iSchool COVID-19 Student FAQ

Last updated: September 22, 2020, 12:24 p.m.

There are a lot of instances of misinformation and unsubstantiated rumors around COVID-19. Continue to rely on the UW coronavirus page as the definitive source of all information about how the UW is responding to this public health crisis, and the impacts on you. For questions about graduate admissions specifically, including details about I-20 processing, UW has created a graduate admissions FAQ for incoming/prospective students and families.

This is an evolving situation, and we will be updating the information here frequently. If you have additional iSchool-specific questions that are not addressed here, please send them to iprocess@uw.edu.

For iSchool-specific news and information and frequently asked questions about the novel coronavirus, see below.

Health, wellness and prevention

What is my responsibility to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the iSchool/UW/Seattle community? (9/13//20)

Protecting our health and the health of our community will take a commitment from each and every one of us. We will expect all UW students to do their part, and for each of us to model best practices.

Vice President for Student Life Denzil Suite sent a message to all students on Aug. 25 with further information and clarification of each student’s responsibilities regardless of their mode of instruction.

Follow all local guidelines relevant to your location. Here in Washington, Governor Inslee has implemented Safe Start, a 4-phase plan to reopen the state of Washington. The plan is location-specific, meaning that each county will advance through the 4 phases based upon their ability to meet specific criteria set forward by the state. 

If you're here in Washington, learn more about and follow physical distancing directives from state and local governments as part of our collective effort to combat this disease. To learn more about safety procedures on campus, please visit the University of Washington's page outlining its COVID-19 Safe Start status.

All of our decisions, policies and procedures are based on consultation with public health experts and are examined through an equity lens. We recognize that every individual’s circumstances are different, and we know that some of us have underlying health conditions that put us more at risk for contracting COVID-19.

The University has established policies, including requiring students, employees and visitors to wear masks when they are indoors near other people and outdoors if people are unable to stay six feet apart. Contact tracing and voluntary expanded testing to spot any potential outbreaks early will also be part of our campus protocols. Our testing protocol is in development with faculty and clinical expertise from across campus and will be finalized soon.

We will also expect everyone to practice the good and now familiar hygiene recommendations of public health officials: washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer and monitoring your temperature and other changes in your health.

What do I do if I’m feeling sick, having symptoms or have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19? (6/26/20)

See the UW coronavirus page for guidance on health, wellness and prevention. If you are sick with any potential illness, you must stay home.

If you’re not feeling well, you (or someone you know, if you’re not able to) should contact your program advisor as soon as possible. The earlier we know, the better we can support you.

Your advisor will ask how long you anticipate being out of school, and what kind of support you need from the iSchool. If you’re serving as a predoctoral instructor, a TA, or a reader/grader, your program advisor will notify our Academics Services team, who will ensure that the work of your class will continue in your absence.

Please notify an Employee Health Center as soon as your health-care provider confirms or suspects COVID-19. This helps us track the UW’s case count and start any contact tracing to help other campus community members minimize their risk of becoming sick and spreading the virus. Contact the EH&S Employee Health Center at covidehc@uw.edu or 206.685.1026.

I’m feeling anxious about COVID-19. What should I do? (6/26/20)

It’s completely expected and appropriate to experience anxiety during situations like these. It’s also important to know how to manage overwhelming anxiety and keep perspective as the situation unfolds. Here are some resources and tips that may be helpful:

My email inbox is overflowing and the volume of messages I'm getting, many from the UW, is adding to my anxiety. How can I better manage my email to reduce this effect? (added 3/25/20)

This is a stressful time with many unknowns and a lot of information to take in.

Because email is the official form of communication at the University of Washington and iSchool, it’s not possible to stop these email communications. We recommend you identify the sources of the emails causing you anxiety and filter them to a separate folder. You can then set personal goals around how often you log in to check those communications. For example, perhaps you decide to log in only once a day to monitor communications. 

iSchool events/operations

Are all regular iSchool operations/services available and how will I access them if I’m not in Seattle? (added 6/26/20)

All iSchool staff and faculty are working and available to assist you. 

As directed by the UW Back to Workplace task force, the iSchool has created a “COVID-19 Prevention Plan” to guide our gradual and safe return to the workplace for staff, faculty and student workers. As we implement this plan, the majority of our employees will work remotely throughout summer and autumn terms to reduce population density on campus; however, all regular operations are continuing. 

The UW is working hard to ensure all students are able to access services critical to their academic progress, well-being and Husky experience. Learn more about campus operations on the UW coronavirus page.

If I'm in Seattle, can I still access iSchool shared spaces including the TE Lab (MGH 440)? (4/19/20)

iSchool students are not able to use their Husky Card to enter Mary Gates Hall. Only critical personnel with a UW work-related need to get into buildings are able to do so.

If you need to meet with iSchool faculty or staff who work in Mary Gates Hall (or other organizations housed in the building), please reach out to them by email to request an online meeting as all UW/iSchool employees are now working remotely.

We realize this operational change to Mary Gates Hall may create challenges for some students. If you have specific needs/reasons for which you rely on Mary Gates Hall, please contact your advisor, who can work with you to identify ways to meet those needs.

What is happening with iWelcome week and new student orientation? (9/13/20)

These events have been transitioned to an online format to support all of our students. You can view an event schedule online. Please continue to watch this page. We will update it with additional events and information as details are finalized.

Will the iSchool be hosting events? How do I participate? (added 6/26/20)

The iSchool is following guidance from the UW Back to School task force on protocols to protect the health of the UW community in all operations. Per the Safe Start plan, in-person social events and gatherings will not be permitted until Phase 3, and then only when deemed necessary and with no more than 50 people.

We will continue to offer virtual events to engage with the iSchool community and further our academic and research mission. Details about all public events, including workshops and events for prospective students, will be shared on our event calendar with details about how to register and participate.

Classes, academics and research for iSchool students

What’s happening with autumn quarter 2020? (9/13/20)

As you heard from President Ana Mari Cauce and Provost Mark Richards over the summer, the University of Washington looks forward to a meaningful and academically-rich autumn quarter, but your experiences will be very different than what you may have imagined when you first applied. Regardless of your mode of instruction or changes that may arise, the iSchool and the UW are fully committed to ensuring your academic progress.

Our faculty, teaching assistants and academic support staff have been engaged in developing innovative and creative approaches to online learning. As classes commence, your program chair, advisor and faculty will share more details about student expectations and program delivery and we encourage you to reach out to them with any questions or concerns specific to your circumstances. 

The iSchool has transitioned its operations online, and all iSchool staff and faculty are available to assist you. Student groups, advising, career services, research and iSchool events are all operating despite the remote environment and there are a myriad of ways for you to engage. New students will learn more about this during iWelcome week and all students can explore the iSchool event calendar, sign up for an advising appointment or career event, and connect with a student group online.

What will a remote instruction class look like in the fall? (9/22/20)

On a weekly basis, a typical course being offered remotely would likely include some amount (1-2 hours a week) of synchronous class meeting time or office hours, recorded lecture content, class readings, discussion boards on the readings and lecture, and an exercise or assignment. Beyond this basic framework, some classes will include other types of learning activities such as group projects, online labs, sharing videos created by students, peer review activities, online community outreach projects, co-production activities where students log into an online whiteboard or google document, etc.

Instructors will work to accommodate students in different time zones through the thoughtful creation of project groups, deadlines that accommodate different time zones and asynchronous activities. While we will try to be as accommodating as possible, some activities will have to be based on Pacific Standard Time and the official class schedule. No matter what options are offered, students will be accountable for completing required work in each class.

How will grading, academic transcripts or graduation requirements be impacted by COVID-19? (9/13/20)

The University has deemed Spring quarter 2020, Summer quarter 2020, and Autumn quarter 2020 as Extraordinary Circumstances quarters due to extenuating circumstances that globally or by individual campus have had an impact on grading and student success. Learn more on the Registrar's website about the impacts of this status on undergraduate and graduate students.  

What should I do if I don’t have a device? (9/22/20)

Students can make a reservation for a laptop or tablet through the UW Student Technology Loan Program. Separately, the iSchool also has a limited number of devices available for loan and may be able to support your needs. Note that these devices are only available to those students who can come to campus to borrow them. Contact ihelp@uw.edu for more information on the iSchool devices and to request support.

What should I do if I don’t have access to reliable Wi-Fi? (9/22/20)

If you are in Seattle, the UW Campus wifi network functions well and is available from nearly all open campus buildings, residence halls and public locations. Select internet service companies such as Comcast/XFinity are offering expanded services that may allow you to get connected through low-cost options. Check with your provider. Comcast has also made available many free Wifi hot-spots through the end of 2020. The UW Libraries and City of Seattle offers information on low-cost internet options as well. For students currently residing outside Seattle, please check with your local service providers about low-cost options.

In these extreme circumstances, our goal is to be flexible. However we expect that students to have access to a quality internet connection that will allow them to access course content, participate in class, and collaborate with peers.

I have a disability that requires accommodations. How can I complete my courses as expected? (9/22/20)

Please coordinate needed accommodations through UW Disability Resources. As appropriate, please inform your instructors and work with them to determine how your accommodations should best be supported in each class.

What is happening with Winter quarter 2021? (added 9/22/20)

The University is monitoring the current situation with the COVID-19 global pandemic and the state’s Safe Start plan to return to work and classes. It is too early to make determinations about Winter 2021 at this time. The University leadership is mindful of the academic calendar, registration dates, current limitations on travel, and health and safety needs. We anticipate that information for Winter quarter will be announced by the University in a timely manner that will enable students to make any plans and arrangements.

Other impacts to iSchool students

I live in campus housing. Is the UW planning on closing the dorms and/or dining halls? (6/29/20)

The UW will welcome students back to campus housing for autumn quarter, and those who have applied to live on campus will receive communications regarding next steps in the assignment process from Housing & Food Services, including information about room assignments, dining and the use of community spaces. Other on-campus food services will be available throughout campus this fall, following strict hygienic and physical distancing protocols as mandated by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

I’m a parent/caregiver and am struggling to complete my coursework and/or TA duties due to widespread closures of schools and care facilities. Is there emergency support available through the UW? (9/13/20)

Yes, the UW has an Emergency Aid page that specifies the support it provides. You may also be eligible for support through the CARES Act

UW Human Resources has provided additional information for parents and caregivers on its website.

I’m an international student, veteran, and/or student on financial aid. How will the transition to online instruction impact my visa, OPT, CPT or financial aid? (9/13/20)

The University is working with state and federal officials to clarify any potential impacts or accommodations available in Autumn 2020 for financial aid, OPT or CPT. 

Student Financial Aid has created FAQs to support students with information related to financial aid, as well as benefits for veterans. Students should direct their questions to osfa@uw.edu for general financial aid questions and veteran@uw.edu for Veterans Education Benefits.

For incoming international students: please refer to the graduate admissions FAQ  or the undergraduate admissions FAQ for information about I-20 processing and other questions related to joining the UW in autumn.

For current international students: The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) has updated requirements in light of the COVID-19 emergency. International Student Services maintains a page with coronavirus-related updates for international students. Please consult that page and with ISS staff for more information specific to your individual circumstances. ISS is also holding daily webinars/drop-in sessions.

How will this situation affect my internship or job offer? (9/11/20)

As you can imagine, employers are dealing with a lot of uncertainties themselves. While hiring slowed over the summer, we have seen an increase in job and internship postings on iCareers and Handshake in September. Fall recruiting is well under way with information sessions scheduled for companies such as PwC, KPMG, AT&T, and Accenture. We’ve also heard from a handful of libraries requesting to post opportunities in iCareers.

Anecdotally, we’ve heard that local employers have a range of plans – most have moved their new interns and employees to remote work, some are postponing start dates, and some are canceling internships and revoking offers. The UW Career and Internship Center has a comprehensive COVID-19 & Career Student FAQ page, and we recommend reading through it to find answers to many of your questions.

If you have additional questions or concerns, schedule a 1:1 appointment with the Career Services team via iCareers, come to virtual drop-ins (Mondays from 1:30-3:30pm), or attend one of our upcoming small group sessions or workshops.

I’m concerned that the new restrictions will make it harder to get a job after graduation. How can Career Services support me through the coming months? (9/11/20)

Career Services will be offering weekly online small group career coaching sessions and workshops to address questions such as how to network while social distancing, how to stay focused on the job search in uncertain times, and how to prepare for online interviews. Log in to iCareers to view the full calendar of events, to make a 1:1 career advising appointment, and to access Zoom links for the virtual drop-ins happening on Mondays from 1:30-3:30. To view past workshops, visit our Recorded iCareers Sessions page. Our annual iSchool Career Fair will be happening virtually this year in February. Current and incoming iSchool students, as well as students from the most recent graduating class are welcome to all our offerings.

Starting with the Class of 2020, all iSchool students will have access to Career Services for one year after graduation.

I'm facing financial hardship due to extra expenses or lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Are there available resources? (9/22/20)

The University of Washington offers Emergency Aid to assist students who are experiencing unexpected financial hardships that may disrupt their education or prevent them from earning their UW degree.

The UW’s COVID-19 Resources site also includes pointers to available resources. 

I rely on borrowed textbooks from the library to keep my education costs down. Is this still possible with UW Libraries on restricted operations? (9/13/20)

UW Libraries is working hard to support students and researchers during this time and is committed to working with you to help you meet your needs. Learn more about their anticipated operations for Autumn 2021, available resources and tips and tricks, and how to connect with a librarian via their Student FAQ.

Impacts on prospective iSchool students

My plans have changed and I'm now considering applying for a master's program. When is the earliest I can start? (9/13/20)

Most graduate programs at the Information School offer one start each year, in autumn quarter. Admissions to our Ph.D. in Information Science, online and residential Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) and residential Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) are now open, and interested applicants are encouraged to attend an information session and apply for an Autumn 2021 start. Admission cycles for each degree program vary and applicants are strongly encouraged to pay close attention to the deadlines and process specified for their chosen program option.

Students wanting an earlier program start may consider the newly launched MSIM program offered online. This highly flexible and accessible program offers four opportunities to begin the program each year (September, January, March, June) and is currently accepting applications for a March 2021 program start.

My GRE/GMAT testing center is closed. Can I still apply? (9/12/20)

We welcome your application and remind prospective students that test scores are optional for both the Ph.D. and MLIS program applications. 

Test scores are required for applicants to the MSIM program; however, those meeting at least one of the following criteria will be exempt from the test score requirement:

  • Applying to the Mid-Career MSIM degree option
  • Applicants who have earned an accredited bachelor's degree from the UW or any other regionally accredited institution located in the United States. (Learn more about accreditation and how to confirm if your institution is regionally accredited on the UW Graduate School’s site.)
  • Applicants who have earned a graduate or professional degree from an accredited institution in the United States (PhD, MD, JD, etc.).

For MSIM applicants who do not meet at least one of these criteria, test scores are still required to apply. For these applicants, or those wishing to submit test scores to support their application to any iSchool graduate program, you may be eligible to take a GRE General Test at home

Information for students entering in Autumn 2020

If there is a change in public health guidance and in-person courses are not allowed, when would a decision be made? (9/13/20)  

President Cauce shared a series of messages on Aug. 6 with all UW students, faculty and staff about what to expect in Autumn quarter 2020. The potential for the UW to move to completely remote instruction was addressed in these messages: 

“While we have every expectation that classes which begin in person will remain so throughout autumn quarter, we’ve all seen that the trajectory of the pandemic can change rapidly. Further revisions to our plans could occur if, for example, state or local governments re-introduce more restrictive health measures. But, we remain fully committed to ensuring your academic progress regardless of the mode of instruction or any changes that may occur.”

Can I take a leave or a deferral? (updated 7/2/2020)

Let’s first define those terms. 

  • A leave means that you have been a student at the UW for at least one quarter, and you’re asking to take a quarter off due to medical, financial, family emergency, etc. after you have begun your studies. International students should refer to Leave and the F-1 Leave of Absence pages. This option is only for returning students, and requires special circumstances and has specific eligibility requirements.
  • A vacation quarter means that you have been a student for the past three quarters, and you’re asking to take a reduced course load or a quarter off after you have begun your studies. This option is also only for returning international students. It does not require special circumstances as in the leave option, but has specific eligibility requirements. This option is relevant to international students who are at the UW on an F-1 or J-1 visa.
  • A deferral means that you have been admitted to the UW but not yet started, and you’re asking to postpone starting your program by one academic year, after accepting your offer and before beginning your program of study. We do not have a one-size-fits-all approach to this, but rather a program-specific approach:

For Informatics:

  • Deferral: Per the UW COVID-19 FAQ, incoming students may not defer, but you can express extenuating circumstances to the UW Office of Admissions. However, if you do reapply to UW and are readmitted, you will not have to reapply as an Informatics major. The UW process of reapplication is not yet documented, so please contact UW Admissions for guidance.
  • Leave: Leaves are permitted. But per UW Registrar policy, you will be automatically withdrawn as a student if you do not register for two consecutive quarters. However, if you return to the UW at some point, you will not have to reapply to Informatics.

For MLIS:

  • Deferral: incoming MLIS students have the option to defer for one year, at the discretion of the Program Chair, to enter in Autumn 2021. Students who wish to defer should email the Assistant Director for Student Services, Kari Brothers, at kari683@uw.edu, to request a deferral and the reason for this request. Students can only request a deferral before Autumn 2020 begins.
  • Leave: After registering for Autumn quarter, students cannot use leave as a means to “defer” for Winter and Spring quarter. Leave for Winter and Spring must be justified with one of the reasons below. We cannot predict whether all classes will be held on campus during Winter quarter. Admitted MLIS students who are uncertain about whether they want to take multiple quarters in remote mode may wish to consider deferring their matriculation for one year, when the situation may be clearer.

    Students in good academic standing can request a leave of absence (a quarter at a time). Domestic students can apply for leave at any time after their first quarter. International students can apply for a leave/vacation quarter after 3 consecutive quarters of enrollment.

    Typical reasons for approving leave are related to health needs, family needs or financial needs. This is determined on a case-by-case basis. Taking leave often results in increasing one’s time to graduation and delays in enrolling in desired courses. 

    Students on leave are not eligible for university housing, student insurance, or financial assistance.

For MSIM:

  • Deferral: If an incoming MSIM student determines that they are not able to enroll in the MSIM Program for Autumn 2020, they may request to defer their admission to Autumn 2021. Due to the design of the MSIM program and course offerings, deferrals to Winter 2021 or Spring 2021 are not permitted. Please note that deferrals will only be considered if the applicant has already accepted the offer of admission and has paid the $250 non-refundable deposit. For COVID-19-related deferral requests, preference will be given to those who submit their request prior to Aug. 1, 2020. Please note: when a deferral request is submitted and approved by the MSIM Program Chair, our admissions staff will immediately begin processing this request. Please be mindful of this prior to submitting your request.
  • Leave: The MSIM program will consider requests for a leave for Autumn 2020, Winter 2021 or Spring 2021 on an individual basis. New students are not eligible for leave for Autumn 2020. Leave requests may only be considered after a student has enrolled in at least one quarter (or three quarters for a vacation leave) and is in good standing. The MSIM program will make every effort to support its students and consider reasonable requests. However, leave requests are not guaranteed. Leave requests must comply with Graduate School and/or visa regulations as specified at the time. Please note that if a leave is granted, the student’s program of study may be interrupted (e.g., sequence of specialization courses) and graduation may be delayed. International students utilizing an F-1 visa will need to confirm these delays and possible visa extensions with the Office of International Student Services.

Additional information and resources

Various UW offices have developed FAQ pages to provide additional information and helpful resources: (9/13/20)

Where do I go for help? (added 3/31/20)

If you need any help, reach out. It’s what the iSchool staff and faculty are here for. We want you to reach out, and we want to help you! Reach out to your instructor about challenges with a class. Reach out to each other for support. Reach out to your program advisor about almost anything else. And always feel free to reach out to Dean Dey directly at iProcess@uw.edu. The resources of both the iSchool and the UW are available to you.

How can I help my community through this crisis? (added 3/25/20)

We are moved and inspired by the outpouring of offers to help as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19 and care for those impacted by it. Learn about the UW's most critical needs and how you can help.