COVID-19 guidance for HMS master’s and PhD students

Updated 6.4.20

NEW: Coronavirus Information for the HMS community (campus access, testing, vaccination, and more)

Important HMS Lab Reopening information (June 4)

All Harvard faculty, staff and students must follow the University's policies and guidelines found on the Harvard University coronavirus webpage. This page includes important guidance for remote courses, travel policies, campus restrictions and visiting or returning to campus.

For PhD students, please refer to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences' coronavirus webpage.


  • COVID Testing

    Division of Medical Sciences students and HMS master’s students who are approved to work for more than 4 hours a week in a lab that is primarily affiliated with a Harvard hospital can now request to receive COVID-19 testing through Harvard by completing this QUALTRICS FORM. Students who meet the eligibility requirements will be added to Schedule D, which allows them to be tested up to twice a week but doesn’t require them to be tested regularly.

    DMS students and HMS masters students who are working in a non-hospital lab at Harvard (at HMS or at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) should continue to access the Color system and get testing through their PI and the department’s normal process. As a reminder, all individuals who are authorized to be on-campus must also complete Crimson Clear attestation each day before they access campus spaces. Failure to complete this daily attestation will result in denied access to campus. For additional information, please visit Harvard’s testing and tracing policies and procedures website.

  • Academics

    Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 courses will be held remotely for HMS master’s students.

    Will the move to virtual learning affect my F1 visa?

    Government guidance issued on March 10, 2020, assures Harvard that international students who are in the U.S. and currently hold valid student visas can participate in online classes without concern for their immigration status, provided they continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations.

    Should I still meet my mentor in person?

    Training in science requires careful advising and mentoring. The COVID-19 pandemic precludes the usual approach to advising meetings so meetings have been held over Zoom during the shutdown and the laboratory ramp-up. Now that many students and faculty in wet labs are coming to campus part of the time, many questions have arisen regarding small in-person meetings for graduate students at HMS.

     This note is to clarify the policy.

    There are no in-person meetings allowed for course work. 

    Faculty who are supervising a student for a rotation, dissertation work or thesis work may meet in person with a student only if this conforms to all the rules of the institution where the laboratory is located and options are provided to the student for a virtual meeting. All participants must wear masks and practice social distancing at any such in-person meetings, which can be held indoors in areas that allow two people to be present in the space or held outdoors. If a meeting is held on campus, access needs to be approved through the local institution.

    Faculty who are program advisors for a student are not required to hold in-person meetings, but they may opt to have an in-person meeting once during the semester. These meetings can be held indoors in areas that allow two people to be present in the space or held outdoors. The option of a virtual meeting must be provided to the student.

    There are no HMS-sponsored, in-person group activities for students, whether indoors or outdoors.

    Should I continue to pursue my laboratory research?

    HMS labs are open with occupancy restrictions in place. Please be in touch with your mentor to determine whether the lab can make accommodations for you to work in person. 

    If I have a role at an HMS-affiliated hospital with stricter policies/guidelines than HMS, whose guidelines should I follow?

    If your affiliated hospital has stricter policies/guidelines for travel, meetings, events, etc., please follow those specific policies/guidelines.

    Will there be any refund for changed classes?

    There will not be a refund for changed classes. Students will continue learning the same materials remotely.

    Are official deadlines for May 2021 degree period in place?

    Yes, official deadlines are still in place. Students with concerns about needing additional time to complete degree requirements should be in touch with their program director.

    Who should students contact with additional questions or concerns about this guidance?

    Students should contact Associate Dean for Graduate Education Johanna Gutlerner or Master’s Programs Senior Administrator Kim Lincoln in the Office for Graduate Education.

    Is there additional guidance available for graduate students who have teaching duties?

    The University has launched a new Teach Remotely website to provide faculty with best practices, tools and support for teaching classes online.

    How can I avoid or how will accommodations be made to disruptions to the research I am involved in?

    All faculty and program leadership are sensitive to students’ needs during this uncertain time. Special accommodations will be made on a case-by-case basis.

  • Graduating Students

    Is there guidance for preparing to deliver my master’s capstone or thesis virtually?

    Students will be informed about how to deliver their capstone or thesis projects by their program director and/or program manager.

    Will the May final thesis deadline be officially moved, or are we still operating with the May deadline?

    We are operating on the current official deadlines and will address those needing additional time as we normally would, on a case-by-case basis. 

    I am graduating in May; do I tell my family to continue making travel arrangements?

    Plans for the observance and celebration of 2021 Commencement and the local HMS ceremony have not been announced. Check the Harvard Commencement and HMS Graduation page for more information; an announcement is expected in February 2021 or soon after.

  • Health and Wellness

    This is a difficult time for us all. The pandemic is affecting our global community’s physical and mental health. Please take all the common-sense hygiene approaches: wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid crowds, wash hands frequently and well, and avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, etc. Monitor your temperature. If you are ill and have symptoms such as a cough, fever and/or muscle aches, contact Harvard University Health Services at 617-495-5711 or your doctor before going in. If you have been in direct contact with anyone with COVID-19, stay home and isolate yourself.

    Watch the HMS coping with coronavirus video series for help dealing with daily stress, anxiety and a range of other emotions.

    It is important to recognize that this is also a challenging time for mental health. Contact Harvard Counseling and Mental Health Services for counseling and mental health resources.

    Although you are physically remote, remain virtually connected and engaged with our community. HMS and program staff are available for you by email and Zoom.

    Exercise, and get sleep.

    Additional mental health resources are being developed, and they will be shared on HMS web pages and by email as they come online. The Keep Harvard Healthy and Harvard Health Publishing’s Coronavirus Resource Center have additional information and resources for maintaining physical and mental health.

  • Housing

    Can we stay in our apartment if it is Harvard-owned, such as Harvard at Trilogy?

    If you live in a Harvard-owned property that is not a dormitory, you will not need to move.

    I live off-campus. Do I need to stay in Boston for virtual classes?

    As courses will be virtual until further notice, you do not need to remain in Boston unless your program requires an in-person component or you are working in the lab or clinic.  Please be in touch with your program for specific information.

    Will my visa be affected if I go home?

    Since the academic term will continue online, you are considered to be enrolled. Please direct any additional questions to the Harvard International Office.

    Who should students contact with questions or concerns about this guidance?

    Please direct questions regarding visas to the Harvard International Office.

  • Travel Restrictions

    What are the current policies regarding Harvard-organized and Harvard-funded international travel for students?

    Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. Please see the Harvard Travel Guidance website for updated information about University travel restrictions.

     Can I travel internationally on a Harvard-related trip?

    Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. Please see the Harvard Travel Guidance website for updated information about University travel restrictions or the petition process for University-related travel.

    Should I travel abroad for a personal trip?

    Harvard strongly discourages personal international travel until further notice. Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. For the foreseeable future, the global pandemic will continue to affect the safety and feasibility of travel. Many governments have placed restrictions on travel, and all travelers must adhere to U.S. and state travel orders. All Harvard students and personnel authorized to come to campus must adhere to the University’s post-travel COVID testing and quarantine policy; Harvard requires testing and quarantine measures beyond the state’s requirements.

     For more information, review Harvard Global Support Services’ international travel guidance for more information and see the Harvard Travel Guidance FAQs.

    Can I petition to travel?

    Please see the Harvard Travel Guidance website for updated information about University travel restrictions and the petition process for University-related travel.

    I am an international student. What is the latest guidance on obtaining or renewing my visa?

    Visit the Harvard International Office COVID-19 webpage for the latest immigration updates and advice.

    Are there restrictions for visiting or returning to campus?

    Travel can significantly increase your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19 and thus we strongly discourage personal travel internationally and domestically. Anyone—including affiliates and invited guests—who returns or arrives to campus needs to review and comply with the Harvard Post-Travel COVID Testing and Quarantine Policy. Additional information can be found on the Harvard University Health Services guidance and FAQs page.

    My travel has been canceled, and I am worried about my academic progress? Who can I speak with?

    Contact your program director or program manager for guidance.

  • General Questions

    When will students be allowed to come back to campus?

    We don’t know this yet, but we are working diligently to bring all programs back to campus as soon as possible!