The health, safety, and well-being of our community, on and off campus, is our top priority. We are committed to maintaining an excellent quality of education through this unprecedented situation. Until further notice, the Harvard Graduate School of Design has shifted to online coursework. The GSD will continue with remote teaching through the entire spring 2021 semester.
Courses and meetings are being conducted through Zoom, which can be accessed through the main menu of the Canvas system. Harvard University Information Technology has compiled a Zoom Training and Help resource page for basics on set-up and troubleshooting and the GSD's CRG Help Desk staff is available to answer questions. Harvard's Learn Remotely website also offers additional resources.
All services offered by the Office of Student Services will continue normal operations, including student affairs, financial aid, career services, enrollment functions, and admissions. For questions, please email the appropriate contact on the Office of Student Services webpage. Students with questions about processing their I-20 should contact Sean Conlon. For departmental-related questions, students should contact their respective department staff as they normally would for questions or assistance.
Resources for Students
FAQs: All Students
- General Questions
- Housing and Moving
- Health Services and Health Care
- Career Services
- Other Harvard and MIT-Related Questions
FAQs: International Students
When will the GSD Re-Open Gund Hall?
The GSD will continue with remote teaching through the entire spring 2021 semester. In preparation for the gradual reopening of our buildings, we have put together a working group to develop plans to safely bring students, faculty, and staff back to GSD buildings as rapidly as conditions allow. Our approach will be phased and deliberate, resuming the most critical functions first and working to eventually restore the full range of activities, while paying close attention to issues of health and safety but also of equity, especially for students who are not local. While it’s impossible to predict when and how public health guidance will change, we can see that re-opening won’t be easy or quick, so we are in conversations with the university Provost to discuss our planning and preparations. Visit the Building Services webpage for updates regrading building access.
Are there changes to the Harvard University Student Health Program (HUSHP) plan for Academic Year 2020-2021?
Yes. Find a list of changes being implementing on the HUSHP website. Some changes are related to the pandemic and others are standard changes.
Will my academic accommodations be impacted?
The Dean of Students and Student Accommodations Coordinator are working with students with academic accommodations to ensure that they are able to access their course content and instruction. Visit the Accessibility Services webpage for more information.
Why did the GSD decide in favor of a fully virtual spring term?
Our decision was influenced by multiple considerations. Concern for the health and safety of the entire GSD community remains a top priority, and based on current guidance from Harvard University Health Services.
In addition, the decision also stems from the following factors: the rising infection rate in Cambridge, Somerville, and the rest of the Boston area; the challenge of making the single space of the trays truly safe; and the continued closure of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, making it impossible for many of our international students to obtain visas.
If I find the spring semester too challenging, will I be able to take a leave of absence?
A student must have been enrolled for at least one semester prior to taking a leave, so you cannot take a leave of absence prior to having completed at least one full semester. But if you are finding it challenging, please reach out to your program director, academic advisor, or the dean of students for individual guidance.
The school has set a Leave of Absence (LoA) deadline of noon on November 2, to enable finalization of course offerings for the spring.
For further information, please refer to the GSD Leave of Absence page.
Will tuition be reduced since the spring semester is virtual?
Tuition for the spring semester was set by the university over a year ago and calibrates the school’s overall budget – 25% of which goes to financial aid, which would have to be rescinded if we were to change the tuition rate. Spring tuition and budget will remain as approved and financial aid allocated to students will not be rescinded.
Can course loads be reduced and billing be on a per-course basis?
GSD programs are full-time, and it is not possible to reduce course loads.
I received a loan as part of my financial aid package. Can I decline only the loan, or at least part of the loan, since I won't be moving to Boston this spring?
You are free to decline or reduce the loan. Please reach out to email@example.com.
Will the university be offering any collaborative physical workspaces for students already in Cambridge?
The GSD’s buildings will be closed to all students, and most faculty/staff, so physical collaborative workspace is not available. Our Innovation Task Force is already at work creating virtual ways for students to connect and collaborate.
For students who are in Boston, will there be any campus activities?
There will be many GSD and Harvard-wide virtual activities this spring. We are not planning any campus activities, since our GSD campus is closed for the spring term.
Will the spring term schedule be the same as what is listed on the Website now that classes are remote?
Yes, the spring academic calendar is the same.
Will there be changes to the grading system for the spring semester?
In spring 2020, the GSD switched to a pass/fail grading system to account for the sudden changes to teaching and learning brought on mid-semester by the pandemic. Beginning with the fall 2020 semester, we returned to our standard grading policy described on the Grading resource page. As always, if a student has any extenuating circumstances that impinge on their productivity, they should talk with their faculty member, program director, and/or Student Services to determine accommodations.
When will students know what the fall 2021 semester will look like?
The health, safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. It will depend on the virus, advice from infectious disease experts, and other factors including travel restrictions, social distancing protocols, etc. We hope to have enough information to make a final decision in early June. The deadline for requesting a leave of absence for the fall 2021 semester is June 15. If the numbers are such that we cannot accommodate all of the returning students a year later due to limitations of facilities, we will run a lottery to determine return dates which could be up to two years later.
Are there any new initiatives being implemented with the virtual spring semester that were not present in the fall?
We have doubled-down on investing in efforts to support how we teach, learn, and organize ourselves and exist as a community online.
The school is also aiming to release two significant web projects in the coming months that will expand the ways in which faculty and students can share work and engage each other online.
One is a project provisionally titled “GSD Now,” which will provide a real-time and comprehensive view on all activities happening across the school at any given time, and provide a means for students (and courses) to share work more broadly and publicly across the school’s community.
The second is a new website-building toolkit for faculty and student groups that will enable rapid creation of customized websites and will accommodate a wide range of purposes, web development skills, and available budgets.
Lastly, the work of the Innovation Task Force has been enormously influential on all of the projects described above, and they will continue to serve as the school’s in-house think tank, helping to guide our immersion online in ways that are smart and effective.
FAQs: Housing and Moving
Does it make sense for students to move to campus for the spring semester?
Under current conditions, there will be no direct benefit to being closer to campus for the spring semester. The GSD is committed to an equitable experience in virtual learning, regardless of the physical location of students. We recommend planning for the best setup possible for learning wherever you are, focusing on factors of cost, online access, and environment.
Will Harvard Housing still be available?
Harvard Housing does have availability for the spring semester, including some fully furnished units available for short-term leases – running until March 31, 2020.
Details about how to submit an application, selecting a unit, and lease information are available on their website.
Will the GSD assist students in securing housing?
The GSD does not secure housing for students, but we do provide information. Options for housing would be available through Harvard University Housing. Students can also find independent rentals in nearby local communities and connect with each other through the GSD Housing Facebook Group.
Whether any GSAS dorm rooms are available in the spring will be impacted by public health guidelines and will be communicated as more information becomes available.
Students should refer to the academic calendar for spring semester dates.
FAQs: Health Services and Health Care
What is the difference between the Student Health Fee and the Student Health Insurance Plan?
This Student Health Fee covers most care at any of the Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) campus clinics, including telemedicine visits, with no co-payment. The Student Health Insurance Plan is administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and is designed to complement the health care provided through the Student Health Fee at HUHS. It covers hospital, specialty care, labs/radiology, has a prescription drug benefit, and will cover 52 mental health visits per plan year. This plan provides coverage throughout the United States and abroad. This plan can be waived with proof of comparable coverage.
Will we still need to pay for health care coverage for the spring semester?
A summary is below, but please see Harvard University Student Health Program (HUSHP) Academic Year 2021 HUSHP Changes for more information.
The Student Health Fee cost is implemented in two tiers, 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 Student Health Fee (SHF) will have access to many of the HUHS Clinic services in-person, as well as via telemedicine. All students are encouraged to reach out to HUHS with health or medical needs.
Institutions of higher education in Massachusetts are required to offer a Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP) to students. Therefore, all students will be charged for a Student Health Insurance Plan and to waive must demonstrate comparable coverage in the area in which they are located. Students may waive participation in SHIP if the student is studying in a foreign country and the student has coverage in that foreign location.
Spring waivers will be accepted through January 31. The late waiver deadline is March 31. For information about the waiver application, please see the University waiver eligibility and application page
Will coverage still begin on February 1 for the spring term?
Yes, coverage for the spring term will begin on February 1.
Will CAMHS services be available?
Yes, Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are available. Please see this Message from CAMHS Chief Barbara Lewis, MD.
Do we still need to provide immunization information by January 4, 2021?
No, given that the spring semester will be online, if you are not on campus this does not apply. For details and updates, as well as information about flu vaccinations, please refer to HUHS Immunization Compliance Information.
Will there be COVID testing available for GSD students living off-campus and learning remotely?
As of September 2, 2020, Harvard University’s testing program is currently only open to individuals who live in on-campus housing or who have to be on campus for more than 4 hours per week. Visit the COVID-19 Testing and Tracing resource page for more information and updates.
Will there be COVID testing and antibody testing available for free through Harvard Health Services so that I can know that I'm not infected before I visit my family during breaks?
Please see HUSHP (COVID-19) Health Insurance FAQs for details. If your question is not directly addressed by their responses, there is contact information at the end of the FAQs.
Where can I find information regarding coverage in the state where I reside?
Please see HUSHP Student Health Insurance Plan for information about hospital, specialty care coverage, and prescription drug coverage administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).
What sort of library access will students have during the online semester?
The Harvard Library system and the Frances Loeb Library at the GSD have an especially robust set of online resources. You can start exploring these via the library main page.
Is there any physical access to the library while courses are taught remotely?
Although buildings are closed for visiting, Loeb Library and Harvard Library have services to provide access to library materials that are only available in print.
You may now borrow print materials and request items from Scan and Deliver from Frances Loeb Library, Lamont, Widener, Tozzer, Yenching, and the Harvard Depository using Lamont's Front Door Pickup service.
Lastly, the Library has plans to initiate a book-mailing program for materials that cannot be accessed in any other way. Details will be communicated as this is implemented.
Will the school be digitizing library resources more extensively for the remote semester (and beyond)?
The GSD has extensive digital collections including archival materials, and is continuing, along with the university at large, to expand these databases. A small sampling is available via the library’s CURIOSity site. The GSD also has a number of research guides that can assist in exploring online resources, such as the visual collections guide. Additionally, Loeb Library will digitize limited numbers of materials, prioritizing curricular needs.
Does Harvard collaborate with any other university libraries for students to have access to their resources?
Loeb BorrowDirect and interlibrary loan services have been suspended. Any university decisions to change this status will be communicated to the entire GSD community. You can also check the status of updated service on the Harvard Library interlibrary loan site.
FAQs: Career Services
How do I get access to CREATE?
Student accounts are now active on CREATE. The Career Services office can provide instructions on how to navigate the system.
How do I get access to the Alumni Network?
Students can access alumni contacts on LinkedIn, and through CREATE. Your HarvardKey, the university's unified online user credential, uniquely identifyies you to Harvard IT applications and services to grant you access to university resources. As a result, it will give you access to the Harvard Alumni Association database as well.
How will students get career advice from afar?
The Career Services office uses a number of formats for career advising. GSD students can meet virtually with a career counselor to review career options, revise a resume or cover letter, plan a job search strategy, and practice interview skills. Incoming students will be able to schedule an appointment through CREATE, the career management system used by the GSD to deliver news on internships, jobs, career workshops, events, fellowships, and alumni contacts. Every student has a CREATE account.
Casual Conversations with GSD Alumni are scheduled to provide informal advice on ways to develop your career, and Career Workshops cover such topics as networking, developing your portfolio, job search strategies, effective interviewing, and salary negotiation skills. Career Fairs are held to promote summer opportunities and to recruit graduating students for full-time opportunities.
Will the Career Services office remain open for local students?
Career Services remains open virtually for all students and will not open for in person visits until the GSD campus reopens.
How can I find out about TA/RA positions that are available?
Some TA and RA positions are shared on Student-Announce or in CREATE. Many faculty prefer to invite students they have worked with in class to become a TA or RA. First-year students may need to wait until they have made connections with faculty – second semester.
Where can I view on-campus positions?
On-campus jobs are shared by Career Services on the Student Announce listserv. Once a job is advertised, students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.
You can also check with the Student Employment Office to learn about additional job opportunities across Harvard University.
Taking in mind that the spring semester will be online, do you recommend maintaining part-time jobs that we may have in our current places? Or instead, do you recommend a full-time commitment?
This is a question that individuals need to answer for themselves. Students often work during the academic year, so it is definitely possible to balance work and school, depending on how many hours you would need to commit. (As a guide, students working at the GSD have a ceiling of 8 hours/week to ensure that their work does not interfere with their courses.) Be sure to have a conversation with your employer beforehand to set expectations.
You can also visit the Student Employment Office to learn about additional job opportunities across Harvard University.
Can the GSD provide software licenses and workshops for programs to ensure that all students have the necessary software programs to continue online (e.g., Adobe Creative Cloud, Rhino+Vray, etc.)?
Yes. We provide licenses, including Adobe Creative Cloud full-suite licenses, to all students free of charge.
Will GSD provide extra technical support given that all learnings will be done digitally (i.e. enhanced VPN, help from IT when setting up programs, problems with computers, etc.)?
Yes. GSD HelpDesk is well prepared to provide needed support in a virtual capacity.
What platforms and tools are expected to be set up on what recommended/required computer systems in order to run necessary software?
Will students have access to fabrication resources during the spring online semester?
The GSD fabrication facilities will not be open to students this spring term. The Innovation Task Force has worked with faculty to ensure that alternatives to digital fabrication are included in the fall pedagogy.
Will there be extensive model requirements for online classes?
FabLab staff are helping faculty and students set realistic expectations for the spring semester given that the FabLab will not be available for students.
If you need assistance, real-time support from a member of the FabLab extended team (student employees and full-time Lab staff) can be facilitated through Microsoft Teams. Please see the FabLab website for schedules regarding this.
For students with a non-design background, how can you ensure we will have the training in fabrication we need for Core, etc. when we come back in the fall?
FabLab staff have prepared online tutorials and the Core faculty across the school are well aware of the need for relevant orientation sessions when we resume in-person teaching.
Can the school recommend or provide contacts to fabrication labs and other types of fabrication resources in other cities and places away from campus where students are attending remotely?
This is a possibility that is being explored, but should not be assumed. As with facilities on campus, local health guidelines must be taken into account. Additionally, the school is conscious of equity issues regarding material and fabrication costs.
FAQs: Other Harvard and MIT-Related Questions
Will students still have an opportunity to take courses at other schools across Harvard?
There are no plans to limit the existing ability for cross-registration among Harvard schools, MIT, and the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
Will MIT be online for Spring semester? How will cross-registration with MIT work?
Please refer to the MIT Website to see its plans for the Spring. The process of cross-registering into MIT courses, as well as other Harvard courses, will remain the same as it has always been in my.harvard. Students will add courses to their Crimson Carts during the registration period and will submit petitions to add those courses based on each school’s open enrollment date.
Will GSD students still have the option to audit courses?
Yes. Students have always had the option of auditing up to 20 units of coursework. However, some schools or courses do not allow auditors, and so the option remains dependent on instructor preferences. Students do not register as auditors at the GSD and some other schools. Students should contact the instructor to obtain their permission and they will be granted guest access to the course Canvas site.
General Questions: International Students
Please continue to regularly check the Harvard International Office (HIO) site for the most up-to-date guidance.
Students with visa questions should contact the Harvard International Office, or visit their newly updated FAQ section, which provides answers to many questions about visas, COVID-19, and online learning for international students.
What will be the status for returning international students studying remotely?
There has been no update to the exceptions made last spring and this fall by ICE to allow international students to do all their classes on-line and maintain their visa status. Should there be any change to the exceptions, you will be notified immediately.
- If graduating at the end of the fall semester, students must return to the United States prior to December 18 to apply for OPT; the current policy has not changed in regard to students needing to be physically in the United States when they apply for OPT.
- If graduating at the end of the spring semester, students must return to the United States prior to May 27 to apply for OPT.
Will the virtual semester affect OPT?
Current guidance requires that you accrue two semesters, or nine months of active F-1 student visa status in the US before you are eligible for OPT, immediately prior to the OPT. Once on-campus classes resume, you will likely be able to reach this requirement before graduation, depending on the length of your degree program.
What if there are still travel restrictions and consulates remain closed? In the worst-case scenario, what will happen if I can’t travel to the U.S. for the fall 2021 semester?
We cannot make any assumptions about how the pandemic will play out almost a year from now. We will provide more information regarding this in the early summer.
What if our home country does not recognize online degrees?
None of our programs are considered to have online degrees. This is a temporary change in teaching methods to deal with a global crisis. Your degree will NOT be considered an online degree.
FAQs: First-Year International Students
Can international students still enter the US on an F-1 student visa when the semester is virtual? Should I move to Cambridge?
If you are a new or initial F-1 or J-1 student, you will not be able to move to the United States for the fall semester. Once the campus reopens, your I-20 will need to be amended or reissued with a new start date. We will be in touch with further instructions on this process as the situation develops.
If you have successfully completed the F-1 transfer process between Harvard and your current US institution, you will be able to remain in the United States for the virtual semester. Usually, F-1 status students are only able to take up to one online course per semester. However, the government has extended the provision to allow transfer and continuing students to stay in the country for a full online course-load as a result of COVID-19.
Will it still be possible to do an internship in the U.S. next summer when the fall is virtual?
As per current guidance, new or initial (those who returned from a leave in fall 2020, or this spring) F-1 students will not be eligible for CPT in summer 2021.
SEVIS transfer students should be eligible for CPT in summer 2021 as a benefit of the government extension that allows you to stay in the US for the virtual semester, thereby maintaining your status.
J-1 students will be able to utilize their Academic Training for the summer internship. You may want to consider a J-1 student visa if you have significant funding from a source other than personal or family funds. You can find more information about J-1 versus F-1 visas on HIO's Student Visa Options webpage.
Will I need to pay a new SEVIS fee? Will I need to pay to have the I-20 shipped again?
You should not need to pay the SEVIS fee again if you have already paid it, as we have already reissued an amended I-20 with the same SEVIS number. You will have already received a communication regarding your amended I-20 with the January start date, with instructions for downloading it. We will use a similar process for issuing you the new I-20 with the September 2021 start date.