COVID-19 FAQs for Students


Fall 2021

We expect that increasing availability of vaccines will enable our students, faculty, and staff who follow designated health protocols to interact safely on the Harvard Chan campus by the Fall 2021 semester. Therefore, we are planning for in-person classes, although we are also developing backup plans in case health protocols set by the CDC, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Harvard University, and our own experts limit a full return to pre-pandemic density and practices.

Listed below are frequently asked questions and answers about Fall 2021. We will continue to update these FAQs. We also encourage our students to visit  Coronavirus: Keep Harvard Healthy for updates from Harvard University.

See “Return to Campus” note from Dean Williams, Dean Kim, and Dean Hope; and “Fall 2021 Education Plans” note from Dean Driver-Linn and the Education Planning Committee

For key academic dates, see our Summary and Planning Calendars.

New admits

When do I need to provide my response to my admissions letter?
The deadline for admissions responses is April 15, 2021.

Can I defer my offer of admission?
In general, deferrals are only granted in rare circumstances and on a case-by-case basis. If you want to discuss a deferral or request a deferral contact the Admissions Office (admissions@hsph.harvard.edu).

Can I be granted a deferral to next year if I cannot get an appointment for my visa interview or the embassy/consulate in my country is closed?
Deferral requests that arise as a result of visa processing delays will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We also encourage any international students with questions to visit the Harvard International Office (HIO) to view updated information for international students or to contact the Harvard Chan HIO Advisor, Elizabeth Capuano (elizabeth_capuano@harvard.edu). Students may also speak with Elizabeth during her Zoom Office Hours: These are walk-in question and answer sessions; appointments are not scheduled and students are seen on a first-come, first-served basis (Tuesdays, 9-11 am: Meeting ID: 914 1788 4596, Password: 502336; Thursdays, 1-3 pm: Meeting ID: 987 0398 3839, Password: 907700).

If I cannot arrive by Orientation, can I participate online and then arrive late for the fall semester?
We are planning that Harvard Chan’s Orientation activities will be a combination of online and in-person activities. We strongly encourage all students to arrive in time to participate in Orientation for the in-person components. Students who are unable to arrive in time due to visa processing delays and/or significant hardships will be accommodated on a case-by-case basis. Late arrivals for other reasons cannot be accommodated.

On-campus accommodations

Do all students need to be in the Boston-Cambridge area by the start of the Fall 2021 semester?
Students should plan to live in the Boston-Cambridge area for the full academic year so they can fully engage in the Harvard Chan community as we return to a more typical mode of operation.

What if I can’t obtain a visa or have another significant impediment to making it to campus by the start of the semester?
We plan to offer limited online learning options for students unable to reach Boston by the start of the semester, especially international students who are unable to get visas in time. We will be gathering as much information as possible from these students and will use that information to plan for alternative learning options. We also encourage any international students with questions to visit the Harvard International Office (HIO) to view updated information or to contact the Harvard Chan HIO Advisor, Elizabeth Capuano (elizabeth_capuano@harvard.edu). Students may also speak with Elizabeth during her Zoom Office Hours: These are walk-in question and answer sessions; appointments are not scheduled and students are seen on a first-come, first-served basis (Tuesdays, 9-11 am: Meeting ID: 914 1788 4596, Password: 502336; Thursdays, 1-3 pm: Meeting ID: 987 0398 3839, Password: 907700).

I am uncomfortable coming to Boston-Cambridge for health and safety reasons. Can I enroll online for the fall semester and then come in-person when it feels safer?
Based on the best health evidence available to us, we believe it will be safe for predominantly in-person learning and we strongly encourage all students to move to the Boston-Cambridge area. As outlined above, we are exploring limited online options for students who have a significant impediment to being able to come to campus.

I do not want to be enrolled for the Fall 2021 term given the School’s plans. Can I take a leave of absence?
Current students wishing to request a leave of absence should follow the usual process outlined in the Student Handbook. Please note that a new, incoming student cannot take a leave of absence during their first semester at Harvard Chan School.

Vaccination and campus access

Will I be required to get vaccinated to come to campus? Will testing be required? Will there be exemptions?
We are waiting for guidance from Harvard University Health Services regarding testing and vaccine protocols and will share more information as soon as it becomes available. As a school of public health, we strongly encourage all members of our community to be vaccinated before coming to campus. We do not anticipate that the University will require vaccinations. We do expect that testing will continue to be required in the fall. You should also periodically check the Keep Harvard Healthy website for updates and policy announcements.

Will there be events and activities on campus in the fall semester?  What can I expect from my on-campus student experience besides classes?
Fall activities—such as small- to medium-sized student activities, seminars, and other events—are planned to be in-person, but regular classes will be given priority if health concerns require de-densifying. As always, we will follow CDC, state, University, and our own faculty experts’ requirements and recommendations.

My at-home study space is not adequate; will be I allowed to study on campus even when not in class?
We expect that there will be spaces for studying—including in Countway Library—but that those spaces may be limited due to the need for physical distancing and dedensification, and may require advance sign-up.

Will I still be able to access the Harvard Chan campus if health conditions deteriorate at the School or in the Boston-Cambridge area?
There may be a need to roll back planned in-person classes to a remote basis and cancel or reduce other planned campus access if health conditions worsen at Harvard Chan School or in the Boston-Cambridge area, or if people do not comply with the required health protocols. Our plans need to be flexible so that we can respond nimbly to improving or worsening health conditions.

Academics

Will all classes be conducted on campus?
A full and safe return to campus is something we all look forward to. At this time, our expectation is that most of Harvard Chan’s classes for our residential degrees will be on campus for the fall. Some large courses are likely to continue to be held online, which will help to reduce the demands for classroom space. The School’s decisions regarding teaching modality will continue to be guided by public health considerations. We will make further decisions about these specifics as more health information becomes available in the coming months.

Why isn’t Harvard Chan School offering classes in the fall with some students online and some students in-person?
Courses in our residential degree programs were designed for an in-person experience. On the other hand, courses in our MPH-Epi degree program were either designed to be fully online or, for those weeks the students are on-campus, to be fully in-person. Often when people use the term “hybrid” they mean having some students online and some students in-person. We have explored the technologies and consulted with numerous experts, students, and faculty for that format, and the strong consensus is that facilitating discussion and learning with some students in-person and others on Zoom is not ideal for either students or faculty. That said, if safety and health conditions change, we may need to offer some courses in this format.

Due to the pandemic, the School’s grading policy changed in Academic Year 2019-20 to allow for optional pass/fail. Will that policy continue for Academic Year 2021-22?
No. We will go back to our pre-pandemic grading policy. If you have questions about whether pass/fail is an option for you in a particular class, you should consult with your program and the instructor of the course.

Housing

Should I plan to live in the Boston-Cambridge area?
If you are enrolled in our residential degree-programs you should plan to live in the Boston-Cambridge area for the full academic year so that you can be engaged in the Harvard Chan community. For more information about housing, please see these Housing Resources or email housing@hsph.harvard.edu with any questions.

Financial Support

What would happen if an incoming student pays tuition and then is unable to enroll due to travel bans?
Please see the Student Billing website for the Withdrawal Refund Policy and deadlines.

Can I appeal my financial aid in light of a change in circumstances and/or ongoing and unexpected expenses from the pandemic?
We understand that the past year has caused a variety of financial stressors for students and their families, and may continue to have impact. While the School does not have enough aid to meet the financial needs of all students, 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. Enrolled students may also apply to receive support from the Student Emergency Fund.

Will tuition be discounted if more courses than currently planned need to be online?
While we hope and are planning for most of our classes to be held in-person, we may have to adjust to deliver education safely in this changing health landscape and we will not be reducing tuition if we need to make these adjustments. Harvard Chan School retains the ability to apply considered judgment to the question of how best to pursue its educational programs during all phases of this crisis.

Summer 2021

Will summer classes be held online or in person?
To ensure the health and safety of our students, instructors, and staff, Harvard Chan will conduct most summer classes online. The Harvard Chan Education Planning Committee made this decision after consulting with our School’s epidemiology and infectious disease experts, and other essential units across Harvard University. The exception will be on-campus classes taken exclusively by students in three small cohort-based programs: the Master in Health Care Management, Doctor of Public Health, and the spring hybrid program for students pursuing Optional Practical Training.

Will there be any in-person activity on campus?
In general, there will be no in-person activity on campus for students, except for the on-campus classes for the three cohorts mentioned above.  The Countway Library will continue to provide limited on-campus study space for students, with pre-approval and testing protocols in place. If you have questions about this, please be in contact with the Office of Student Services.

I live in a different time zone from Boston. Will online 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. Course instructors 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 courses will record 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 convey further details about their course structure in the course catalog or online.

What are the protocols in place for those who are approved to go to campus this summer?
When/if you are authorized to come to campus, at the moment we expect that you must complete the following before entering any Harvard facility:

  1. Harvard Covid-19 Safety Awareness Training (one-time training)
  2. Crimson Clear (daily attestation)
  3. Wear a cloth face covering in compliance with Massachusetts’ orders. This includes wearing a face covering in all public places (indoors and outdoors), businesses, and common areas/meeting rooms even when social distancing can be maintained.

Guidelines and protocols are changing as the pandemic progresses, so please continue to reference school and university COVID websites for updated information.

I am an international student with questions. How can I get more information?
Please visit the Harvard International Office (HIO) website or contact Elizabeth Capuano directly at elizabeth_capuano@harvard.edu.

Are students with visas limited to 3.75 online credits per semester?
No—that limit does not apply to the Summer 2021 semester for students who have Harvard-sponsored visas and will enroll in the Doctor of Public Health, and the spring hybrid program for students pursuing Optional Practical Training.

What would happen if an incoming student pays tuition and then is unable to enroll?
Please see the Student Billing website for the Withdrawal Refund Policy and deadlines.

Can students still request an incomplete in a course?
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.

What will the grading policy be?
As in the past few semesters with predominantly online instruction, there will be a pass/fail option in all Harvard Chan School courses during the summer, including DrPH and MHCM.

Student-support contacts

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
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

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