COVID-19 Information for Graduate Students

Respect Statement

COVID-19 is not specific to an ethnicity or race—disease does not discriminate. Racist behaviors or stereotyping are not tolerated at UW–Madison. Students who experience harassment or discrimination are encouraged to file a bias incident report with the Dean of Students Office.

Graduate School Operations

The Graduate School front desk is currently closed to in-person visits. Graduate School services including admissions, academic services, and funding are still available by phone and email:


Research is being restarted gradually, with a focus on expanding on-site research and scholarly activities while minimizing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to our students, staff, faculty, and the larger Madison community.

For up-to-date information, visit the Research Reboot webpage.

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How do I get access to the library for research purposes?

Graduate students can use the UW–Madison Libraries Library by Appointment service to get onsite access to parts of Memorial Library. This provides the chance to review some of the library’s physical materials. A limited number of patrons are allowed per day to reduce congestion and facilitate physical distancing. Access is by appointment only.

Read more about the Library by Appointment service.

Enrollment and Degree Milestones

For up-to-date information on fall course enrollment, schedules, and grading, visit the Registrar’s Office COVID-19 Enrollment FAQs.

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How do I submit paper enrollment change forms to the Graduate School?

Because Bascom Hall is closed, the Graduate School cannot accept hardcopy forms. If you need to submit paper enrollment change forms (course change requests, withdrawals, etc.), please scan the form or take a photo of it on a mobile device and email it to Graduate School services, including academic services and funding or travel grant processing, are still available by email (preferred) and phone at 608-262-4322.  (Graduate programs have received instructions about alternatives to paper warrant processing.)

Can I still get a pre-check for my doctoral dissertation?

Pre-checks are available by email. Doctoral students who wish to have an optional pre-check should email the doctoral degree coordinator, Elena Hsu at

What should I do if I am defending a thesis, taking a qualifying exam, or participating in some other milestone necessary for academic progress?

Dissertation and thesis defenses, preliminary exams, qualifying exams, and similar milestone activities are essential events, directly related to the academic mission of the university, and will continue. However, for spring and summer 2020 these should take place virtually, with limited exceptions. Accommodations should be made for graduate students or required committee members who are unable to participate due to illness or quarantine.

Students defending a dissertation or thesis can gather thesis committee members’ signatures electronically for their degree warrant.

Is there a time limit extension for doctoral candidates whose work has been disrupted by the pandemic?

Current Graduate School policy on time limits states that a candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within 5 years after passing the preliminary examination may be required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

To offer flexibility amidst the major disruption that COVID-19 may have on doctoral candidates’ research and scholarship progress during Spring 2020 and Summer 2020, the Graduate School will extend the 5-year time limit by 8 months for all doctoral degree candidates who were or are in dissertator status in Spring 2020 or Summer 2020.

How will final exams work in courses where online exams are not possible?

Final exams will be delivered remotely. Instructors may adjust their syllabi to have alternative assessments if an online exam is not possible.

Will pass/fail still be an option in the fall because many classes will still have to be offered online?

There will not be a disruptive grading option for fall 2020. The university’s normal pass/fail option is available.

Working and Learning Remotely

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How do I access academic journals and other campus subscriptions remotely?

To gain access, go through the libraries website:

Click the dropdown that says “Search the Catalog” on the top left to change the selection to either “Articles” or “Databases.”

The Article search option is a general search across a broad range of topics.

The Database search option will allow you to search for specific disciplinary databases. If you are new to the Libraries’ list of over 1,300 databases, see the quick links for some of the most common options:

  • Browse by Subject/Type
  • Introductory Databases
  • Top 10 Databases

Here area few online tips and tricks:

How to search if you know the journal you want:

How to search if you have a specific article in mind:

If you need any assistance, the Libraries are available to provide assistance via email, chat or text:

How do I access software that I usually use in a library or computer lab?

Software programs are available through the Campus Software Library, like Matlab, Smart Draw, and more. For information on access to software while working remote, please see How to get software while remote.

Where can I find resources and tools to learn or work remotely?

Here is a guide for working remotely and a guide for learning remotely for faculty, staff, and students. A number of software downloads are also available, including Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office 365.

The DoIT Help Desk is also available to support faculty, staff, and students who need additional assistance.

DoIT has shared tips for how to manage slower internet speed and low bandwidth while working and learning remotely. Students should contact their instructors as soon as possible if their internet connectivity or lack of access to certain equipment or software (such as laptops, digital learning tools, or printers) is restricting their access to course materials and class participation. Instructors are also encouraged to use asynchronous instruction and learning activities wherever possible to reduce the need for high-speed, robust connectivity

If students, faculty or staff need to check out a laptop to assist with remote learning, teaching, or working, please see this guide.

Many carriers are currently offering low-cost wired broadband internet service options. Contact your local internet provider to see if they are offering free or reduced rates. DoIT does not recommend relying on mobile hotspots as they do not provide enough data to sustain continued full-time work or learning from home.

Mental Health and Basic Needs Support

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I feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. Where can I go for help?

University Health Services is committed to supporting students and many medical, counseling, and wellness services are available by phone and accessible online. Find out more on the UHS Remote Health and Connection webpage. Crisis Services are available 24/7 at 608-265-5600 (option 9).

The Department of Psychiatry has compiled a curated collection of resources from a variety of sources to support the mental health and emotional wellbeing of our community during this difficult time.

Graduate students can also call, email, or video chat with Elaine Goetz-Berman, the Graduate and Professional Student Assistance Specialist in the Dean of Students Office,

More mental health resources are available to you. Here are a few examples:

  • SilverCloud is an online, self-guided resource designed to help students manage day-to-day stresses and improve resilience.
  • Healthy Minds Innovations recently launched a well-being app, called the Healthy Minds Program, that is now freely available to individuals in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) has published an extensive COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
  • Crisis Text Line is helpful for panic attacks and other emotionally intense moments. Text HOME to 741741; a bot will provide you with their terms of service and put you on a waitlist to text with a real person. Wait times may be long due to current anxiety/panic about COVID-19.
  • SAMHSA Disaster Distress Hotline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. Dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories.

What if I am experiencing financial hardship or having difficulty meeting basic needs due to COVID-19?

We understand that some students will experience financial hardship associated with the impact of COVID-19 as it relates to family, travel and academics. The following resources are available:

  • Office of Student Financial Aid: The Office of Student Financial Aid has a team of people ready to help connect you to financial and other resources. Though COVID-related emergency funding was only available through the end of the spring term, students may have other options and should reach out for help.
    • Emergency Support:
    • Email:
    • Phone: (608) 262-3060 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. central time, Monday through Friday
    • Schedule a virtual appointment through Starfish in your MyUW Portal
  • Deferred Tuition Payment: Students may be eligible for a deferred tuition payment date and late-fee waiver. Students should contact the Bursar’s Office for extending their tuition payment date:
  • Basic Needs: The Office of Student Financial Aid has compiled a list of basic needs resources in the Madison area. If you need resources in a different area, the United Way 211 will provide information based on your zip code. You can also call 211 and will be given information for the nearest emergency food provider.
  • The Open Seat food pantry: Between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., students can pick up prepackaged food boxes at Union South near the hotel entrance off of Dayton Street. These boxes are intended to assist those who need to supplement their food budget.
    • Boxes are packed and distributed by Second Harvest Foodbank. They come in a 10-lb size for an individual, or a 25-lb size for a household of four. Students should request a box using this link:
    • We ask that you submit your order by Thursday for a pick-up the following Tuesday. Pick-ups will be every Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at Union South.
    • For questions, contact
  • Also for Graduate Students: Although the university is committed to continuity of pay for graduate assistants, other factors related to COVID-19 may have an impact on finances. The Office of Student Financial Aid emergency funds, Dean of Students Crisis Loan ($500-$1,000), International Students Services Loans (up to $5,000), Deferred Tuition Payment, and other emergency funds may be available. Read more in the Financial Matters FAQ. The Division of Extension has compiled a list of financial resources to support some common financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graduate students living in University Apartments who have concerns about their ability to pay are encouraged to contact University Apartments to discuss their individual situations: COVID-19-related updates for University Apartment residents are posted online and emailed directly to residents. For graduate students who do not live in University Apartments, community resources may be available to help them navigate individual situations with their landlords. The Tenant Resource Center is one such organization for Dane County residents.

What resources are available for graduate students with children?

See the Graduate School’s webpage for graduate students with children.

For Graduate Assistants

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I need to take leave for a reason related to COVID-19. What are my options?

Employees who are affected by COVID-19 may qualify for paid leave under the federal program called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) until December 31, 2020.

UW−Madison COVID-19 leave is no longer available. See the revised COVID-19 Pandemic Leave Policy for more information.

What resources are available for TAs?

The university is here to support your efforts as you transition to alternative modes of course delivery. Faculty and instructional staff have been asked to keep TAs abreast of their plans for remote instruction through the end of the semester (including finals), and to share information about available resources. The following are a few key resources:

A campus instructional continuity website continues to be updated with general guidance, suggested strategies and tools, webinars and where to reach out for support. For questions related to instruction, please contact:

UW–Madison Libraries are also offering instructional continuity library resources.

For International Students

International students face many added uncertainties and stressors related to COVID-19. The university is actively working to address the many concerns you have and is educating our federal policy makers on the benefit of creating a welcoming and supportive environment for our international students in this country.

International Student Services (ISS) continues to monitor the global, national, and university COVID-19 updates impacting F-1 and J-1 international students. Find more information in the ISS COVID-19 FAQ.

The university is awaiting additional federal policy guidance regarding student visas. Please read the latest communication to international students from Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Karl Scholz and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor. Contact your graduate program coordinator for questions about your specific circumstances.

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Can international students who are unable to come to Madison work as graduate assistants?

The university is working to determine whether teaching, research, project assistantships and fellowships, and other on-campus employment will be feasible for students not located in the U.S. We expect to have additional information about these situations available soon.

I am an incoming student. Where can I find more information about my immigration documents/visa documents/Terra Dotta portal?

See below for information for admitted students.

For Admitted Students

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Can I defer my fall 2020 admission to the next year?

The Graduate School is working with programs to defer enrollment for incoming students.  Please contact your academic program to initiate this process.

I accepted my offer to my program. Why haven’t I been admitted?

We are currently processing applications as quickly as possible, while dealing with changes due to COVID-19. You will receive an email communication once your admission has been processed.

My institution is closed and I can’t get my official transcripts.  What can I do?

You can have them sent to us once your institution opens.

I sent my official transcripts. How do I know if you have received them?

We are currently processing transcripts as quickly as possible. Updates can be found in the online status check through MyUW. We will send a follow-up communication this summer to students whose official transcripts are still missing.

For Admitted International students

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Do I need to change my I-20 if my first term is all online due to COVID-19?

If your initial I-20 was for a term that went online but you will be attending face to face instruction, for a future term, you will need to change your I-20. Please email the Admissions Office at least two months before the beginning of that term to request an initial status immigration document.

What if I can’t get my visa on time to get there?

We are striving to support students in this completely unprecedented situation. You should contact your academic program. They will let you know how to proceed.

Can you send me my SEVIS number so I can make a visa appointment?

You can see your SEVIS ID number in Terra Dotta once your I-20 has been generated. You can also email Admissions Office to request a draft of your I-20.

I received an offer letter from the HR office with an RA position. Should I provide an offer letter as financial documentation? Is it enough or additional documents like a personal bank statement is acceptable? If so, what should be a minimum sum of money?

Please refer to our website for the minimum amounts needed. Personal bank statements are acceptable, but please ensure that the funds are in a liquid form. Educational loans are also acceptable.

I have been admitted but I am unable to access Terra Dotta.

Applicants will not have access to Terra Dotta until they have been admitted and have been given instruction from the Graduate School. If you have received both communications and had issues, please try logging in again. You may not have been granted access when you first tried logging in.

I updated my address in my Student Center. Why is the information still wrong in Terra Dotta?

Uploading the information into Terra Dotta can take a little time; please check the system again for the update. If it has not updated within 24 hours, email the Admissions Office.

For Applicants & Prospective Students

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Does my program require the GRE?

Due to COVID-19 and difficulties of access to GRE, some programs have either dropped or become more flexible with their GRE requirement.

How will my admissions committee take spring 2020 grades into consideration?

Many institutions have introduced new grading schemes such as satisfactory/unsatisfactory, pass/fail, or credit/noncredit. Some institutions enforced the new grading schemes while others let students choose between the new grading scheme or traditional letter grades. At the same time, we believe that both institutions and their students made efforts to maintain the highest level of rigor and integrity in educational outcomes.

Consequently, our admissions committees and our program faculty will be empathetic to COVID-19 challenges and allow flexibility in the evaluation of applicants, especially in the use of spring 2020 grades. Some programs have also decided to drop or allow flexibility to their GRE requirement.