Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Update

Update (4/16/2020): The University is planning to deliver all courses and programming virtually for the Maymester, Summer Session I and Summer Session II, through a mix of asynchronous online and synchronous remote course offerings. Learn more at

In the interest of protecting the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, the Graduate School has adjusted its operations to a remote format. MORE INFO>

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  • The comprehensive and final oral dissertation exam policies listed below require that the student and a minimum number of faculty members be present. Given the situation, exceptions will be provided without prior approval so that the exam can be held remotely, if so desired. Please see the Revised Guidance for Exceptions to In-Person Participation Requirements for Graduate Benchmark Examinations document for more information.
    • Comprehensive Examinations
      • GCAC-606 Comprehensive Examination - Research Doctorate
      • GCAC-700-F Comprehensive Examination - Professional Doctoral Degrees
    • Final Oral Examinations
      • GCAC-608 Final Oral Examination - Research Doctorate
      • GCAC-700-G Culminating Project / Final Performance - Professional Doctoral Degrees
  • For all exams held remotely, the graduate program is responsible for (1) setting up the video conference for the purposes of the examination, (2) ensuring that the technology meets the needs of the examination and that all participants are trained in the relevant technology if needed before the examination, and (3) ensuring that the student and committee members test the system before the day of the examination.

The format of the qualifying exam is determined by the graduate program. If it does include an oral examination, all such exams are to be held via video conferencing, given the guidelines issued by the University that activities should be conducted remotely.

Graduate programs are welcome to make the public presentation available to the public remotely through video conferencing technology, or to cancel it, as they see fit.

Our main goal is to ensure that students’ academic standing is not jeopardized by events ensuing from the COVID-19 situation.  

  • Graduate students are expected to continue their research to the extent possible. However, there may be limitations on their ability to do so to the fullest extent due to constraints imposed by continuing research remotely and the rapidly changing circumstances that may arise due to the COVID-19 outbreak (e.g. school, daycare, and other business closures). As such, graduate student advisers should provide flexibility and appropriate accommodations such that the student’s academic standing is not jeopardized.
  • Any program-specific deadlines for milestone exams should be extended as needed given the exigencies of the COVID-19 outbreak. 
  • Several Graduate Council Academic policies, including those requiring comprehensive and final oral examinations to be held in person, have been adapted and blanket exceptions issued. Please see the guidance here for more information and a complete list of affected policies.

The deadline for submitting the final thesis or dissertation and supporting materials has been extended one week to April 6, 2020. If this additional time is not needed, you are urged to upload your documents as early as possible; this will facilitate the completion of all subsequent necessary steps in time for degree conferral in this challenging environment.

The April 24th deadline to have all committee members “sign”/submit their electronic approval has also been extended by one week. The new deadline is now May 1, 2020.

Questions may be directed to the Office of Theses and Dissertations at They will be pleased to assist you in any way possible.


There are several University resources devoted to remote teaching and online learning. In response to the move to remote delivery, the University has created the website with Remote Teaching ( information.

Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) is offering virtual office hours each day during the week of March 16. During these sessions, instructors can get help with transitioning their courses from a residential format to remote. You can also schedule a consultation.

Additional Penn State resources include:

Other non-Penn State resources that may be helpful include:

Please consult with the department and/or instructor responsible for the course for guidance.


  • There are a variety of resources available at Information Technology at Penn State, such as Zoom conferencing.
  • Consult with IT staff from your college for assistance on conducting your research remotely. 
  • Develop a list of projects that can be completed remotely in consultation with your research supervisor. 
  • Develop a plan for regular communications with your research supervisor and other research collaborators. 
    • Information about how to use a variety of technologies can be found on the IT Learning and Development site with self-guided trainings on the resources & materials page.  
    • Work with your research supervisor and relevant IT personnel to ensure that you will have remote access to files, data, servers, etc. 
  • Yes, those in high-risk groups should take all the necessary precautions. More information can be found here. Please discuss the situation with your research adviser so that you can work together to find a way that you can continue to make academic progress remotely. You would also be eligible to take a leave of absence as described in GCAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence.

I have plans to travel to do research and/or attend a conference.

  • Information about travel can be found on the Penn State Coronavirus Community Update pages for Traveler Info and Student, Employee and Community FAQs. Please check these pages regularly for updates if you have travel plans. As of now, all university-sponsored domestic air travel and international travel has been suspended. Personal travel is also strongly discouraged.
  • Specific questions about international travel can also be addressed by the Global Programs central email and telephone lines (814)865-1491.
  • It is our expectation that all graduate faculty will follow the guidance from the University, their colleges and the Graduate School and provide flexibility and appropriate accommodations for their students with respect to time devoted to research. Should problems arise, students are encouraged to discuss the situation with their graduate program head and/or the Associate Dean for Graduate Education in their academic college (or equivalent for those in an IDGP) as outlined in the Avenues to Address Graduate Student Concerns guidance.
  • Students with a concern related to their adviser/supervisor of their research, teaching, or other activities who do not wish to consult directly with their adviser or graduate program leaders may contact Dr. Sarah Ades (, the Associate Dean for Graduate Student Affairs in the Graduate School, who is the ombudsperson for all graduate students across the University. Any graduate student may contact her to report and/or discuss an issue, with the assurance of maintaining confidentiality if requested and as allowable by applicable policies and laws.
  • Penn State is actively and carefully monitoring the situation regarding COVID-19. Please consult the Penn State Coronavirus Information Site for updates.
  • As of March 24, 2020, all research is reduced to essential research-related activities.
  • As of March 20, 2020 all university buildings are locked and accessible only to those who have access and a need to be there.

Human subjects research visits are to be postponed if they cannot be performed remotely and are not essential to a participant's health and/or do not have a direct therapeutic benefit (see COVID-19: Human Subjects for more details). If this postponement impacts your degree research, your faculty adviser/co-investigators are to consult with you to develop revised/alternative plans to enable continued progress towards your degree.

International Students

Global Programs has created a FAQ page for international students with answers to many questions ranging from remote learning to returning home/reentering the US to various visa issues including OPT. Please consult the page frequently as it is being continually updated. For individual advice, students may call +1-814-865-6348 or complete the eform via the Submit a Question link.


At this time, stipend distributions will not be interrupted.

  • Graduate School Administrative Policy GSAD-906 provides relevant details for handling graduate student leaves. A graduate student supported by a graduate assistantship, fellowship, or traineeship may request a Paid Absence.
    • There are two options:
      • Paid Short-Term Absence - Short-term absences are defined in Policy GSAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence as lasting 3 weeks or less.
      • Paid Extended Absence - Extended absences are defined in Policy GSAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence as lasting 3 or more weeks but less than a full semester.
  • You should check with the individual funding agency for information about alterations to deadlines or other policies.
  • Efforts will be made to hold the information sessions via video conferencing.

Health and Well-Being

See the Penn State Coronavirus Information Site for information regarding health services, self-quarantine, and what to do if you recently returned from international travel.

The CDC has released information for Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19, and Penn State resources are available to students at University Park through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and at the College of Medicine through the Office of Professional Mental Health.

If you have additional questions or needs, please contact Student Care and Advocacy at

All graduate students covered by the Student Health Insurance Plan can access professional counseling remotely via BetterHelp, and can access board-certified physicians online or on the phone (where permitted) through Telehealth Medical’s HealthiestYou. The doctors on Telehealth can even send a prescription to a preferred pharmacy.

There is an emergency fund to support Penn State students, the Student Care & Advocacy Emergency Fund, which will be made available to students in financial need across the commonwealth who apply for emergency assistance.


All on-campus student-sponsored events and activities, such as student organization meetings, will be postponed/canceled until April 6, at the earliest, or if possible, should be held remotely via Zoom. This direction is applicable to all other locations, including gatherings at off-campus locations.

The Graduate Writing Center will remain open until further notice and all appointments will be held remotely.