Fall 2020 FAQ for graduate students

June 19, 2020 - by Sarah Igram

Although many uncertainties remain as we look ahead to the Fall 2020 semester, please read the latest plans for the fall calendar, changes to class scheduling, information on how courses will be delivered, plans for Prep Week and final exams, and much more. The remainder of this page provides additional information of special interest to graduate students.


Assess your risk and seek necessary accommodations

Graduate teaching, research, and administrative assistants (GAs) who are at high risk for serious illness due to COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control may follow the guidance from University Human Resources. GAs not at high risk but living with someone who is also may follow the guidance. Specific health conditions are not entered on the form that UHR provides, and the review process is confidential. Please complete the UHR process as soon as possible if you are interested in an accommodation.


Assistantship appointment dates

Fall appointments may begin as early as August 3, and they may end as early as November 25 or as late as December 31. The end date is set by the supervisor of the assistantship and typically does not affect the total stipend provided for the semester.


Minimum assistantship stipends

The adjusted Fall 2020 calendar has no effect on the minimum stipends for graduate teaching, research, and administrative assistants.


TA activity on Labor Day

Classes will be held on Labor Day, Monday, September 7. Like instructional faculty and staff, graduate teaching assistants will be expected to fulfill their roles that day as directed by their supervisors.


Assistantships of graduating international students

Assistantship appointments for international students who are graduating this fall must end by November 25. Assistantship appointments for all others may continue into December even though classes will not be held that month. Graduating international students should contact the Office of International Students and Scholars to discuss the best approaches for concluding their degree programs.


Graduate College deadlines

Despite the changes to the academic calendar, to provide students with the most flexibility possible, the Graduate College will maintain its deadlines rather than move them forward. These include critical dates related to POSC approval, requesting approval for oral examinations, and graduation. If you have any questions or concerns about fall graduation, please contact Lisa Elm, Graduate College Student Services Specialist, at lkelm@iastate.edu.


Oral exams between Summer 2020 and Fall 2020

Students scheduling a preliminary or final oral exam from August 8 to August 24 must register for a minimum of one credit for either Summer 2020 or Fall 2020. Students taking their preliminary or final oral examination on or after August 25 must register for at least one credit for Fall 2020. Students scheduling their preliminary or final oral examination after November 25 may register for either Fall 2020 or Spring 2021.


Remote and in-person exams

The Graduate College continues to allow all preliminary and final oral exams to be held virtually. The requirement to seek permission for a virtual exam is waived. Graduate students and faculty will be notified in advance when these accommodations are ended. Students and their committees may hold oral exams in person with physical distancing and the use of cloth face coverings. If the student and all committee members are unable to agree on whether an exam is virtual or in person, please contact Lisa Elm, Graduate College Student Services Specialist, at lkelm@iastate.edu. Public portions of exams (e.g., seminars) should be arranged based on policies in the relevant department or graduate program.


Requesting preliminary and final oral exams

These exams need to be approved and scheduled in advance with the Graduate College. Submit the preliminary oral examination request at least two weeks before your scheduled preliminary oral. Submit the final oral examination request at least three weeks before your scheduled final oral. 


Face coverings

Two cloth face coverings will be provided to each student before fall classes begin and are required for all students, faculty, and staff. Face coverings reduce infection risk. As a graduate student, you are a role model for thousands of others on campus. Your use of face coverings will inspire others and show that you are doing your part to promote health in our community. Please wear them.


If you fear unreasonable expectations

The Graduate College has been told that some graduate assistants anticipate unreasonable demands from their supervisors this fall. In the unlikely event that you are asked to perform more duties than would be appropriate for a ¼-, ½-, or ¾-time appointment, or duties that might increase risk of COVID-19 infection, please speak directly to your supervisor, your graduate program director (DOGE), or department chair. You also may contact the Ombuds Office or the Graduate College.  


Take health and wellness seriously

The Student Counseling Service is here for you as a graduate student. Get to know the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, and engage with student Wellness Services. Be physically active, especially outdoors, where the risk of COVID-19 infection is diminished. Eat well to improve your health and immune system. And wash those hands! 


Take advantage of a full suite of services

Although our offices in Pearson Hall remain closed, the Graduate College is offering all of its innovative and effective services remotely. Enhance your written, oral, and interpersonal communication skills with experts in our Center for Communication Excellence. Explore your diverse career options, and learn how to network and interview, by contacting our Graduate Career Office. Consider our Emerging Leadership Academy.


Will there be a fall commencement ceremony? 

This issue is under consideration at this time. Information about a fall commencement ceremony will be posted on the Graduation & Commencement website at a later date. Additionally, the Graduate College will keep students informed of any updates.


What are the plans for Spring 2021?

Spring 2021 is scheduled to begin on Monday, January 11 and end on Thursday, May 6, with Spring Break during the week of March 15. Changes to the calendar are possible depending on the status of the pandemic later this year.


Let us know

For many, graduate school is characterized by ambiguity, stress, and limited resources. Help is available if you are struggling with finances, academic expectations, food insecurity, your advisor, housing, career plans, or myriad other factors that affect your success as a student. For example, the Office of Student Financial Aid can advise you about financing your education, and a Food Pantry is operating. 

Tags: covid-19 updates