The health, safety, and well-being of our community, on and off campus, is our top priority. We are committed to maintaining an excellent quality of education through this unprecedented situation. Until further notice, the Harvard Graduate School of Design has shifted to online coursework. The GSD will continue with remote teaching through the entire spring 2021 semester.

Courses and meetings are being conducted through Zoom, which can be accessed through the main menu of the Canvas system. Harvard University Information Technology has compiled a Zoom Training and Help resource page for basics on set-up and troubleshooting and the GSD's CRG Help Desk staff is available to answer questions. Harvard's Learn Remotely website also offers additional resources.

All services offered by the Office of Student Services will continue normal operations, including student affairs, financial aid, career services, enrollment functions, and admissions. For questions, please email the appropriate contact on the Office of Student Services webpage. Students with questions about processing their I-20 should contact Sean Conlon. For departmental-related questions, students should contact their respective department staff as they normally would for questions or assistance.

Resources for Students

Access to Buildings

Emergencies that are University-Related

Emergency Assistance for Students, Summer Work and Grant Opportunities

Fabrication Lab

Frances Loeb Library

Harvard University COVID-19 Website

Harvard University Housing

Harvard University Health Services COVID-19 Information and Resources

Leave of Absence Requests

Student Employment and Payroll Information

Teaching Assistantship: How to Apply

Testing and Tracing

Virtual Events and Public Programs

FAQs: All Students

FAQs: International Students

General Questions

When will the GSD Re-Open Gund Hall?

The GSD will continue with remote teaching through the entire spring 2021 semester. In preparation for the gradual reopening of our buildings, we have put together a working group to develop plans to safely bring students, faculty, and staff back to GSD buildings as rapidly as conditions allow. Our approach will be phased and deliberate, resuming the most critical functions first and working to eventually restore the full range of activities, while paying close attention to issues of health and safety but also of equity, especially for students who are not local. While it’s impossible to predict when and how public health guidance will change, we can see that re-opening won’t be easy or quick, so we are in conversations with the university Provost to discuss our planning and preparations. Visit the Building Services webpage for updates regrading building access.

Are there changes to the Harvard University Student Health Program (HUSHP) plan for Academic Year 2020-2021?

Yes. Find a list of changes being implemented on the HUSHP website. Some changes are related to the pandemic and others are standard changes.

Will my academic accommodations be impacted?

The Dean of Students and Student Accommodations Coordinator are working with students with academic accommodations to ensure that they are able to access their course content and instruction. Visit the Accessibility Services webpage for more information.

Can course loads be reduced and billing be on a per-course basis?

GSD programs are full-time, and it is not possible to reduce course loads.

When will students know what the fall 2021 semester will look like?

The health, safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. It will depend on the virus, advice from infectious disease experts, and other factors including travel restrictions, social distancing protocols, etc. We hope to have enough information to make a final decision in early June. The deadline for requesting a leave of absence for the fall 2021 semester is June 15. If the numbers are such that we cannot accommodate all of the returning students a year later due to limitations of facilities, we will run a lottery to determine return dates which could be up to two years later.

How is the GSD is adapting to the virtual learning environment?

In response to the transition to virtual learning, the Innovation Task Force at the GSD was assembled. This is first and foremost a research group, committed to making specific, well-documented recommendations regarding virtual pedagogy.

Spring Semester Questions

Why did the GSD decide in favor of a fully virtual spring term?

Our decision was influenced by multiple considerations. Concern for the health and safety of the entire GSD community remains a top priority, and based on current guidance from Harvard University Health Services.

In addition, the decision also stems from the following factors: the rising infection rate in Cambridge, Somerville, and the rest of the Boston area; the challenge of making the single space of the trays truly safe; and the continued closure of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, making it impossible for many of our international students to obtain visas.

Will the spring term schedule be the same as what is listed on the Website now that classes are remote?

Yes, the spring academic calendar is the same.

What is the GSD implementing to address the variables with a student body that is now learning across time zones?

We have heard many concerns from students about the challenges posed by different time zones, which are impacting students’ learning experience and overall quality of life. We are thinking holistically about course scheduling to better accommodate GSD students no matter where they are living in the world. We are adjusting blocks of course times to enable instruction to be broken down into shorter time segments and include fewer synchronous meetings and more asynchronous opportunities for learning and group discussion. This approach is also intended to reduce course scheduling conflicts.

If I find the spring semester too challenging, will I be able to take a Leave of Absence?

A student must have been enrolled for at least one semester prior to taking a leave, so you cannot take a leave of absence prior to having completed at least one full semester. But if you are finding it challenging, please reach out to your program director, academic advisor, or the dean of students for individual guidance.

When is the Leave of Absence deadline for spring 2021?

The school had set a Leave of Absence (LoA) deadline of noon on Tuesday, November 10, to enable finalization of course offerings for the spring.

Petitions for leaves after the November 10 deadline will only be considered for medical reasons.

How will the process for Leave of Absence work for the spring semester?

The departments will confirm your leave and send the signed petition back to you within one week after the petition deadline of November 10. You will then need to forward the completed petition to the registrar, Sean Conlon, sconlon@gsd.harvard.edu. If you are an international student, you will also need to provide Sean with the HIO leave form.

As of November 11, for spring 2021, we are relieved to report that we are just at the threshold where we can avoid running a lottery for returns Everyone should be aware, however, that the number of leaves will result in a bubble – a larger than typical number of enrolled students. To accommodate that bubble, in upcoming years we will likely have to extend studio space beyond Gund and 485 Broadway to the Sumner and Kirkland houses as well. Please bear this in mind as you envision your returns.

For further information, please refer to the GSD Leave of Absence page.

What is the deadline for rescinding an approved Leave of Absence for the spring semester?

You have two weeks from November 11 to rescind your approved leave. Thus, Wednesday, November 25 is the deadline for rescinding your leave. If you wish to do so, please contact Sean Conlon

If I take a Leave of Absence for the spring semester, am I still eligible for an on-campus job?

For students who are taking a Leave of Absence for spring term, the date of separation with the GSD is the last day of fall classes in December. This group of students will not be able to work at the GSD in spring or summer 2021.

For students on LOA in the spring, who are returning in fall 2021, the next eligible date that you can work in an on-campus job will be the first day of classes next September.

Will there be changes to the grading system for the spring semester?

In spring 2020, the GSD switched to a pass/fail grading system to account for the sudden changes to teaching and learning brought on mid-semester by the pandemic. Beginning with the fall 2020 semester, we returned to our standard grading policy described on the Grading resource page. As always, if a student has any extenuating circumstances that impinge on their productivity, they should talk with their faculty member, program director, and/or Student Services to determine accommodations.

Will tuition be reduced since the spring semester is virtual?

Tuition for the spring semester was set by the university over a year ago and calibrates the school’s overall budget – 25% of which goes to financial aid, which would have to be rescinded if we were to change the tuition rate. Spring tuition and budget will remain as approved and financial aid allocated to students will not be rescinded.

I received a loan as part of my financial aid package. Can I decline only the loan, or at least part of the loan, since I won't be moving to Boston this spring?

You are free to decline or reduce the loan. Please reach out to financial_aid@gsd.harvard.edu.

For students who are in Boston, will there be any campus activities?

There will be many GSD and Harvard-wide virtual activities this spring. We are not planning any on-campus activities, since our GSD campus is closed for the spring term.

Will the university be offering any collaborative physical workspaces for students already in Cambridge?

The GSD’s buildings will be closed to all students, and most faculty/staff, so physical collaborative workspace is not available. Our Innovation Task Force is already at work creating virtual ways for students to connect and collaborate.

Are there any new initiatives being implemented with the virtual spring semester that were not present in the fall?

We have doubled-down on investing in efforts to support how we teach, learn, and organize ourselves and exist as a community online.

The school is also aiming to release two significant web projects in the coming months that will expand the ways in which faculty and students can share work and engage each other online.

One is a project provisionally titled “GSD Now,” which will provide a real-time and comprehensive view on all activities happening across the school at any given time, and provide a means for students (and courses) to share work more broadly and publicly across the school’s community.

The second is a new website-building toolkit for faculty and student groups that will enable rapid creation of customized websites and will accommodate a wide range of purposes, web development skills, and available budgets.

Lastly, the work of the Innovation Task Force has been enormously influential on all of the projects described above, and they will continue to serve as the school’s in-house think tank, helping to guide our immersion online in ways that are smart and effective.

FAQs: Student Town Hall Q/A

On Friday October, 30th a school-wide Town Hall conversation was held between the dean and students.

Questions, comments, critiques, suggestions and answers from this conversation can be found in this document.

FAQs: Housing and Moving

Does it make sense for students to move to campus for the spring semester?

Under current conditions, there will be no direct benefit to being closer to campus for the spring semester. The GSD is committed to an equitable experience in virtual learning, regardless of the physical location of students. We recommend planning for the best setup possible for learning wherever you are, focusing on factors of cost, online access, and environment.

Will Harvard Housing still be available?

Harvard Housing does have availability for the spring semester, including some fully furnished units available for short-term leases – running until March 31, 2020.

Details about how to submit an application, selecting a unit, and lease information are available on their website.

Will the GSD assist students in securing housing?

The GSD does not secure housing for students, but we do provide information. Options for housing would be available through Harvard University Housing. Students can also find independent rentals in nearby local communities and connect with each other through the GSD Housing Facebook Group.

Whether any GSAS dorm rooms are available in the spring will be impacted by public health guidelines and will be communicated as more information becomes available.

Students should refer to the academic calendar for spring semester dates.

FAQs: Health Services and Health Care

What is the difference between the Student Health Fee and the Student Health Insurance Plan?

This Student Health Fee covers most care at any of the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) campus clinics, including telemedicine visits, with no co-payment.  The Student Health Insurance Plan is administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and is designed to complement the health care provided through the Student Health Fee at HUHS. It covers hospital, specialty care, labs/radiology, has a prescription drug benefit, and will cover 52 mental health visits per plan year. This plan provides coverage throughout the United States and abroad. This plan can be waived with proof of comparable coverage.

Will we still need to pay for health care coverage for the spring semester?

A summary is below, but please see Harvard University Student Health Program (HUSHP) Academic Year 2021 HUSHP Changes for more information.

The Student Health Fee cost is implemented in two tiers, depending on where the student is physically located:

  • Full Fee ($603/term): For those students on campus or residing in Massachusetts.
  • 50% Discounted Fee ($301.50/term): For those students residing outside of Massachusetts (whether elsewhere in the United States or internationally)

All students who pay the Student Health Fee (SHF) will have access to many of the HUHS Clinic services in-person, as well as via telemedicine. All students are encouraged to reach out to HUHS with health or medical needs.
Institutions of higher education in Massachusetts are required to offer a Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP) to students. Therefore, all students will be charged for a Student Health Insurance Plan and to waive must demonstrate comparable coverage in the area in which they are located. Students may waive participation in SHIP if the student is studying in a foreign country and the student has coverage in that foreign location.

Spring waivers will be accepted through January 31. The late waiver deadline is March 31. For information about the waiver application, please see the University waiver eligibility and application page

Will coverage still begin on February 1 for the spring term?

Yes, coverage for the spring term will begin on February 1.

Will CAMHS services be available?

Yes, Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are available. Please see this Message from CAMHS Chief Barbara Lewis, MD.

Do we still need to provide immunization information by January 4, 2021?

If you are not on campus this does not apply, given that the spring semester will be online.

Students arriving on campus for Spring 2021 are strongly encouraged to upload their required immunization records to the HUHS Patient Portal as soon as possible. Non-submission and/or missing required immunizations will place a hold on your account and you will not be able to register for classes.

For details and updates, as well as information about flu vaccinations, please refer to HUHS Immunization Compliance Information.

You can also email questions to mrecords@huhs.harvard.edu

What circumstances require a flu vaccination?

Massachusetts requires flu vaccination by December 31, 2020 for all students enrolled in colleges and universities in the state. Students in Harvard University classrooms, living in Harvard University dorms, or living in Harvard University Housing, regardless of age, are required to be compliant with State and Harvard University immunization requirements. Students can still receive a flu shot from HUHS by making an appointment. Documentation of flu shots received outside of HUHS should be uploaded to the HUHS patient portal. After 12/31/20, if you have not yet received your flu vaccination, registration holds will be placed on your student account. These holds will remain until all requirements are fulfilled. Review your immunization compliance status in the HUHS Patient Portal. For more info about vaccination compliance, visit Mass.gov and the HUHS website here.

Will there be COVID testing available for GSD students living off-campus and learning remotely?

As of September 2, 2020, Harvard University’s testing program is currently only open to individuals who live in on-campus housing or who have to be on campus for more than 4 hours per week. Visit the COVID-19 Testing and Tracing resource page for updates.

Please also see HUSHP (COVID-19) Health Insurance FAQs for further information. If your question is not directly addressed by their responses, there is contact information at the end of the FAQs.

Also, The city of Cambridge began offering free, daily COVID-19 testing with expanded locations at the beginning of November 2020 for residents. Please refer to their website for details.

Where can I find information regarding coverage in the state where I reside?

Please see HUSHP Student Health Insurance Plan for information about hospital, specialty care coverage, and prescription drug coverage administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

FAQs: Library

What sort of library access will students have during the online semester?

The Harvard Library system and the Frances Loeb Library at the GSD have an especially robust set of online resources. Please visit the Library's main page for the latest updates.

To further learning resources, The Loeb Library will expand digitization of its holdings for use beyond the immediate needs of courses.

Also, the Library has plans to initiate a book-mailing program for materials that cannot be accessed in any other way. Details will be communicated as this is implemented.

Is there any physical access to the library while courses are taught remotely?

All Library buildings are closed for visiting.

Still, the Loeb Library and Harvard Library have many services to provide access to library materials that are only available in print.

You may now borrow print materials, and request items from Scan and Deliver, from Frances Loeb Library, Lamont, Widener, Tozzer, Yenching, and the Harvard Depository using Lamont's Front Door Pickup service.

Please see the Access and Borrowing page for details on all of the services to utilize the physical collections while the buildings are closed.

Will the school be digitizing library resources more extensively for the remote semester (and beyond)?

The GSD has extensive digital collections including archival materials, and is continuing, along with the university at large, to expand these databases. The GSD also has a number of research guides that can assist in exploring online resources, such as the visual collections guide.

Additionally, Loeb Library is now accepting requests from GSD faculty and students for reference scans of material located in Special Collections for classes or research. These collections include the Materials Collection, Rare Book Collection, and some Archival Collections.

Does Harvard collaborate with any other university libraries for students to have access to their resources?

Please refer to the Loeb Resources & Services page for updates on BorrowDirect and Interlibrary loan (ILL) services.

What type of library access is available to alumni?

Those who have graduated from the GSD will have alumni access to a limited number of the library’s online resources, available from the Alumni Resources webpage.

For information about additional Harvard Library borrowing options for alumni, contact the Harvard Library Privileges Office at library_privileges@harvard.edu.

FAQs: Career Services

How do I get access to CREATE?

Student accounts are now active on CREATE. The Career Services office can provide instructions on how to navigate the system.

How do I get access to the Alumni Network?

Students can access alumni contacts on LinkedIn, and through CREATE. Your HarvardKey, the university's unified online user credential, uniquely identifyies you to Harvard IT applications and services to grant you access to university resources. As a result, it will give you access to the Harvard Alumni Association database as well.

How will students get career advice from afar?

The Career Services office uses a number of formats for career advising. GSD students can meet virtually with a career counselor to review career options, revise a resume or cover letter, plan a job search strategy, and practice interview skills. Incoming students will be able to schedule an appointment through CREATE, the career management system used by the GSD to deliver news on internships, jobs, career workshops, events, fellowships, and alumni contacts. Every student has a CREATE account.

Casual Conversations with GSD Alumni are scheduled to provide informal advice on ways to develop your career, and Career Workshops cover such topics as networking, developing your portfolio, job search strategies, effective interviewing, and salary negotiation skills. Career Fairs are held to promote summer opportunities and to recruit graduating students for full-time opportunities.

Will the Career Services office remain open for local students?

Career Services remains open virtually for all students, but will not reopen for in person visits until the GSD campus reopens.

How can I find out about TA/RA positions that are available?

Some ​TA and RA positions are shared on Student-Announce or in CREATE. Many faculty prefer to invite students they have worked with in class to become a TA or RA. First-year students may need to wait until they have made connections with faculty – second semester.

For additional information about serving as a TA or RA, visit the GSD Teaching Assistantship website.

Where can I view positions?

Jobs are shared by Career Services on the Student Announce listserv. Once a job is advertised, students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

You can also check with the Student Employment Office to learn about additional job opportunities across Harvard University.

Taking in mind that the spring semester will be online, do you recommend maintaining part-time jobs that we may have in our current places? Or instead, do you recommend a full-time commitment?

This is a question that individuals need to answer for themselves. Students often work during the academic year, so it is definitely possible to balance work and school, depending on how many hours you would need to commit. (As a guide, students working at the GSD have a ceiling of 8 hours/week to ensure that their work does not interfere with their courses.) Be sure to have a conversation with your employer beforehand to set expectations.

You can also visit the Student Employment Office to learn about additional job opportunities across Harvard University.

Will there be Summer Research Grants?

For Summer 2020, returning and graduating students could apply for an advanced research grant of up to $5,000 to conduct independent research or research alongside a faculty member.

Details on future initiatives will be available on the Emergency Assistance, Summer Work and Grant Opportunities page, as they are announced.

FAQs: Technology

Can the GSD provide software licenses and workshops for programs to ensure that all students have the necessary software programs to continue online (e.g., Adobe Creative Cloud, Rhino+Vray, etc.)?

Yes. We provide licenses, including Adobe Creative Cloud full-suite licenses, to all students free of charge.

Will GSD provide extra technical support given that all learnings will be done digitally (i.e. enhanced VPN, help from IT when setting up programs, problems with computers, etc.)?

Yes. GSD HelpDesk is well prepared to provide needed support in a virtual capacity.

What platforms and tools are expected to be set up on what recommended/required computer systems in order to run necessary software?

Each student is expected to have a suitably powerful laptop capable of running Windows. Please see the GSD Web / Resource Center for answers; see also Computer Recommendations / Resource Center.

Is software access active beyond graduation for alumni?

Software privileges cannot be extended when they are packages that are tied to student status.

FAQs: Fabrication

Will students have access to fabrication resources during the spring online semester?

The GSD fabrication facilities will not be open to students this spring term. The Innovation Task Force has worked with faculty to ensure that alternatives to digital fabrication are included in the spring pedagogy.

For spring, The GSD’s Fabrication lab has developed an extensive wiki on model making. Students can use the platform to ask questions and offer comments about at-home model making. This FabLab tool also hosts a model database where you can look up past models, read a brief description of the model, how it was made, and what materials it was made with. Users can search the site using the tags library. The FabLab resource is meant to open up a conversation and create an archive about different model-making techniques and practices.

Will there be extensive model requirements for online classes?

FabLab staff are helping faculty and students set realistic expectations for the spring semester given that the FabLab will not be available for students.

If you need assistance, real-time support from a member of the FabLab extended team (student employees and full-time Lab staff) can be facilitated through Microsoft Teams. Please see the FabLab website for schedules regarding this.

For students with a non-design background, how can you ensure we will have the training in fabrication we need for Core, etc. when we come back in the fall?

FabLab staff have prepared online tutorials and the Core faculty across the school are well aware of the need for relevant orientation sessions when we resume in-person teaching.

Can the school recommend or provide contacts to fabrication labs and other types of fabrication resources in other cities and places away from campus where students are attending remotely?

This is a possibility that is being explored, but should not be assumed. As with facilities on campus, local health guidelines must be taken into account. Additionally, the school is conscious of equity issues regarding material and fabrication costs.

FAQs: Other Harvard and MIT-Related Questions

How can I obtain my Harvard ID card?

If you are in the Cambridge area, and do not have an ID card, you can go to the Smith Campus Center, first floor, Monday – Friday, 9:00am-4:00pm to pick it up. You must bring a form of government-issued picture ID (driver’s license, passport) with you when you go to pick up the card. Members of the ID Office need to visually identify you against the image on the ID card they produce. For this reason, ID cards cannot be mailed to those who are unable to pick them up in person, and others cannot pick up your card for you.

For those who are asked by third parties to provide your student ID card for discounts on services or products, but are not able to pick up your ID card, we suggest using the internal directory, Harvard Connections, for proof of your student status. All active affiliates at Harvard have access to Harvard Connections. It stores a photo and current role status that you can access from your phone or computer. Harvard Connections is accessed using HarvardKey.

Note: Students do not have active ID cards while they are on Leave of Absence.

Will students still have an opportunity to take courses at other schools across Harvard?

There are no plans to limit the existing ability for cross-registration among Harvard schools, MIT, and the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Will MIT be online for Spring semester? How will cross-registration with MIT work?

Please refer to the MIT Website to see its plans for the Spring. The process of cross-registering into MIT courses, as well as other Harvard courses, will remain the same as it has always been in my.harvard. Students will add courses to their Crimson Carts during the registration period and will submit petitions to add those courses based on each school’s open enrollment date.

Will GSD students still have the option to audit courses?

Yes. Students have always had the option of auditing up to 20 units of coursework. However, some schools or courses do not allow auditors, and so the option remains dependent on instructor preferences. Students do not register as auditors at the GSD and some other schools. Students should contact the instructor to obtain their permission and they will be granted guest access to the course Canvas site.

Can first-year students audit courses while on Leave of Absence?

The school cannot accommodate doubling the teaching of core courses, both in terms of available faculty and in terms of available space. Restricting audits when a student is on LoA is a Harvard-wide policy, but all lectures and events are accessible.

Harvard International Office meeting Q/A

On November 3rd, the GSD held a school-wide conversation with a representative from the Harvard International Office.

Questions and answers from this conversation can be found in this document.

General Questions: International Students

Students with visa questions should contact the Harvard International Office, or visit their newly updated FAQ section, which provides answers to many questions about visas, COVID-19, and online learning for international students. Please continue to regularly check the site for the most up-to-date information.

Please note the following messaging of key points from HIO regarding the Spring 2021 Semester, as of October 27th 2020. This advice is based on current guidance from the U.S. government and is subject to change.

1. We do not have guidance from the government for the spring 2021 semester.
Although the timing is unclear, we do expect new government guidance for the spring of 2021. Until the government provides new or different information, we are forced to assume that the current restrictions, which do not allow for new international students (as well as those returning from leaves of absence) to study remotely in the U.S., will remain in place. Based on the information as we know it currently, we do not recommend you plan to come to the U.S. for the spring semester.

2. Once we receive the guidance for spring 2021, we will be amending your visa documents (Form I-20 or DS-2019) to reflect a new program start date depending on the length of your program*. You will receive this newly amended document either electronically or by express mail, depending on the guidance we receive. Upon receiving your new document, you may only apply for your F-1 student visa 120 days in advance of the new start date.

3. The University’s Office of Federal Relations is working diligently on your behalf. There is legislation actively being considered that could allow you to come to the U.S. and maintain a student visa status while studying remotely, but it is unclear if or when this will be enacted into law. If adopted, schools would still be operating with remote learning, but you may be able to enter the U.S. with student status and continue your studies remotely from here. We will inform you immediately if this happens.

4. If there is a change in government guidance or the law, the HIO will contact you to amend your visa document appropriately. Until that time, you should not plan to come to the U.S. this spring to continue your studies because your program is being taught remotely. This applies even if you are successful in obtaining a student visa. Until there is a change in law or policy, first-year students or those returning from a leave of absence will violate their immigration status entering the U.S. to study remotely this spring. Under current guidance and policy, you may study full-time from outside the U.S.

*For those students who are in one year academic programs: If you had planned to enter the U.S. on an F-1 student visa for the 2020-2021 academic year and were not able to do so due to the pandemic restrictions, we will be cancelling your SEVIS record if the guidance and/or policies do not change. This means you will not qualify for a student visa since the program will continue remotely. As a reminder, you will not be eligible to apply for optional practical training (OPT) following your program as that benefit only applies to those who accrue nine months of student visa status in the U.S.

What will be the status for returning international students studying remotely?

There has been no update to the exceptions made last spring and this fall by ICE to allow international students to do all their classes on-line and maintain their visa status. Should there be any change to the exceptions, you will be notified immediately.

  • If graduating at the end of the fall semester, students must return to the United States prior to December 18 to apply for OPT; the current policy has not changed in regard to students needing to be physically in the United States when they apply for OPT.
  • If graduating at the end of the spring semester, students must return to the United States prior to May 27 to apply for OPT.

Will the virtual semester affect OPT?

Current guidance requires that you accrue two semesters, or nine months of active F-1 student visa status in the US before you are eligible for OPT, immediately prior to the OPT. Once on-campus classes resume, you will likely be able to reach this requirement before graduation, depending on the length of your degree program.

What if there are still travel restrictions and consulates remain closed? In the worst-case scenario, what will happen if I can’t travel to the U.S. for the fall 2021 semester?

We cannot make any assumptions about how the pandemic will play out almost a year from now. We will provide more information regarding this in the early summer.

What if our home country does not recognize online degrees?

None of our programs are considered to have online degrees. This is a temporary change in teaching methods to deal with a global crisis. Your degree will NOT be considered an online degree.

FAQs: First-Year International Students

Can international students still enter the US on an F-1 student visa when the semester is virtual? Should I move to Cambridge?

If you are a new, or initial (returning from a leave of absence) F-1 or J-1 student, you will not be able to move to the United States for the spring semester. Once the campus reopens, your I-20 will need to be amended or reissued with a new start date. The HIO will be in touch with further instructions on this process as the situation develops.

If you have successfully completed the F-1 transfer process between Harvard and your current US institution, you will be able to remain in the United States for the virtual semester. Usually, F-1 status students are only able to take up to one online course per semester. The government extended the spring 2020 provision to fall 2020 that allowed transfer and continuing students to stay in the country for a full online course-load as a result of COVID-19.  We have not been provided with any guidance for the spring semester, but the thought is that it will be extended again for spring 2021.

Will it be possible to do an internship in the U.S. next summer when the spring is virtual?

As per current guidance, new or initial (those who returned from a leave in fall 2020, or this spring) F-1 students will not be eligible for CPT in summer 2021.

SEVIS transfer students should be eligible for CPT in summer 2021 as a benefit of the government extension that allows you to stay in the US for the virtual semester, thereby maintaining your status.

Will I need to pay a new SEVIS fee? Will I need to pay to have the I-20 shipped again?

You should not need to pay the SEVIS fee again if you have already paid it, as we have already reissued an amended I-20 with the same SEVIS number. You will have already received a communication regarding your amended I-20 with the January start date, with instructions for downloading it. We will use a similar process for issuing you the new I-20 with the September 2021 start date.

This page will be updated as new information becomes available. Last updated December 3, 2020 9:59 am EST.