COVID-19 FAQs for Students

Courses and practicum

Updated 10/20/20How long will classes be taught online?
We are planning for virtual instruction to continue through the 2021 Spring semester (WinterSession, Spring1, and Spring2). We do not know what will be safe for June and Summer 2021 session classes yet and will be carefully monitoring the situation and making decisions as soon as we are able.

Updated 01/14/21What will be the format for courses this spring?
As we did for the fall, below is a spreadsheet with course format for WinterSession/Spring courses: Spring 2021 Course Format.
Note: This file will be updated as more course information is provided. 

Updated 10/20/20I 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. As in the fall, 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.

Where can students find more information about their practicum during COVID-19?

MPH students: Visit the COVID-19 practicum information page on the Field Practice website.

DrPH students: Reach out to Jocelyn Chu for more information.

SM students: Contact your department administrators for questions regarding field-based research. See the Student-support contacts section below for a list of administrators.

International students: Please review practicum information for international students, as well as FAQs about working with a U.S.-based organization.

How will dissertation or thesis defenses be handled?
We are requiring that all defenses be held over Zoom. Links to the Zoom meeting must be sent to Michelle Pessinis to be published on the Events Calendar. For students expected to graduate in November 2020, please submit your thesis or dissertation by September 18 in ETD’s@ Harvard. PhD students should see additional guidance posted on the GSAS Coronavirus site for more information.

Updated 10/20/20What are the implications of cross-registration in the move to online?
As in the fall, students will still be able to cross-register at other Harvard schools, MIT, and Tufts, in accordance with individual school policies, and the requirements and capacity of individual courses.

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Academic policies

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 with copies to academic advisors and academic or program administrators. Request for Certification forms can also be submitted to Transcript requests can be made online via the National Student Clearinghouse.

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. 

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.

Updated 10/20/20I think I may need to take a leave of absence (LOA). How do I find out about my options?
If you want to learn more about your options, consult with your department or degree program regarding switching to part-time status and leave-of-absence requests. (See Student-support contacts below.)

Current students (not incoming students) are eligible for 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.

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Part-time study

If you are a current student who is considering a request to switch to part-time status, please discuss this decision with your program or department to make sure that you understand how this decision will affect your plan of study.

Updated 10/20/20How do I apply to go part time?
If you are interested in switching to part-time status, you need to file a General Petition Form, which you can find here. As you will see, the form requires a few signatures, including from your academic adviser and your program head.

As part of the process, you also need to submit a plan for finishing your degree in the standard time to degree. Please consult with your program or department to make sure you understand how going part time will affect your plan of study, including your standard time-to-degree graduation date.

Updated 10/20/20What is the deadline for applying to switch to part time?
We encourage you to apply as soon as you can. Tuition payments for the spring are due on December 7, 2020, so adjusting your status before then will enable you to be billed for the correct amount. Enrollment for spring courses will begin on Thursday, January 7, 2021 and applying as early as you can will help ensure a smooth enrollment process for you.

Updated 10/20/20How many credits do I have to take in the spring semester?
Any number of credits below 15 in the Spring is considered part time. (Credits during WinterSession count toward the spring semester.) You can take as few as one credit in the spring and still be considered enrolled. However, please make sure you know the effect, if any, of going part-time on your aid.

How will going part time affect my financial aid?
If you have federal student loans, you must enroll for at least 10 credits. Please contact the Financial Aid Office with any questions (

How much will I be billed as a part-time student?
The School’s usual tuition billing practices for part-time study will apply.

Note: Regardless of how you complete your degree, you will be charged the full cost of the degree. Going to part-time status does not reduce the total cost of the degree.

Can international students request to go part time?
Students requiring Harvard F-1 or J-1 visa sponsorship must be enrolled as full-time students for at least 15 credits in a Fall or Spring semester. Part-time status is an option only for students who are outside the U.S. and do not yet require Harvard visa sponsorship. When students are on-campus and receiving Harvard F-1 or J-1 visa sponsorship, they will be required to change to full-time status. Please also note that students transferring their F-1 status to Harvard to remain in the U.S. for the Spring 2021 semester are required to enroll full time.

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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 was not eligible to apply for a deferral and decided 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.

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International students

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?
Please visit the Harvard International Office (HIO) to view FAQs for international students beginning 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

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:

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.

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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 unexpected expenses from the pandemic?
We understand that recent circumstances have caused a variety of financial stressors for students and their families. Although we are exploring ways to increase financial aid, we don’t have enough aid to meet the financial need of all students and, unfortunately, cannot consider appeals at the moment. Please contact to discuss your current financial circumstances and discuss the resources or loan options that may be available to you. You can also apply to receive support from the Student Emergency Fund.

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, or contact HUHS.

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) eligible students can still seek out employment opportunities, and are encouraged to visit the Student Employment Office website for more information.

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.

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Student life

Are there tutoring/academic-support services for students?
Students who may be struggling academically should reach out to Colleen Cronin, Associate Director for Student Affairs. She can assist students seeking academic, learning, and writing support.

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.

Will the School provide career support during the pandemic?
Yes. The Office for Career and Professional Development remains 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 and Professional Development, at with questions or visit the office’s website at:

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.

Will ID cards be issued to incoming students?
The University has decided that ID cards will only be issued while students are on campus.

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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

Financial Aid Office

Registrar’s Office

Office for Student Affairs

Housing Resources

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

Harvard International Office
Advisor: Elizabeth Capuano

Information Technology
Phone: (617) 432-HELP (4357)

 Program Administrators

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH):
Gary Williams –

Master in Health Care Management (MHCM):
Colin Fleming –

Master of Public Health (MPH – all fields of study):
Anne Occhipinti –

PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health:
Tatevik Holmgren –

PhD in Population Health Sciences (see contacts for individual PHS fields of study below):
Bruce Villineau –

Biostatistics (Master of Science and PhD in Biostatistics):
Jelena Tillotson-Follweiler –
Geryel Osorio Godoy –

Environmental Health (Master of Science and PhD in Population Health Sciences/Environmental Health):
Barbara Zuckerman –

Epidemiology (Master of Science and PhD in Population Health Sciences/Epidemiology):
Eric DiGiovanni –

Global Health and Population (Master of Science and PhD in Population Health Sciences/Global Health and Population):
Barbara Heil –

Health Policy and Management:
Jennifer Moltoni –

Nutrition (PhD in Population Health Sciences/Nutrition):
Stefanie Dean –

Social and Behavioral Sciences (PhD in Population Health Sciences/Social and Behavioral Sciences):
Whitney Waddell –

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