Return-to-Campus 2020 FAQs

Q: What was the rationale to exclude the sophomore Class of 2023 from returning to campus during the 2020 fall semester?

A: The Institute considered a number of options to reduce density in an effort to keep our community safe. This decision was made to help ensure that sophomores have a seamless transition for two semesters in 2021, spring and summer, when they will participate in The Arch. At that point, the Class of 2023 will have a choice to go away during either the fall or spring semester.

Q. Will there be a graduation celebration for spring 2020?

A. There are no definitive plans at the moment, but there will be an event in the extended future to celebrate the Class of 2020. Plans for Class of 2021 have not yet begun.

Students with questions regarding access and support are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services for Students at (518) 276-2231.

Q: Will the proof of insurance requirement for those opting out of health insurance be waived for students not living on campus?

A: There is no change to the enrollment/waiver process. Students will still be expected to demonstrate health insurance coverage in order to waive the student insurance plan. All students will be charged for the student insurance plan and will need to affirm enrollment or waive out of the plan via the student health portal by the September 1 deadline.

Read more on Health Services

ISSS is currently waiting for guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP, the agency that administers SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) to answer some of the questions on our ISSS page.

Read more on ISSS.


Q: Will the Mueller Center open when students come back to campus?

A: The plan is for the Mueller Center to open up two weeks after students have been brought back to campus and tested at least once for COVID-19.

  • The number of machines will be reduced to help ensure social distancing of at least 10 feet in the building.
  • The number of people allowed in the building will be monitored and reduced drastically based on federal, state, local, and Institute guidelines.
  • There will be short time blocks of operation (90 minutes) followed by a 30-minute time block to thoroughly cleanse the building using disinfecting fogging machines. This will repeat for 12 hours each day.
  • Hours of operation will be reduced to a 12 hours per day.


Q: Will club sports and intramurals be active?

A: We are determining which activities can be active based on federal, state, local, and Institute guidelines.

Q. Can students have a vehicle on campus?

A. Sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students can have a vehicle on campus. During the fall 2020 semester, sophomores will not be issued parking permits due to remote learning. If you feel there are special circumstances that would exempt you from this policy, contact the parking office at to request paperwork for a waiver.

Q. Will the Rensselaer Union be operated normally?

A. No.

  • Hours will be reduced to accommodate cleaning and building supervision.
  • Tables and chairs will be reduced drastically based on federal, state, local, and Institute guidelines.
  • Other buildings that operate under the Student Union including JBLDG Music Suites, Academy Hall SAR, Playhouse, ’87 Gym, Student Auto Shop, and the Model Railroad could be closed or the hours will be drastically reduced based on Institute guidelines.
  • All facilities being used for activities require staff present; with limited staff hours, some facilities will be closed.


Q. Will clubs and organizations be able to function?

  • As per Institute guidelines, there will be no events or large gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • Clubs and organizations cannot reserve academic classrooms.
  • No contact programs allowed.
  • Per Institute guidelines, no travel or travel-related activities.
  • Activities will not involve open food sources, including potluck meals, buffets, bake sales, receptions, or meal gatherings unless served by a catering staff or prepackaged.  
  • No in-person tabling events or fundraisers allowed.
  • If a campus department is not permitted to host a particular type of activity, a club cannot host that same activity. 
  • Only the Rensselaer community is permitted on campus for activities or meetings.

Q. Will I be able to complete my study abroad opportunity this fall for my semester-away designation?

A. After careful consideration and consultation with Institute leadership, all fall study abroad and exchange has been suspended until spring 2021. Email Karen Dvorak, International Program Manager, at if you would like your application moved to spring 2021 or if you wish to withdraw your application.


Q. Will I be able to complete my study abroad opportunity that is not affiliated with the Institute?

A. The health and safety of Rensselaer students remains our top priority. As a result, all fall study abroad and exchange has been suspended until spring 2021. This decision is a result of several factors, including the following:

  • Current Institute travel moratorium
  • Recommendations from the CDC and U.S. Department of State
  • Travel restrictions and entry requirements imposed by countries worldwide, including quarantine requirements
  • Uncertainty of fall instruction and support services at partner institutions
  • Suspension of visa services
  • Limitations on student activities abroad, such as in-person meetings and access to local cultural and historic sites

Q. I’m an incoming first-year student who lives local, near the Institute. Will I be able to live at home?

A. You will need to apply through the Student Living and Learning waiver process.


Q. I am a first-year student who would prefer to remain off campus for the fall 2020 semester. How do I inform Rensselaer that I will not be attending in person?

A. All first-year students will be assigned housing for the fall 2020 semester. If you plan on taking classes remotely and do not plan to live on campus during the fall 2020 term, you must submit a housing exemption request. If you have any questions, email the Office of Student Living and Learning at


Q. Are juniors and seniors able to live on campus?

A. We are currently working to ensure that all incoming first-year students receive housing. Once we have completed the first-year housing assignments, a limited number of spaces may be available for juniors and seniors who wish to live on campus. However, we encourage juniors and seniors who are attending classes on campus to explore alternate off-campus housing options

Students who would like to request on-campus housing on the basis of a vulnerability or concern (academic, health condition, disability), must submit a request form. Those with a disability must submit supporting documentation to Disability Services for Students.


Q. If I am taking all courses online for the fall 2020 semester, do I need to stay on campus or in the Troy area?

A. No. In an effort to reduce population density during the 2020 fall semester, access to campus will be limited to only students enrolled in in-person courses, including first-year students, juniors, seniors, and graduates.


Q.  What are the move-in dates for first-year students?

A. Specific plans for move in are still being finalized. In order to facilitate a safe, socially distanced move-in process, students will be given a specific date and time to arrive. We will communicate plans to students as soon as they are confirmed.

Q: Will all transferring sophomores take remote courses in the fall?

A: All incoming transfer students for fall 2020 will receive a communication from the Office of Student Transitions with information on their classification and matriculation plans for campus. The Rensselaer application deadline has been extended to July 15.


Q: Is a students’ class year determined by cohort or by credits?

A: Class year is determined by cohort (year entered). The entering class year remains the same on the transcript of record throughout matriculation. However, the class status is determined by credits completed toward degree completion.


Q: How are transfer students classified?

A: Class status is determined by credits transferred and approved upon entering Rensselaer during the fall or spring admission cycle. This also determines the transfer students’ class year for graduation.


Q. If a transfer student is not sure what their class year or class status is, whom should they contact?

A. The Office of Student Transitions at (518) 276-6655. All current matriculated students should contact Student Success to speak to their Undergraduate Class Dean at (518) 276-8022.

Q. Where do students vote?

A. Questions regarding voting locally should be directed to the Rensselaer County Board of Elections. Students interested in voting via absentee ballot should make arrangements with their local board of elections.

Student Communications

Date: April 7, 2020

From: Prabhat Hajela, Provost, and Peter Konwerski, Vice President for Student Life

Even as we approach the final weeks of instruction for the spring semester, planning is in full swing for the summer semester. With an emphasis on protecting the health and safety of our community, and reducing the risk from COVID-19 disease, President Jackson announced that instruction for the summer semester, including Arch classes, will be delivered remotely.

To support students throughout the Arch summer semester, as well as any students taking online courses with us, Rensselaer student and academic services will be fully operational including the Advising and Learning Assistance Center (ALAC), Student Success, and Class Deans.

The Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) will continue to provide comprehensive and individualized services to assist all students with their searches for away semester opportunities, co-ops, internships, and full-time jobs. Students enrolled in the Arch Preparation Course should complete all assignments; the course outcomes are critical for success in securing semester away opportunities. To connect with the Career Counselor for a specific school, students may schedule an appointment on Joblink. Students may also utilize the “Chat with an Advisor” feature on the JobLink main page for on-demand assistance between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday, or email the CCPD.

In addition to information on the summer semester, we also want to provide additional information on a question that many of you have raised about adjustments to room and board charges for the spring 2020 semester. The Institute will be providing pro-rata room and board credits, net of Rensselaer financial aid. Credits will be posted in the coming weeks. Additional information on this topic will be available on the COVID-19 website

We look forward to continuing to support you throughout the rest of the spring term and beyond. Please be well and continue to take the recommended steps to keep yourselves and our community safe and healthy.

Date: March 27, 2020

From: Jonathan D. Wexler, Vice President, Enrollment Management

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting economic downturn, may have an adverse impact on your employment prospects following graduation. As a result, to assist you with securing other opportunities by advancing your education at Rensselaer, we are extending the application deadline for graduating seniors to apply to the Co-Terminal program. The application deadline for graduating seniors is May 1st. Additionally, we have streamlined the application process to make it easier for graduating seniors to apply to the program. 

If you wish to be considered for admission to the Co-Terminal program, please complete the online application that can be found here.

Additional instructions are available in the online application. Department-specific GPA requirements are listed here. Please note that we are waiving all other department-specific requirements, such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and Letters of Recommendation, for this admission cycle only. 

The Co-Terminal program allows you to earn a master’s degree in two semesters (three semesters for the MBA), with an extension of your eligible undergraduate Rensselaer funding for those semesters. We strongly recommend that you contact the Office of Financial Aid at to discuss the specifics of your financial aid package.

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact Mr. Steven Atkinson, Sr. Student Services Administrator in the Office of Graduate Education, at

Thank you, and we wish you and your family the best during this difficult time.


Jonathan D. Wexler
Vice President, Enrollment Management

Date: March 22, 2020

From: Prabhat Hajela, Provost

In light of the transition to remote instruction necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are implementing a temporary change to our academic and grading policies for the Spring 2020 semester. This decision has been taken after consultation with the academic leadership and subsequent review and recommendation for adoption by the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee.

With this change, all students will have the option to convert a letter grade in any Spring 2020 course to a Pass/No Credit grade by May 15, 2020. Additionally, a grade of Pass in the Spring 2020 semester can be counted towards the graduation requirements for any program of study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The selections for P/NC for this semester will not count against the P/NC limits stipulated in our academic catalog.

Please contact the Advising Hubs in your Schools should you have additional questions related to these changes.


Date: March 20, 2020

From: Leslie Lawrence, M.D., Executive Director for Health and Wellness

First, I want to thank everyone who has been practicing social distancing (6 feet apart). As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), this practice has helped to dramatically flatten the curve of the virus in China.

However, I was recently informed directly by a student that many of you have been socializing in our residence halls this week. I want to reiterate that the only reason the residence halls remained open until today was to allow students enough time to pack their belongings and make arrangements to go home. It was not intended to be a social gathering place. 

This is the type of behavior that should absolutely be avoided at all times due to the following reasons:

  • CDC analysis of U.S. cases from February 12 to March 16 shows 38 percent of those sick enough to be hospitalized were younger than 55.
  • While the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people, the CDC analysis shows younger people are making up a big portion of hospitalizations. Up to 20% of people hospitalized with coronavirus in the U.S. are young adults between the ages of 20-44. Furthermore, of the 121 patients known to have been admitted to an ICU, 12% were between the ages of 20-44. 
  • Health experts say there are reasons for people in every age group to be cautious, but not because our understanding of who is most vulnerable to the virus is changing. Just because older people are more likely to develop a severe case or die from the disease does not mean some young people will not. 
  • Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the world’s leading virologists said, “Don’t get the attitude, well, I’m young, I’m invulnerable." He adds, "You don’t want to put you or your loved ones at risk, particularly the ones who are elderly and the ones who have compromised conditions. We can’t stop this disease without the young people cooperating. Please cooperate with us.”

At noon today, New York Governor Cuomo signed an executive order mandating that 100% of the non-essential workforce must stay home. This will affect nearly every non-essential service in Troy. Likewise, Mayor DeBlasio in New York City has called for a shelter in place order. Based on what has happened here, and in other countries, I expect this order to be applied similarly in many municipalities across the country.

In closing, I can’t emphasize enough that the COVID-19 virus is serious. It is impacting ALL age groups with both illness and death and we ALL have a responsibility to mitigate the impact on society. Social distancing is a must if we are to “flatten the curve” and ease pressure on health system resources, and ultimately prevent the number of deaths across the country and here in New York.

The Institute is taking COVID-19 (coronavirus) very seriously. 
As your doctor, I advise you to follow Institute guidance, and where possible, leave campus to go home. Please be safe and continue to adhere to local, state, and federal authorities.


Date: March 20, 2020

From: Travis T. Apgar, Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students; Keith Moo-Young, Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education

We are reaching out to you during this difficult moment in time to offer reassurance, and to encourage you to find a sense of calm. As you rearrange your plans for the spring semester and adapt to new learning platforms and living environments, be they familiar or new, it will require an adjustment on your part.

Our advice is to find ways to let go of anxiety, understanding that “let go” does not mean to dismiss. It means to learn to let it be, to allow things to remain as they are. You should accept the realities of those things you cannot control, and invest in those things you can. For example, identify healthy activities you enjoy and continue to engage in them. You can also find creative new ways in which you and your friends can safely socialize while observing social distancing protocols.

Come to accept that this semester is going to be unlike any other which you have experienced, and it is going to be just fine. All of us here recognize that this is unparalleled, and are committed to the highest quality of education and instruction. What is occurring across the globe has an impact on you and others within the Rensselaer family. We need you to know that we see that, and we will do what we can to continue to support you.

We urge you to make the most of this semester. Learn for learning's sake. Be sure to pay attention to the lessons which are not a part of the curriculum, the life lessons you are sure to learn as we manage this global crisis as a global society.

It is simply a fact that change is inevitable. It does not make it any less difficult by stating it. This fact, however, is one of the driving forces behind our Institute's goal to imbue each Rensselaer student with an ability to be intellectually agile, to possess a sense of multicultural sophistication, and to operate through a global lens. We strongly urge you to call on those particular skills and viewpoints as we face this challenge together.

With great care and respect for each of you.

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