with Seth by Zoom or by phone between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday. If you are unable to meet during this time frame, email Danielle or Seth directly at farrell@fas.harvard.edu or avakian@fas.harvard.edu. Seth and Danielle will accommodate your time zone and schedule to the best of their ability. If you are concerned about privacy, you do not need to use your Harvard email or your full name when scheduling a meeting. We are committed to following best practices for privacy on Zoom.

I’m concerned about my, or my friend’s safety during the “stay at home” order, where can I find support and information?

Social distancing during #COVID19 leaves survivors of sexual and domestic violence particularly vulnerable. If you or someone you know in Massachusetts is at risk, you are not alone, help is available. For Massachusetts-based resources, please call 877-785-2020 or visit Jane Doe, Inc. If you are outside Massachusetts, The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable victims to find safety and live lives free of abuse. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

I’m concerned about online sexual harassment; how can I learn more about being safe on the internet?

As we adjust to remote work, The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is offering resources to increase technology-based safety for students, faculty, and staff. These resources provide information about internet etiquette, the ways tech can be used for harm, and autonomy and consent in online spaces.