Graduate School / COVID-19 FAQs

COVID-19 FAQs

Frequently asked questions related to graduate education and COVID-19.

If you have a question related to graduate education and COVID-19 that isn't answered here, please visit the Safe Campus website and/or submit your question via this Google Form. Graduate School staff will respond to you as soon as possible.

For Students/Prospective Students

How can I take an English language proficiency exam while testing centers are closed?

In select countries, the TOEFL exam is available to take at home. Students should regularly check websites for all accepted language exams for the most up-to-date information on test availability: IELTS, Pearson, Cambridge 

How are processing for i20s and visa interviews affected by COVID-19?

  • As of late March, visa services have been suspended at US consulates worldwide and we do not know when visa services will resume
  • The Graduate School Admissions Office will continue to process and ship I-20 documents despite embassy closures. At this time, shipping to India is on hold.
  • Students should check with their local consulates periodically for the most up-to-date information on the resumption of visa services, and schedule appointments as soon as they are able. 

I'm an international student already in the U.S. at another institution. Do I need to travel overseas for visa purposes or visit a U.S. consulate before starting my grad program?

These students are NOT required to travel overseas for visa purposes and they are NOT required to visit a US consulate before starting their grad program at the U of M. 

For Faculty/Staff

What should I tell prospective graduate students who are wondering about the 2020 Fall term?

While the University of Minnesota continues to closely monitor the developing situation regarding COVID-19, our graduate admissions process for the fall 2020 semester is proceeding normally. Although we can't promise that all will be "back to normal" by the start of the academic year, we are moving forward as if that will be the case, and we encourage you to do the same. We will keep you informed of any changes over the coming months.

What if a matriculated student is unable to travel to the U.S. before the beginning of the 2020 fall semester?

Programs are encouraged to consider alternative learning options and/or deferring students’ admission until they are able to arrive in the U.S. 

What if an international student is already in the U.S. at another institution?

These students are NOT required to travel overseas for visa purposes and they are NOT required to visit a US consulate before starting their grad program at the U of M. 

 

Can programs have on-campus “Visit Days” where they bring prospective graduate students to campus as a recruitment activity and/or a method of evaluation? 

No. The University is practicing social distancing in order to protect the health of our students, faculty and staff. We recommend scheduling virtual sessions.

Are graduate students who wish to continue to come into labs to do research allowed to do so? 

All labs are either in hibernation mode or have developed a list of essential operations and minimal staffing. Therefore, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars should not be coming to campus unless they are listed by name in a lab staffing plan that has been approved by the department chair or center/institute/director. For more information, please see the March 16 communication from Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, Vice President for Clinical Affairs and Chris Cramer, PhD, Vice President for Research: University of Minnesota Laboratories: Preparing for the Impact of COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2.

The university has decided to not have in-person classes to reduce the risk of transmission. What about other kinds of gatherings (e.g., workshops, seminars, meetings, prelim and final oral exams, etc.)? 

No on-campus gatherings involving graduate students and postdocs should be occurring until further notice. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced a “stay at home” order for the State of Minnesota beginning at 11:59 p.m. Friday, March 27, and continuing for two weeks, until 5 p.m. Friday, April 10. This executive action directs all Minnesotans to stay home and limit trips outside the home to critical needs only. We recommend scheduling virtual sessions.

How do recent COVID-19 policies impact graduate students on TA/RA appointments? 

As of now, graduate students on TA/RA appointments are expected to continue to do their work, though they need to check with the relevant faculty supervisor to see if the nature of the work or conditions have changed. 

Are graduate students on RA appointments and postdocs still required to come into the lab? 

In most cases no. The vast majority of research labs at the university will be closing. A small number may receive permission from administration to continue to function for a period of time. That permission will specify who is expected to come into the lab to work.

Are graduate students who wish to continue to come into labs to do research allowed to do so? 

All labs are either in hibernation mode or have developed a list of essential operations and minimal staffing. Therefore, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars should not be coming to campus unless they are listed by name in a lab staffing plan that has been approved by the department chair or center/institute/director. For more information, please see the March 16 communication from Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, Vice President for Clinical Affairs and Chris Cramer, PhD, Vice President for Research: University of Minnesota Laboratories: Preparing for the Impact of COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2.

Can I complete all of my master’s degree requirements online during this time period? 

Students must complete all degree requirements for their graduate program, as well as minimum requirements established by University policy. A student's options to pursue degree requirements online, therefore, are dependent upon the nature of those requirements, approval by the program’s graduate faculty, and University policy.

Graduate students spend only a small portion of their time in in-person classes. How is the rest of their activity affected by recent COVID-19 policies? 

Graduate students are expected to carry on with their program-related activities except for those involving in-person classes (either that they are taking or that they are teaching). Supervisors and graduate students are encouraged to take appropriate precautions.

Where can I find out more about changing the grade basis for a course?

View step-by-step instructions for changing the S/N grade basis for a course (located on the One Stop Student Services website). FAQ page about changing the S/N grading basis

During this time period, will electronic signatures from committee members be acceptable on prelim and final oral exam forms? 

Academic Support Resources is committed to minimizing impacts on degree progress or degree clearance for students. Contact GSSP at gssp@umn.edu to discuss options for alternate signatures.

I’m scheduled to take my doctoral preliminary oral soon. What are my options? Can I take the exam off site? 

University policy allows for remote participation on doctoral preliminary oral examinations, and provides information about requirements and best practices. Graduate programs and students should communicate to discuss the best-possible option for each student and their committee members, based on information provided on the University’s central COVID-19 resources site. Given current challenges, all individuals – i.e., the student and committee members – can participate remotely. Using Zoom to conduct the examination is strongly recommended.

University policy requires that the PhD final oral examination include a public presentation. How can this requirement be met given COVID-19? 

The public presentation portion of the PhD final oral examination is required by University policy. You are encouraged to enable individuals to participate virtually. 

One of my doctoral advisees is scheduled to defend their dissertation soon. What are our options? Can the student participate from an off-site location? Can the committee members do so? 

University policy allows for remote participation on doctoral final oral examinations, and provides information about requirements and best practices. Graduate programs and students should communicate to discuss the best-possible option for each student and their committee members, based on information provided on the University’s central COVID-19 resources site. Given current challenges, all individuals – i.e., the student and committee members – can participate remotely. Using Zoom to conduct the examination is strongly recommended.

The final doctoral defense requires a public presentation prior to the closed examination. Is that still required? 

Yes, the public presentation is still required. Graduate programs and students should communicate to discuss the best-possible option for each student and their committee members, based on information provided on the University’s central COVID-19 resources site. Using Zoom to conduct the examination is strongly recommended.

Our program’s doctoral prelim written exams are scheduled to be given this semester. Students are required to sit for the examination at a specified UMN site with a proctor. Do we have to reschedule/cancel this semester’s scheduled prelim written exam? 

The decision to reschedule or cancel the preliminary written examination is within the purview of each graduate program, in collaboration with the college. Programs and colleges are asked to refer to the University’s central COVID-19 resources site to inform their decision and communicate that decision with their doctoral students.

Our graduate program has master’s students scheduled to take their final oral examinations this semester. Can the student and committee members participate remotely? 

University policy allows for remote participation on master’s oral examinations, and provides information about requirements and best practices. Graduate programs and students should communicate to discuss the best-possible option for each student and their committee members, based on information provided on the University’s central COVID-19 resources site. Given current challenges, all individuals – i.e., the student and committee members – can participate remotely.

I am the chairperson for an upcoming preliminary oral, and we will be using Zoom to conduct the exam. How do I access Zoom? Where can I find information about how to use it? 

The University’s OIT recently activated “Zoom for GSuite”. You should see the icon on the right side of your Google calendar and/or Gmail. Note that programs that have already done remote exams have learned that the exams take longer than usual. Please plan accordingly. The following Zoom meeting self-help guides and webinar tutorial are available:

I’m a graduate student who is currently here but my wife and family are in France. I want to be with them. Will I keep my stipend if I go? 

Travel unrelated to University business is considered personal travel. Graduate students must check with their individual programs for information related to program stipends.

How do I submit forms to the Graduate Student Services and Progress (GSSP) office? 

The GSSP office strongly encourages individuals to email forms/documents to gssp@umn.edu to ensure the quickest service. Those unable to send via email should contact gssp@umn.edu to discuss alternative options.

When we conduct virtual milestone examinations (master’s finals, doctoral preliminary and final orals), what do we do about obtaining the required signatures from the committee members? 

The Graduate Student Services and Progress office (GSSP) is introducing flexibility around their signature standards. Electronic signatures, such as DocuSign and mouse-based signatures, will be accepted on graduate and professional student forms, such as examination forms, submitted to GSSP. Please contact the GSSP office directly at gssp@umn.edu with questions about e-signatures.

Will Graduate Student TAs, Graduate Student Fellows & Postdoctoral Fellows continue to be paid for the rest of the semester? 

Yes. Please continue your work via remote arrangements to the best that you are able, unless you have been informed that you must come to your campus to continue University operations. Your compensation will continue uninterrupted.

Where can I find information related to international graduate students and COVID-19? 

All Students Abroad Must Return to US: Message to Directors of Graduate Study from AVP Meredith McQuaid

NOTE: Students who are non-U.S. citizens and who are in their home country, or cannot get to their home country safely, are not subject to the requirement to return to the U.S. For more information please contact the Global Programs & Strategy Alliance: global@umn.edu.

Resources for University of Minnesota students impacted by COVID-19 and the suspension of in-person classes through spring semester 2020

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