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This page addresses frequently asked questions related to the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020-2021 academic year, including guidance for international students.

Additional information can be found on the COVID-19 Resources page, including the Dean’s message of November 11 concerning the Spring 2021 semester.


Is GSAPP planning to be completely online, hybrid, or in-person in the Fall 2020 semester?

How will existing classes be adapted to take advantage of the hybrid model?

  • The GSAPP faculty has been working on hybrid pedagogy and blended learning for Fall 2020 classes: seminars, lectures, and studios.

How are “crucial lectures and colloquia” defined or determined?

  • Each program is currently defining the crucial classes which need to be in-person and fulfill the SEVP requirements for in-person instruction. For example, studio-based programs will offer in-studio time, thesis-based programs will offer thesis in-person.
  • Programs will post the mode of instruction for specific classes in the syllabus before registration begins September 1.
  • Confirmed hybrid courses with an in-person component are:
    • MARCH I: ARCHA4001 Studio
    • MARCH II: ARCHA4003 Studio
    • MARCH III: ARCHA4005 Studio
    • MSAAD: ARCHA4005 Studio
    • MSAUD: ARCHA6849 Studio
    • MSCCCP I: ARCHA4032 CCCP Colloquium I
    • MSCCCP II: ARCHA4040 CCCP Thesis I
    • MSHP I: ARCHA4510 Studio I
    • MSRED: PLANA4310 Finance I
    • MSUP I: PLANA4578 GIS Labs
    • MSUP II: PLANA6918 Thesis/ Capstone Workshop

How many courses are students able to take in the hybrid model?

  • GSAPP has received approval to allow students to take more classes within the same tuition rate in the 2020-21 academic year, which will allow each student to register for up to 25 points instead of 19 points per semester (the equivalent of 2 extra classes).

Does the increase in maximum points from 19 to 25 in the 2020-2021 academic year affect the length of study?

  • GSAPP degree eligibility requires a minimum number of semesters of full-time enrollment (at least 12 points per semester), in addition to a cumulative number of points earned and the completion of required courses. Using the increased number of available points to enroll in additional classes in any one semester will not shorten the duration of the overall degree program, but allows students to broaden their study through additional electives.
  • The program-specific degree requirements and semesterly progress can be found on the respective program pages.

What are the meeting times and how will studio courses function?

  • All GSAPP seminars and lectures will remain as scheduled, unless noted in the Fall 2020 course syllabus and Directory of Classes.
  • GSAPP is planning three rotations of studios daily, with cleaning breaks in between.
  • Room schedules and studio rotations are posted online here.

I live in a different time zone; will asynchronous learning be an option?

  • GSAPP will accommodate students via taping and flipped classes, although all courses will not be available in alternate formats. Students attending classes online from a different time zone should contact the Student Affairs Office at studentaffairs@arch.columbia.edu. A program adviser can be assigned to meet with the student before registration to ensure the most appropriate schedule is available.

When will Studio Faculty be confirmed and when will studio prompts be shared with students for lottery consideration?

  • As usual, specific Fall courses, studio instructor information, and syllabi will be announced at the program level closer to registration starting on September 1.
  • GSAPP’s online course listing is regularly updated and shows confirmed faculty assignments. The Columbia University online course listing is Bulletin.

How will mid- and final reviews be facilitated?

  • Studio Faculty will continue to be responsible for determining the best format, platform, and process for individual studio reviews. The dates and times of mid- and final reviews are posted on the GSAPP academic calendar.

How will grading be handled in the Fall 2020 semester?

  • The Fall 2020 semester will follow GSAPP’s regular grading policy, as posted online.

Can I choose to do the entire year online?

  • Students are expected to take advantage of the hybrid model and attend in-person instruction when offered.
  • Students impacted by COVID-19 challenges such as travel restrictions, delays in obtaining visas, or health concerns should contact the Office of Student and Academic Affairs at studentaffairs@arch.columbia.edu.

Will I receive full credit if I need to participate remotely from abroad and can’t join in-person instruction?

  • Yes, course credits are the same regardless of format of instruction.

Will there be studio or course-related travel in the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 semesters?

  • Mindful both of the University’s service mission and of its need to safeguard against the COVID-19 threat, the University has suspended all Columbia-related student travel until further notice (international and domestic Columbia-related travel). GSAPP will make determinations regarding future travel based on University guidance.

What are the plans for the Spring 2021 teaching model?

  • No determination has been made regarding the format of the Spring semester.
Facilities and Resources

How will access to on-site laboratories including the Making Studio be facilitated?

  • Following Columbia University and New York State health and safety guidelines relating to academic instruction, technology labs and the Making Studio will open based on established procedures for cleaning and sanitizing as outlined on the University website.
  • The spaces will be available to GSAPP students by online reservation for specific timeframes to ensure occupancy thresholds are not exceeded, and spaces will be supervised by staff.
  • Before being able to use the shop, new and returning GSAPP students need to complete a full new safety orientation.
  • Detailed procedures are posted on the Making Studio shop website.

How many students will be allowed to meet in person in a single session?

  • The capacity in each space is different based on its size.

How will GSAPP support students working from their homes and provide access to software or hardware resources remotely?

  • GSAPP will be providing a full suite of software for students to access in the GSAPP studios. These resources will be available for students to take advantage of both on campus and remotely, via remote desktop connections.
  • GSAPP is also investing in major upgrades to the AV infrastructure to make it possible for local and remote students and faculty to communicate and collaborate as seamlessly as possible.
  • Please see the Hybrid Pedagogy page for guides and resources, information on software, and remote access.

How do students who lack reliable internet participate?

  • A stable internet connection is required in order to ensure that students have unencumbered access to the cloud based collaboration tools, full suite of GSAPP software, and computing power that GSAPP is providing for all students.

Will access to fabrication facilities be considered when outlining course objectives?

  • Studio professors are taking access to tools and resources into consideration as they develop the course curriculum and syllabi for Fall 2020.

What will access to the Avery Library (and other libraries at Columbia) be like?

  • The libraries are managing their own reopening process, and status updates are posted on the Library website.
  • Avery Library’s general research collections are available for Scan & Deliver requests.
  • Avery Library is now allowing current faculty, students, and staff to borrow certain Avery materials through its new pick-up service. Eligible materials are limited to all onsite Library of Congress classed collections (the majority of the materials in the 200 level reading room) with the exception of multi-volume sets, catalogues raisonnés, serials, and oversized materials. Patrons may begin requesting materials now and collect requested Avery materials between 8/12/20 and 8/28/20 at the Library’s plaza level rear exit, next to the pyramidal skylight, 300 Avery Hall 1172 Amsterdam Avenue. Pick-up hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • Avery Library plans to open its 300 Level to patrons for limited time periods by advance reservation on August 31. Please reference the Avery Library homepage for details and additional updates.

When may I pick up personal materials/work left in the studio in Spring 2020?

  • Please contact Mark Taylor at mt156@columbia.edu to make arrangements to retrieve personal items once campus has reopened to students.

When should I return the computer I borrowed in Spring 2020?

  • Please contact askGSAPPIT@columbia.edu to make arrangements to return your computer once the campus reopens for students.

How do I prepare for returning to campus safely, and what are the University’s plans for COVID-19 testing?

  • Before coming to campus, students will sign the Columbia Community Heath Compact, which is intended to ensure individual and community health.
  • If there are any complaints or concerns about non-adherence, students can report them to GSAPP Student Affairs at studentaffairs@arch.columbia.edu.
  • Columbia University has developed public health protocols including symptom screening, testing, and promotion of healthy hygiene, among others. You can learn about the details of these protocols on the University’s regularly updated COVID-19 Hub.
  • The COVID-19 Resource Guide also includes detailed articles with information that can be filtered by audience type, categories, or keywords.

Do I need to fulfill immunization requirements if I’m studying remotely from abroad during the Fall 2020 semester?

  • Immunization requirements for fall 2020 remain unchanged. New students must submit immunization records in order to enroll in fall courses. More information can be found on the Columbia Health website.

Do I need to pay Health Insurance / Health Services fees if I’m studying remotely from abroad during the Fall 2020 semester?

  • Columbia Health will provide an update on health insurance requirements by 7/15/20.
  • More information regarding Health Services fees will be provided by Columbia Health before the start of the semester. Columbia Health continues to offer a full range of services to our students that are not currently on campus.
Financial / Employment

How will GSAPP assist students financially during this period?

  • GSAPP established an emergency fund to aid returning and incoming master’s students with COVID-19 related challenges by offering up to $1,000 stipends for qualifying students. An initial round of funding met 100% of requests by disbursing $91,138 in October 2020. As many students continue to experience financial hardship during this period, GSAPP opened applications for a second round of funding in the Fall 2020 semester rather than later in the academic year. The second round of funding also met 100% of requests by disbursing an additional $126,654 in December 2020. Additional details are posted online.

Will casual employment positions be available to students?

Do I need to pay the university facilities fee if I’m studying remotely from abroad during the Fall 2020 semester?

  • Measures that Columbia University Student Financial Services is taking to address student and family needs in response to COVID-19 can be found on the Student Financial Services website, where any new information regarding changes to fees for the Fall 2020 semester will be posted.

If international students have difficulty accessing foreign bank accounts or receiving foreign government grants due to issues related to the pandemic, is there flexibility in payment deadlines?

  • Columbia’s Student Financial Services office (SFS) will respond to questions regarding payments, and will post any measures to address student and family needs related to COVID-19 on its website.

Spring 2021 Update: Columbia ISSO anticipates that the Fall 2020 COVID-19 accommodations will continue for the Spring 2021 semester. Please refer to the ISSO website for latest updates and FAQs for continuing students.

Fall 2020 Update: The government agreed to rescind the ICE “broadcast agreement” and FAQ and return to the previous guidance, on a nationwide basis. Read the July 25 ISSO news post “SEVP Issues Further Clarification for Fall 2020 for Continuing and New Students”, and see the ICE FAQ updated on July 24 for additional clarification.

ISSO hosts regular events and webinars for new and continuing students regarding the Fall 2020 semester.

Can I register for classes without having a visa?

  • Both new and continuing students are not required to have a SEVIS record in order to register. Registration appointment times in SSOL will be available prior to the fall semester (September 1–3).

By when do I need to arrive in New York to maintain my visa status?

  • For new students, this depends on when you are able to enter the US; your visa status will be established after you are able to successfully enter the US in F-1 status.
  • For continuing students, there is no arrival time specified in the SEVP guidance. Students’ SEVIS records will be maintained in active status. GSAPP students should arrive as soon as they are able to.

Does online instruction affect my immigration status?

  • Department of Homeland Security guidance confirms that continuing students will maintain their immigration status while continuing their semester’s courses online in the U.S. or abroad. You must continue to be enrolled full-time and make normal progress toward your degree.

When do I need to be in New York to make sure I can use my OPT? (For students enrolled in the MSAAD, MSAUD, and MSRED programs.)

  • Eligibility is met after completion of two consecutive semesters in F-1 status.
  • Students who wish to maintain eligibility to participate in either a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) elective or Optional Practical Training (OPT) in Summer 2021 must arrive no later than 30 days after the program start date for Fall term (September 8).
  • Continuing students must be physically in the U.S. at the time they submit their OPT application.
  • In order for incoming international Master’s on F-1 visas to be eligible for CPT/Pre-OPT in summer 2021, students must register full-time (for a minimum of 12 on-campus credits) in each of Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semester in either in-person or hybrid programs on campus.
  • Incoming international Master’s students who first enroll with an F-1 in Spring 2021 are NOT eligible for CPT/Pre-OPT in Summer 2021.
Scenarios for International Students

Scenario 1: International students who are in the U.S. on an F-1 visa (continuing students, incoming students transferring from another school, or incoming students who have already received F-1):

  • Department of Homeland Security guidance confirms that students will maintain their immigration status while continuing their semester’s courses online in the U.S. You must continue to be enrolled full-time and make normal progress toward your degree.

  • For international students who have just completed a degree at another U.S. academic institution, the ISSO will issue a transfer I-20 as long as the SEVIS record is active and can be transferred to Columbia by the student’s current institution. Given the complexity and nuances associated with requests from transfer students, we recommend that you contact ISSO directly. Additional transfer related information is posted on the ISSO Newly Admitted Students FAQ.

Scenario 2: International students who are outside the U.S. and do not have a SEVIS record or F-1:

  • Students may register and enroll in classes remotely in Fall 2020 without a SEVIS record.

  • Students will need to apply for an I-20, obtain an F-1 visa prior to their arrival in the U.S.

  • Incoming international Master’s students enrolled in Spring 2021 under F-1 visa status are NOT eligible for CPT/Pre-OPT in Summer 2021.

Scenario 3: International students who are outside of the U.S. on an F-1 visa:

  • SEVP has clarified that continuing students currently outside of the U.S. are allowed to remain outside of the U.S. and enroll in online courses.

  • Department of Homeland Security guidance confirms that continuing students will maintain their immigration status while continuing their semester’s courses online in the U.S. or abroad. You must continue to be enrolled full-time and make normal progress toward your degree.

International graduate students should review their home country’s specific guidance regarding:

  • permission to engage in online education while outside of the U.S., and
  • accreditation/certification of their degree by their home country should part or the entirety of their program be pursued online.

If you are an international student and have additional questions and concerns, please contact the ISSO via email at isso@columbia.edu


How will public lectures and other programming operate now that they will be online?

  • All public programming in the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters will be held virtually. The programming is announced in weekly student newsletters and posted on the Event calendar.
  • GSAPP will offer and support virtual social events for students, such as 6-on-6, coffee hours, and program-specific virtual lounges and virtual studios.

Will students participating remotely have similar networking opportunities such as meeting GSAPP alumni?

  • As all public programming will be held virtually, alumni networking opportunities will also take place in this format. Virtual meetings, conversations, and events are already taking place and will continue.

  • The alumni office is also working with our network of alumni around the world to create connections on a local level.


Has the deferral policy changed for students that can’t make it to New York before the end of the fall semester?

  • GSAPP’s deferral policy remains unchanged. Deferrals are only considered in the case of personal medical emergencies and additional documentation would be required.

What is the policy for continuing students to request a Leave of Absence?

  • Leave of Absence for continuing students can be requested through an online form. The deadline has been extended until July 20, 2020.
updated January 5, 2021