Fall 2020 FAQ

For a full list of back to campus questions and answers, visit the official Penn State Coronavirus Information site.

What does the Fall 2020 schedule look like?

The updated Fall 2020 schedule is as follows:

  • Aug. 24: Fall semester begins
  • Sept. 7: Classes to be held Labor Day.
  • Nov. 20: In-person instruction to end
  • Nov. 21-29: Thanksgiving Holiday break
  • Nov. 30-Dec. 18: Remainder of semester, including finals, delivered remotely / online.
  • Dec. 18: Last day of finals; semester ends.

Are classes in-person or online?

Delivery of the curriculum will occur through a highly flexible mix of in-person, remote and online instruction throughout the semester, with all classes of more than 250 students delivered online and/or remotely. Most classes will be scheduled through synchronous delivery. This is based on strong evidence of greater academic success by establishing robust learning communities and environments. Campuses and academic units will determine how to deliver smaller classes, following University guidance. Faculty are expected to be flexible in their interpretation and management of class attendance so that sick students can stay home, and the University will work with immunocompromised and other at-risk students to develop appropriate accommodations. For students who are unable to return to any campus this fall, there are flexible options so that they can continue to make progress toward their degrees.

What if I’m unable to return to campus in the fall (i.e. international or immunocompromised student)?

Flexible options will be available to students who are unable to return to any campus so they can continue to make progress toward their degrees. Additional information can be found at https://keeplearning.psu.edu/fall-2020/learning-at-home/.

For our international students, we are excited to welcome scholars from across the globe into our community, even if current circumstances prevent residential study. We understand that travel restrictions and delays in the visa process may make it difficult for international students to arrive in the fall, but we are committed to working with our students to support their academic progress. For those students unable to join us on campus, a robust portfolio of remote delivery course work and student experiences is being developed to allow them to continue or begin working toward their Penn State degree.

Do we need to social distance and wear masks on campus?

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health guidelines, wearing face masks and adhering to social distancing practices, including maintaining six feet of physical distance between another person, are critical components in helping to maintain the health and safety of the entire campus community. Students, employees and visitors are expected to practice social distancing and wear face masks/coverings in classrooms, labs, offices, dining and retail facilities, public spaces, and while walking and traveling on campuses.

To aid in this effort, the University purchased 500,000 masks to be distributed across all campuses for people who need them. In addition, distance markers, directional arrows, signs and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations, which also will be reconfigured with social-distancing principles in mind. Tables, chairs and lounge furniture will be rearranged and/or blocked for use in some locations, and posting of maximum occupancy and do-not-congregate signs for most areas will become the norm, and in accordance with the governor’s higher education guidance.

Will student activities like THON and Movin’ On still happen?

Co-curricular learning is an important component of students’ college experiences. Student organizations are expected to adhere to all health and safety requirements established by the University, including social distancing and meeting virtually. While large gatherings will be prohibited upon return, restrictions may be loosened depending on results of early stage mitigation efforts. Recreational activities and facilities will be open if participants can adhere to social distancing, enhanced sanitation measures and other safety standards. Additional information relevant to specific activities will be forthcoming closer to the start of the semester.

I’m a first-year student living on campus. What does that look like?

To help limit prolonged person-to-person contact, this fall, no residence hall room or space may be occupied by more than two residents. To the extent possible, single rooms will be provided to immunocompromised or at-risk students, or a student requesting one, although immunocompromised or at-risk students will receive priority consideration. Roommate requests also will be honored.

At least initially, guests will be prohibited in the residence halls, while the University monitors the return to campus.

Residence hall bathrooms will be cleaned at least two times each day; masks are expected to be worn in bathrooms, except when showering or brushing teeth. General facility cleaning regimens will be based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American College Health Association, the Department of Health and others.

Residence Life will significantly modify its programming and interactions with students to minimize risks associated with transmission of the virus, and social or physical distancing requirements in the residence halls will be strictly enforced.

Seating will be substantially reduced in common areas and lounges to accommodate physical distancing; all lounge space will be closed initially – all in accordance with the governor’s guidance. Over time, relaxation of that status will depend on the effectiveness of mitigation efforts. Elevator usage may be discontinued initially, except for special circumstances; at a minimum, occupancy in elevators will be more restricted than usual. One-way traffic for each stairwell, up or down, will be communicated and expected.

Room and board charges will be adjusted for the time period in late November and early December when students will be completing the fall semester remotely.

What about dining hall operations?

It is Penn State’s goal to make on-campus dining as comfortable and convenient as possible while maintaining the safety of our students and visitors. Here are the steps we’re taking to meet those goals:

  1. Capacity in campus dining facilities will be limited, with seating and tables removed to encourage physical distancing, in accordance with governmental mandates and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
  2. Mobile ordering and carryout options will be expanded to reduce patron wait times.
  3. To enhance safety, the dining commons will not be offering self-serve options, and menu selections will be streamlined to increase speed of service.
  4. In addition, there will be extensive and regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces, and restroom spaces will be cleaned at least two times each day; these restrooms will be configured to encourage distancing among users.