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Information about fall 2020 semester

The Virginia Tech Graduate Life Center seen from the GLC Plaza

Below are consolidated responses to queries submitted by admitted graduate students during an Open Forum with Dean Karen DePauw, held over Zoom on June 23, 2020.  Please see also the FAQs for graduate students regarding the university's COVID-19 directives. You'll find the slide presentation Dean DePauw shared during the forum here

  • Students with assistantships should plan to arrive by August 14, 2020, if possible.  The Week of Welcome, the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) Workshop and Graduate Student Orientation will be held virtually August 17-21, and classes will start on August 24.  If necessary, you can delay your arrival until no later than August 28 (See Slide 4 of the Dean’s June 23 presentation). Also check with your assistantship department regarding your assistantship duties and when/if you need to report to campus in person. Many assistantships have flexibility with regard to when and where duties can or must be performed; some assistantships, because of their nature, may not be flexible.
  • Assistantships (GRA, GTA, GA) come with a tuition remission that covers in-state tuition and health insurance benefits.  We cannot offer tuition remission or out-of-state tuition waiver without an assistantship.
  • Graduate students on assistantships must be physically present in the U.S.
  • While on assistantship, graduate students are eligible for Virginia resident tuition rates.  It is highly recommended for U.S. residents who are not Virginia residents to submit paperwork to establish residency in Virginia for tuition purposes as soon you arrive in Blacksburg. See the in-state tuition and residency webpage for details.
  • If you currently do not have an assistantship, please contact your department.  There might be assistantships available if positions open up due to deferral by other students or their inability to accept an offered position.  It is possible to hold an assistantship in a department/college different from that in which you are seeking a degree.
  • There is currently no “hiring freeze” in effect for graduate student assistantships.
  • If you hold a GTA position, you are required to attend the virtual GTA workshop.  The specific assignments of your assistantship should be discussed with your faculty advisor/supervisor or Graduate Program Director in the relevant department. (see slide 8 of Dean DePauw’s June 23 presentation)
  • There is not an assistantship list, but once you enroll you will receive a Monday graduate students announcements email. You can follow these postings online at the GLC Weekly webpage. Also available to you is connection with the Virginia Tech Graduate Academy for Teaching Excellence (VT_GrATE).
  • Should a student become ill (from COVID-19 or something else), VT has a process in place for seeking relief from some assistantship responsibilities.  The process is similar for that related to absences from the classes you attend.
  • The assistantship officially starts when you arrive in Blacksburg and complete the appropriate paperwork. The standard assistantship start date is August 10, providing a first paycheck on September 1. See assistantship policies and procedures at this webpage
  • Admitted students can request a deferral of their admission to spring 2021 or fall 2021 without incurring an additional application fee.  If you wish to defer, please contact the Graduate School (grads@vt.edu) as well as the department to which you have applied.
  • Contact your department’s Graduate Program Director with questions related to the consequences of deferring enrollment until spring 2021 on progress toward your degree.
  • There is no limit on the number of students who can defer at the university level, but some departments will need to limit enrollment by semester, owing to resource limitations and finite availability of classes and faculty advisors. 
  • Deferral refers to the deferral of the application process; departments may elect to review deferred applications again, in view of their applicant pool and funding situation in later semesters.  There is no guarantee of assistantship availability with deferral.
  • Requests for deferral of admission should be submitted no later than August 15, 2020.  An earlier request is preferred.
  • Graduate students do not need to pay a deposit or matriculation fee when accepting admission or deferring to a future term. 
  • For a diagram of the deferral process for international students, visit our deferral information webpage.
  • Orientation will be mostly online, but we will arrange some in-person activities as well if social distancing guidelines permit. For updates, visit the Orientation webpage.
  • For housekeeping items such as getting your ID, setting up two-factor authentication, registering for classes, purchasing parking passes, and more, see the Getting Started as a Student webpage.
  • See the Getting Started as a Student webpage for link to off-campus housing office.
  • If you applied for on-campus housing, check with housing@vt.edu regarding the status of your application.
  • Immigration advisors are usually able to issue I-20 forms within a couple of days after you submit all financial and immigration documents and information.
  • We expect e-I-20 forms to be accepted at US ports of entry. We recommend that, in addition to the electronic version, you print and carry a hardcopy as well, in case anything happens to your electronic device during travel.
  • Admitted students can request a deferral of their admission to spring 2021 or fall 2021 without incurring an additional application fee.  If you wish to defer, please contact the Graduate School (grads@vt.edu) as well as the department to which you have applied, preferably no later than August 15, 2020.
  • When students defer to a future term, they will be issued a new I-20, and their SEVIS record will be deferred as well. Your SEVIS number will not change. You may be asked to submit updated financial documents before a new I-20 can be issued.
  • I-20 forms for spring 2021 will be issued between September and January. I-20 forms for Fall 2021 will be issued between February and August 2021.
  • Monitor the following US government website for information for F-1 and J-1 students:
  • For inquiries about international taxes, please contact international tax specialist Janet Kunz at jakunz@vt.edu.
  • Contact igss@vt.edu for case-specific immigration assistance.
  • Off-campus work authorizations for international students require that students be present in the U.S. in F-1 status for at least 9 months before seeking such employment. Virginia Tech does not have any graduate programs that include a curricular requirement of internship in one's first or second term, so we are unable to grant CPTs after only one semester of enrollment.
  • Cranwell International Center has published a memo regarding the July 6 SEVP/DHS guidelines related to taking online courses. The temporary exemptions allow for F-1 students to enroll in some online courses if the university offers hybrid or in-person modalities, and Virginia Tech does. VT also published information about assistance and guidance related to the SEVP/DHS statement. 
  • Contact the Cranwell International Center with questions about immigration and other services specific to international students. 
  • VT plans to offer courses in three primary modalities: 100% online, which is asynchronous; hybrid; and “in-person,” which may also have virtual components, such as Zoom. (See slide 5 of the Dean’s June 23 presentation)
  • GTAs will be provided with training to prepare them for service as instructors.
  • Although class instruction after Thanksgiving 2020 will revert to online, graduate research will continue in alignment with prevailing health and safety guidelines. (See slides 6 and 7 of the Dean’s June 23 presentation)
  • At this point in time, we estimate that approximately 17% of the graduate courses will be in-person, mostly as small seminar type classes
  • Check the website of the Bursar’s Office for information on 2020-21 tuition and fees, including rates for virtual vs. on-site enrollment, deadlines for payment, etc.
  • Tuition rates for the coming academic year are unchanged from 2019-20; rates for the 2021-22 academic year are presently unknown, as is refund policy should instruction during the 2020-21 academic year be interrupted by public health considerations.
  • The insurance coverage through Aetna begins August 1 and ends July 31. For GA, GTAs, and GRAs, the insurance premium, including the 88% subsidy paid by the university, is paid August 10-May 9. The open enrollment period for the 2020-21 plan is between July 24 and September 9 for coverage to begin August 1. For details, see the student medical insurance webpage.
  • All international graduate students in F-1 or J-1 visa status must carry health insurance. See this webpage for details.  Students enrolled through virtual campus are not required to have health insurance.  
  • Virginia Tech will adhere to all health safety requirements set forth by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and comply with the regulations of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Everyone’s safety is the primary concern.
  • Coronavirus testing and contact tracing plans will be announced July 6, 2020.
  • Masks and other PPE as appropriate for individual circumstances to permit you to carry out your assistantship responsibilities will be available through your department.
  • Graduate students wishing to switch degree programs or campus of study need to consult with the department or program to which they have applied.
  • Admitted students can request a deferral of their admission to spring 2021 or fall 2021 without incurring an additional application fee.  If you wish to defer, please contact the Graduate School (grads@vt.edu) as well as the department to which you have applied, preferably no later than August 15, 2020.
  • Contact the department’s Graduate Program Director with questions related to selection of advisor and courses, including the consequences of deferring enrollment until spring 2021 on progress toward your degree.
  • VT employees currently are mostly teleworking but will respond to emails. 

A variety of channels exist by which incoming or current students can seek and receive information from the Graduate School or communicate with one another.  Questions can always be submitted to the Graduate School at grads@vt.edu. The following list includes webpages, blogs, and social media platforms you can use to find information and connect with the Graduate School and fellow students.