Harvard Chan School FAQs for coronavirus (COVID-19)


Harvard University and other School and program-specific FAQs 
Admissions-related COVID-19 FAQs
Registrar’s Office COVID-19 FAQs
Student policy FAQs for the fall 2020 semester
Part-time student policy FAQs for the fall 2020 semester

General questions

Can I come into Harvard Chan buildings to study or work?
All School buildings are closed to all but a limited number of designated people. Only those on a “Designated Personnel” list will be allowed in buildings. These people include Facilities Operations and critical lab staff. The FXB entrance will be the only entrance point open to designated personnel. In addition, Sebastian’s Café will remain closed for the duration of the remote work period.

Will I still be able to receive deliveries or mail during the shutdown?
Shipping and receiving functions will be on a Winter Break schedule. While we are working remotely, please do not order any supplies or equipment unless they are absolutely essential. As long as USPS continues to deliver mail, Operations staff will accept it. All delivered mail will be held until we return to normal on-site operations.

I do not have the internet at home or my connection is slow. Are there resources available?
The Harvard IT department (HUIT) has developed a guide with tips for accessing and optimizing internet at home. View the guide here.

Is it okay to travel?
University Provost Alan Garber announced that University-related travel, both international and domestic, is prohibited until further notice and should not be planned or scheduled at this time. This applies to all community members—students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and other academics. Personal travel, both international and domestic, is strongly discouraged. For guidance go to the Harvard travel guidance web page.

Will I have to pay for University travel that I had to cancel?
If you have travel planned that the University would have reimbursed that now has to be cancelled, you will be reimbursed for those costs in accordance with Harvard travel policy. International members of the community should consult the Harvard International Office website for guidance.

As members of the public health community, we feel a responsibility and desire to serve in this time of public health crisis. What can we do to help?
There are a number of ways for Harvard Chan School community members to get involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Explore options on the COVID-19 Student Involvement Opportunities page, such as joining the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) Student Health Corps.

I know social connection is important to health. How should I think about and help navigate the need for social distancing?
This pandemic means we need to avoid contact at the same time we are experiencing a high level of uncertainty and stress. Although you are physically remote, please do all you can to remain virtually connected and engaged with our community and help others do so as well. Know that the Harvard Chan community is here to help you. Members of our community have developed resources related to addressing anxiety, dealing with stress, staying connected, and how to talk with children about COVID-19:

If needed, mental health resources are available from Counseling and Mental Health Services (for students) and the Employee Assistance Program (for faculty and staff).

back to top

Academic concerns

How long will classes be taught online?
We are planning for virtual instruction to continue through the through the 2020 fall (Fall1 and Fall2) semester. We do not know what will be safe for WinterSession and the spring 2021 semester yet and will be carefully monitoring the situation and making decisions as soon as we are able.

new 8/6/20What will be the format for courses this fall?
Students can find this information in the following spreadsheet: Course Format: Fall 2020.
Note: This file will be updated as more course information is provided. 

What will the grading policy be in the fall?
Students will have a pass/fail option for all Harvard Chan School courses during the fall semester (including Fall1/Fall2). Students will need to choose their grading basis through my.Harvard by the end of the add/drop deadline. Transcripts will include explanatory text indicating that this option was made available to all students due to the global pandemic and its impact on public health. For all courses that Harvard Chan students cross-register into, the grading policies of the home-school are in effect. Students should check with their degree program and field of study directors or administrators to understand how ordinal-grade requirements for certain courses may or may not apply this fall. Note: GSAS grading policies differ from those of the Harvard Chan School. PhD students should check with their degree-program administrators to understand whether the pass-fail option for particular courses is allowable. See the GSAS COVID-19 guidance for more information. 

I live in a different time zone from Boston. Will all courses be offered only in “real time” or will there be options if students cannot join live class sessions?
Enrolled students will be able to participate from around the world and make uninterrupted progress toward their degrees. Faculty will accommodate differences in time zones and other situations related to the pandemic to the best extent they are able, but not all courses will do so in the same ways. Some types of accommodation being considered include recording class sessions so students can view them on-demand, changing the times for discussion and lab sessions to account for a broader range of time zones, and allowing participation via discussion boards in addition to during class sessions. Faculty will be able to convey further details about their course structure in the course catalog.

I am an international student. I have questions about my enrollment, whether I will receive an I-20 document, and working in the U.S. How can I get more information? Whom should I talk with?
The Harvard International Office (HIO) is planning to host Q&A webinars as well as post FAQs for admitted international students who will begin their programs in the Fall 2020 semester. Please be sure to check your e-mail as more information becomes available. In the interim, if you have questions, please contact HIO at internationaloffice@harvard.edu.

I am an incoming MPH45 student. How will I do my required practicum if instruction is remote?We know that the emergency transition to remote instruction and the effect on the pandemic on many organizations made for greater complexity in finding practicum placements for the summer The MPH program, the school’s Practice Office, and our practice faculty are already planning for practicum and field experiences for the fall, building on the experiences and lessons learned from helping students find remote practicum and field experience projects for this summer.

We are confident that students will have a range of practicum opportunities, including projects that will focus on a variety of public health topics, including COVID-19. During the height of the pandemic in Massachusetts, MPH students successfully identified summer projects that could be conducted remotely, and we anticipate that during the academic year, students will work either remotely or in person in their city of residence. Every year, many of our students work with alumni on their practicums, and we anticipate this being the case in the coming year too.  We always encourage incoming students to start thinking about their practicum before the fall and we will be providing some resources and guidance to you during the summer.

How will dissertation or thesis defenses be handled?
We are requiring that all defenses be held over Zoom. This was a particularly difficult decision and we expect to host defense event(s) after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted so that we can properly celebrate everyone’s success. PhD students should see additional guidance posted on the GSAS Coronavirus site under Academic Concerns.

Will academic policies be the same for online classes?
Students are expected to continue to meet their academic obligations in order to remain in good academic standing. Therefore, it is important that they meet course expectations and make satisfactory progress toward their degree, even as some instructors will need to change their course expectations to make the transition to online instruction.

What are the implications of cross-registration in the move to online?
We are coordinating with colleagues across Harvard to ensure cross-registration opportunities and expect that with remote learning, cross-registration opportunities will increase.

If we can’t come on to campus, how do we take care of academic forms remotely?
All Registrar-related forms can be electronically submitted via email to registrar@hsph.harvard.edu with copies to academic advisors and academic or program administrators. Request for Certification forms can also be submitted to registrar@hsph.harvard.edu. Transcript requests can be made online via the National Student Clearinghouse.

Can students still submit an incomplete grade request?
Yes. The School’s current policy for incompletes remains in place. Incomplete grade submissions are done electronically—visit the Registrar’s Office website for more information.

I think I may need to take a Leave of Absence. How do I find out about my options?
We know you are trying to weigh many options. As mentioned above, we hope you will continue your public health education full time.

If you want to learn more about the options available given your degree program, consult with your department or degree program regarding switching to part-time status and leave of absence requests. (See response to the question below “How do I know who to contact to get specific answers to the questions I have about the fall?”)

Current students (not incoming students) are eligible for Leaves of Absence (LOAs) for reasons related to academic performance, personal or family medical situations, or in the rare circumstance that the program, department, or school encourages a student to take a leave of absence. LOAs are granted on a semester-by-semester basis.

LOAs requests must include a plan to finish the degree within the standard time to degree and require program/department approval. A petition must be submitted prior to the start of the semester. The petition form can be found here.

Note: This does not apply to PhD students, whose LOA policy will be determined by GSAS. Visit the GSAS COVID-19 guidance for more information. 

How do I request to switch from full time to part-time study?
If you are considering making a request to enroll on a part-time basis, please visit the part-time request page for more information.

I have a question that isn’t addressed in these FAQs. Who can I contact?
Please direct your inquiry to the applicable staff member below:

Student Support Services

Admissions Office
Email: admissions@hsph.harvard.edu

Financial Aid Office
Email: financialaid@hsph.harvard.edu

Registrar’s Office
Email: registrar@hsph.harvard.edu

Office for Student Affairs
Email: StudentAffairs@hsph.harvard.edu

Housing Resources
Housing Manager: Luke Sutherland
Email: housing@hsph.harvard.edu

Harvard University Health Services
Phone: (617) 495-2008 (member services)

Harvard International Office
Advisor: Elizabeth Capuano
Email: Elizabeth_capuano@harvard.edu

Information Technology
Phone: (617) 432-HELP (4357)
Email: helpdesk@hsph.harvard.edu

Program Administrators

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH):
Gary Williams – gwilliams@hsph.harvard.edu

Master in Health Care Management (MHCM):
Colin Fleming – cfleming@hsph.harvard.edu

Master of Public Health (MPH – all fields of study):
Anne Occhipinti – mph@hsph.harvard.edu

PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health:
Tatevik Holmgren – tholmgren@hsph.harvard.edu

PhD in Population Health Sciences (see contacts for individual PHS fields of study below):
Bruce Villineau – bvillineau@hsph.harvard.edu

Biostatistics (Master of Science and PhD in Biostatistics):
Jelena Tillotson-Follweiler – jtillots@hsph.harvard.edu
Geryel Osorio Godoy – osoriogodoy@hsph.harvard.edu

Environmental Health (Master of Science and PhD in Population Health Sciences/Environmental Health):
Barbara Zuckerman – bzuckerm@hsph.harvard.edu

Epidemiology (Master of Science and PhD in Population Health Sciences/Epidemiology):
Eric DiGiovanni – edigiova@hsph.harvard.edu

Global Health and Population (Master of Science and PhD in Population Health Sciences/Global Health and Population):
Barbara Heil – bheil@hsph.harvard.edu

Health Policy and Management:
Jennifer Moltoni – jmoltoni@hsph.harvard.edu

Nutrition (PhD in Population Health Sciences/Nutrition):
Stefanie Dean – sdean@hsph.harvard.edu)

Social and Behavioral Sciences (PhD in Population Health Sciences/Social and Behavioral Sciences):
Whitney Waddell – sbsacadaff@hsph.harvard.edu


Can I appeal my financial aid offer in light of a change in circumstances from the pandemic?
We understand that recent circumstances have caused a variety of financial stressors for students and their families. Unfortunately, although we are exploring ways to increase financial aid, at the moment we don’t have enough aid to meet the financial need of all students and cannot consider appeals. Please contact financialaid@hsph.harvard.edu to discuss your current financial circumstances and discuss the resources or loan options that may be available to you.

I don’t think I should pay the same amount to study at Harvard Chan School given the move to online instruction this fall. Will tuition be reduced?
While we certainly wish we were able to hold our fall classes in person, we will not be reducing tuition.

We are committed to providing a rigorous, high-quality educational experience this fall and are developing ways to enhance student engagement and networking beyond the classroom given that the remote experience will not and cannot be the same as the in-person experience. Though your education will not be the same, but we do not believe it will be diminished. You will emerge with new knowledge, new skills, new colleagues and friends, and your Harvard degree. Adaptation will take a commitment on the part of every member of our community and we are mindful of the many and sometimes extreme difficulties the pandemic is placing on our students, faculty, and staff.

The public health crisis occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented social and economic disruption worldwide, in the United States, and in the Boston/Cambridge area. We must protect the health and safety of our community, preserve our ability to adapt to evolving circumstances, and ensure the continuity of our teaching and research mission. Harvard Chan continues to retain the discretion to apply its considered judgment to the question of how best to pursue its educational programs during the COVID-19 crisis, including by recourse to online instruction.

What about the Student Health Fee—will it change?
For academic year 2020-21, Harvard University Health Services has adopted a two-tier structure for the Student Health Fee 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 SHF will have access to many of the HUHS Clinic services in-person, as well as via telemedicine. For more information, please visit https://hushp.harvard.edu/academic-year-2021-hushp-changes, or contact HUHS.

Can I waive the student health insurance for the fall term and still meet the F-1 or J-1 visa requirement that I have US health insurance?
Massachusetts law requires that any full-time or part-time student enrolled in an institution of higher learning in Massachusetts must participate in a qualifying student health insurance program or in a health plan of comparable coverage. In addition, J-1 visa holders are required to have U.S. based health insurance that meets certain requirements, which are detailed on the Harvard International Office website here: https://hio.harvard.edu/health-care-students.

However, the U.S. health coverage does not have to start until you are physically in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status.  If you waive the student health insurance plan for the fall semester, you will be able to purchase the student health insurance plan for the spring semester and meet these health insurance requirements.

Will there be any changes to my financial aid due to the online learning environment?
As long as you complete your classes and maintain any minimum number of credits required for your financial support, there should be no changes to your aid (scholarships, grants, and loans). Federal Work Study (FWS) students should attempt to continue their work study obligations remotely with the approval of their supervisor.

Will anything change with my stipend if I am a PhD student?
All students will continue to be paid following the normal guidelines, as is appropriate given that all students are expected to continue to do their academic work, even if their work needs to change because of coronavirus limitations.

Am I able to meet with a financial aid counselor during this time?
Yes, either remotely through video conferencing or via phone.

I have significant unexpected expenses. Is funding support available?
General support for unexpected circumstances is not available. Harvard Chan student emergency funding may be available.

How can I complete my loan exit interview if I am graduating?
Sign up for an individual exit counseling session with a financial aid staff member (via Zoom). Additionally, read more about the exit counseling requirements on the graduation website, all of which can be completed remotely.

back to top

Student life

If I enroll in the fall and classes return to campus for the spring, will I be required to move to Boston to study or can I continue/complete my degree remotely?
We are exploring how to make courses available via online instruction in the spring for students who are unable to come to Boston. A requirement to be in-residence may vary depending upon the length of your degree and the state of the pandemic.

If we are able to be on campus in the new year, we know that the short length of some of our degree programs would mean that some of you would be coming to Boston for just a few months. We also understand that housing in Boston is expensive and that finding housing is not always easy. We know that uncertainty about the spring makes it difficult to plan, and we will make and announce decisions as soon as we possibly can, and, if we will be on campus, provide information on housing options for the spring.

Can I defer my admission until next year?
The School typically grants a very limited number of deferrals and will continue to do so.

This year, our approach to deferrals reflects the need to balance overlapping and sometimes competing concerns for student well-being during the pandemic, ensuring that as many students as possible can gain a public health education at Harvard during the pandemic, and not putting future applicants at a severe disadvantage.

For the coming year, we will consider deferrals only from admitted students who:

  • Are obligated to appear for a military deployment or similar work commitment.
  • Have urgent front-line clinical responsibilities because of COVID-19.
  • Have urgent governmental responsibilities because of COVID-19.
  • Financial hardship caused by a significant change in finances because of COVID-19.
  • Are experiencing a family death, or personal or close family member illness that leads to new family responsibilities/demands.
  • Have guaranteed scholarship support that was postponed until next year because of COVID-19 (requires validation from sponsor that they will have future funding).

We will not consider requests for deferrals that are related to:

  • Preference for in-person rather than remote instruction.
  • Limitations in entry to the United States.

Deferral applications from all Harvard Chan degree programs will be reviewed by a committee of faculty and senior administrators.

Note: This does not apply to PhD students, whose deferral policy will be determined by GSAS. Visit the GSAS COVID-19 guidance for more information. 

How do I request a deferral?
Deferral requests will continue to need to be submitted through the standard platform, SOPHAS Express. If you have any questions about the form and process for submitting a request, contact the Admissions Office: admissions@hsph.harvard.edu.

Deferral applications for fall 2020 will be accepted until June 22, 2020.

Students requesting deferrals will be notified as soon as possible after the request is made and will be evaluated on a rolling basis.

Please note that even if you are eligible to apply for a deferral, this does not guarantee that you will be granted one.

If I am granted a deferral, will I retain any scholarship I have been given by the School?
No. The School does not earmark financial aid in future years because it does not know the needs of future applicants. However, you can apply for aid again and be considered for next year.

If I am not eligible to apply for a deferral and decide not to attend this year, how would I apply for next year? 
You would simply reapply and be assessed in next year’s applicant pool. We hope that you will choose to attend Harvard Chan School this year or consider starting your degree part-time rather than deciding not to attend.

Will the School provide career support during the pandemic?
Yes. The Office for Career Advancement is dedicated to supporting students in their career and professional development needs. The staff are on top of trends in employment nationally and internationally, specifically new opportunities opening up due to the prominence of public health needs right now. All of their services are all available to students online including career coaching, career development workshops, and opportunities to connect with employers and alumni. Please contact Sheila Krishnan, Director for Career Advancement, at skrishnan@hsph.harvard.edu with questions or visit the office’s website at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/career-services/.

Will there continue to be wellness support for students?
Support (e.g. disability services, learning support, mental health, help for students with food insecurity) will continue to be provided via the Office for Student Affairs.

Harvard University Health Services will remain operational. For coronavirus disease information and updates, click here.


Research-specific resources: FAQs on Sponsored Programs, University Office for Sponsored Programs (OSP) | Travel Cancellation & Reimbursement Guidance | Research-Related Information and Websites

Where can I find the latest updates on research policy?
Check the Office of Research Strategy and Development (ORSD) website for more information on the following:

  • New COVID-19 research funding opportunities
  • COVID-19-related research news and policy updates
  • Guidance for federally-funded clinical trials and human subject studies affected by COVID-19
  • Free access and free services for researchers related to COVID-19
  • COVID-19 news from Harvard Chan faculty

NIH has also created a webpage dedicated to providing guidance and resources for NIH applicants and recipients.

How are we dealing with issues of compliance with federal funding and other sponsored research concerns?
University personnel are in touch with the major funding agencies and have posted FAQs on the University Office for Sponsored Programs (OSP) site. If you have Harvard Chan specific questions, Kay Sullivan (ksulliva@hsph.harvard.edu) is available to respond or triage the questions to the appropriate office at the university.

What if I have questions about my research study that involves Human Subjects?
In addition to University and School wide communications, the Office of Regulatory Affairs & Research Compliance (ORARC) has put together a resource, “COVID-19 FAQs relating to Human Subjects Research.” This resource has been made available on the Office website.

Can my new postdoc/research associate/visiting scientist start their appointment as planned?
There will be very few situations in which it is possible for a new academic appointment to commence until campus is reopened and travel restrictions are lifted. If the incumbent is internal and being promoted or if they are already local, have done their I-9, and can onboard and work remotely, for instance, starting as planned may be possible. Please contact the Office of Faculty Affairs to work through logistics of changing start dates and with any related questions.

Are faculty searches continuing?
Faculty searches and promotions that are underway can continue as planned; new or planned faculty searches that have not yet initiated will be paused for the time being. Academic reappointments for non-ladder faculty can proceed as planned. Hiring of sponsored academic positions (e.g. postdoctoral fellows, research scientists) that will be fully supported by grants or external funding can proceed, assuming the position can be fully deployed remotely until it is safe to return to campus; this includes both currently open and future positions.

back to top


I understand I have to teach online. How do I get started?
Take a look at the following sites. Make sure you have your accounts set up.

These sites contain clear, step-by-step instructions for using technologies like Zoom, as well as best practices and tips. Harvard Chan IT has been hosting Zoom trainings. Peer-to-peer coaching for moving teaching online will also be available. Please be sure to check your email for updates and opportunities.

What additional resources will be available to faculty preparing for the fall semester?
We intend to deliver high-quality, rigorous course offerings in the fall. Our faculty and staff will be working through the summer to develop creative approaches to the wide range of courses we offer. New educational and technological workshops have been planned and Instructional Designers, coordinated through your department or program administrators, will be working with course instructors. Our Faculty Instructional Coach program of peer support will continue and expand. We are also in the process of rethinking TA roles and TA support. We know this is only a start and will be working with our faculty to understand their needs and how the school can support them.

Are TAs and TFs continuing their teaching work?
Yes. If your course involves teaching fellows, teaching assistants, or course assistants, they should continue to work with you; we will continue to rely on their exceptional work, perhaps even more so as we are transitioning to and supporting remote teaching. Harvard graduate students and other teaching staff will continue to receive their normal compensation during this period. This may help to ensure coverage of critical issues and will be useful if one or more members of an instructional team becomes ill.

What if I still have questions about how to handle transitioning my teaching to a remote format?
For instructional design and online conversion questions contact Sejal Vashi, vashi@hsph.harvard.edu.