SEAS Fall 2020 Instruction FAQs

On Monday, July 27, 2020, President LeBlanc announced that all undergraduate courses will be taught online and most graduate programs will be conducted online for the Fall 2020 semester, with certain programs holding discipline-specific in-person classes. With the decision to offer on-line instruction for the semester finalized, GW’s academic calendar is reverting back to its original schedule.

SEAS is committed to providing the highest quality education for all of our students. Back in May the SEAS faculty and staff to began to prepare for the fall semester with two principles in mind:

  • Uncompromised Quality: SEAS will provide the highest quality education regardless of what the pandemic throws our way.
  • Resilient Inclusion: SEAS will utilize modes of instruction that are flexible and agile to resiliently support all of our students and faculty in the face of significant uncertainties and dynamics.

The SEAS faculty and staff responded by committing to hybrid modes of instruction and this effort has paid off, as we are now well-prepared for the on-line format, including laboratory activities and design projects. All SEAS students will continue to interact with their academic advisors, professional advisors and career counselors online. We are similarly working to adapt our experiential programs and events to ensure that all SEAS community members have a positive and enriching experience, even from a distance.

The following information pertains to undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled in on-campus programs. 

For new MS and Graduate Certificate students, please visit the Flex-Start website for additional information about the Flex-Start program.




Frequently Asked Questions 

For Undergraduate Students For Graduate Students

No.  Because of health and safety concerns, GW has decided to move to online learning. A few students who have extenuating personal or academic circumstances will be allowed to live on campus.

At this time, we do not believe this plan for fall will change. Please check your email frequently for updates.

Please visit the Campus Advisories website for information about the GW Campus Plans.

Please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page on the GW Fall 2020 website.

The GW Campus Reopening Teams are currently working on the health and safety protocols that will be required. It will be important for each member of our community to adhere to these protocols to protect themselves and our community. A campus compact will be distributed before classes begin. At a minimum, all members of our community will be required to wear cloth masks while on campus in public areas (indoors and outdoors) and in the presence of others, to practice social distancing and follow CDC recommendations for handwashing and coughing/sneezing hygiene.

We are aware that COVID-19 as well as the response to the pandemic have had a disproportionate effect on communities of color. In developing and implementing health and safety protocols as well as other back to campus activities, the University is committed to ensuring equity and inclusivity and working to eliminate social inequities, stigmatization, and racism.

We will require seasonal influenza shots for on-campus students, faculty, and staff, with exceptions based on medical conditions and religious beliefs in compliance with legal requirements and standards of medical care. In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, it will be important to guard against other illnesses to the extent possible.

Yes. Students will be tested upon arrival on campus, and will be tested throughout the semester. This testing program will be led by our own public health experts in accordance with all appropriate health regulations. Regular testing will continue throughout the fall semester and will be immediately available to anyone on campus who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or has been exposed.

The Colonial Health Center will serve as the main health care resource for on campus students. A new occupational health and wellness unit in the Medical Faculty Associates will provide employee health surveillance and health promotion.

We will perform on-campus contact investigations in coordination with the D.C. Department of Health contact tracing staff, via a newly established Campus COVID Investigation Team (CCIT). This will enable us to quickly identify and test potential GW community members who may be positive for COVID-19 and to clearly identify for public health authorities the individuals who have been in contact with the person. The CCIT will also serve an integrating function for data from our screening, case investigation, and related efforts.

For further information on COVID-19 compliance, visit the GW Compliance website.

At this time, we do not have information about the spring 2021 semester. Please check your email or visit the GW COVID-19 website for updates.

We anticipate that students who are able to do remote coursework in the fall will be able to continue some or all of their coursework remotely in the spring, but no official decisions have been made for Spring 2021.

For new, initial visa applicants we are working with the International Student Office to determine options available under the current federal guidance for those who choose to come to the US. 

As an international student located in the US, you must maintain full-time status by registering for at least 12 credits of coursework in Fall 2020. At present, we believe you will have the option to take most of your courses via remote instruction, however you will be required to register for one in-person/hybrid course.  Once we have final guidance, we will work to provide students with those course options.

Undergraduate students without a safe alternative, students for whom their home situation is not conducive to successful virtual education, international students, and students with specific in-person academic or research requirements or culminating experiences that must be completed on-campus may apply to be considered for on-campus housing.

Campus Living and Residential Experience (CLRE) will begin accepting applications for fall on-campus housing via GW Campus Living and Residential Education website on Wednesday, July 29.

All classes will be recorded so you can view them at another time. We will also be as flexible as we can during these unprecedented times.

No. Students may not take more than 3 courses (not to exceed 12 credits in total), post- matriculation, at another institution during their entire academic career at GW. This cap on post-matriculation credits includes any requests to “Study Away” overseas. Exceptions will not be made to this policy.

You may request to take a Leave of Absence or go on Continuous Enrollment status during the fall semester. However, before you make that decision, it is critical that you meet with your academic advisor - particularly if you wish to take classes away from GW and transfer those credits back towards your degree requirements.

It is up to the student as to whether they defer for a semester or an entire year. During their deferral period, students may not take courses at another institution. Doing so will invalidate their offer of admission as the Office of Undergraduate Admissions reserves the right to review all academic coursework completed prior to enrollment to determine admissibility.

Students wishing to take advantage of online course offerings at GW this fall should not submit an application for deferred admission because their student records are deactivated during deferral. As such they would be unable to register for fall courses.

First year students wanting to request a deferral should visit the GW Undergraduate Admissions website – Deferral Request page.

Students should check with the appropriate office to determine if taking a semester or year off will affect their financial situations. Contact [email protected] or visit the Office of Student Financial Assistance website.

GW provides counseling and psychological services to all enrolled students. More information is available on the Counseling and Psychological Services website.

Please keep in mind that academic policies and information are dynamic (as is the virus). When there are major updates, we will alert you, but you should stay in contact with this document. You also may email [email protected] with specific questions regarding your Fall 2020 course schedule or academic planning.

Yes, undergraduate students are eligible to repeat for credit and grade forgiveness three undergraduate-level courses taken at GW in which they received a grade of D+ (1.3) or below (except if the failing grade was due to a violation of GW’s Code of Academic Integrity). With the approval of their academic advisor, a student may repeat a course under this policy at any time during their enrollment at GW; however, a course is not eligible for this policy if the student has taken a subsequent course for which the initial course is a prerequisite. The student’s registration, including the repeated course, may not exceed 18 credits in the semester in which the course is repeated; students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science may not exceed 19 credits.

Under this policy, the original grade remains on the transcript until the student repeats the course. Once the course is repeated, a permanent notation of RP replaces the grade for the first attempt of the course in the semester in which it was taken. The grade earned in the repeated course appears on the transcript in the semester in which the course was repeated. Only the grade earned for the repeat enrollment is factored into the student’s cumulative grade-point average. The grade for the repeat enrollment is the final grade for the course, regardless of whether it is above or below the original grade. In the case that a student wishes to repeat more than three courses for academic forgiveness, they must first receive approval from the chair of the department under which the course is housed.

Starting in Fall 2020, all LSPA courses will be offered for a letter grade. These grades will only count towards your university GPA and these courses cannot be applied towards your SEAS degree requirements.


Most on-campus graduate courses at SEAS will be taught fully online with very few exceptions for in-person instruction. Online instruction will impact our continuing and incoming students differently. Please see the information below based on your student status:

Continuing On-Campus Graduate Students:

SEAS graduate courses will be taught in a combination of synchronous and asynchronous methods. Each course instructor will have the discretion to determine the best mode of instruction in order to meet the course objectives. For example, lectures may be pre-recorded and posted, and discussions may be scheduled for synchronous participation, as well as office hours will be synchronous at different times throughout the day to accommodate students located in different time zones. 

GW utilizes Blackboard and Webex for our video conferencing tool. Classes will primarily be taught on these two platforms. The course instructor may choose to use a different platform where appropriate. For example, a class could be taught in Blackboard Ultra and office hours held via Webex or a different platform that is accessible to the student and faculty member.

The majority of engineering applications are available for students to download and install on personal computers. Some applications are very resource intensive and require a powerful computer in order to work efficiently and effectively. Most applications are licensed explicitly for the use of individuals in the GW network therefore, students who wish to install these applications on their personal computers will need to use the GW VPN. SEAS also offers remote desktop access to our physical computer labs for students through the GW VPN. For those students who can not install the applications on personal computers, you will have access to our virtual computer labs that are available via any web-enabled device. 

For those students who may not have access to the GW VPN, we will provide additional information regarding platform accessibility prior to the start of the fall semester.

Stable internet connection is the only requirement for students to effectively participate in online courses at SEAS. For any students looking to purchase a new computer or laptop for their graduate studies (even though it is not necessary), it is recommended that the laptop or computer has at least 16GB of memory, 1TB SSD, and a relatively new processor.

For Fall 2020, the majority of courses are being offered as online courses unless otherwise stated on the schedule of classes. Any on-campus courses that are being taught completely online will be designated as "REMOTE INSTR" in the location of the course on the Schedule of Classes. Any courses that have an on campus location will be a hybrid course with both online and in-person options.

SEAS has created an Ad-Hoc Committee of faculty and staff to lead the effort, identifying best practices for online education and developing training sessions and resources to help all faculty prepare for the Fall semester. This includes a Committee-led virtual conference on hybrid and online teaching with a focus on student engagement. Faculty members from across all the various SEAS disciplines are implementing necessary changes to their courses and modes of instruction to continue to provide all students with a high quality experience.

F-1 visa holders who are taking online courses and located outside of the US for the entire fall 2020 semester may defer their insurance reporting obligation until the Spring 2021 semester. Students must complete the Fall 2020 Waiver Form. Failure to complete the waiver will result in a student being enrolled and responsible for paying the Student Health Insurance Fee.

Continuing, Change of Level, or Transfer F-1 students currently inside of the United States who have been actively enrolled at any U.S. institution since March 9, 2020 and have otherwise maintained their status are considered to be in continuing F-1 or J-1 status and can enroll in a full load of online coursework while inside the U.S. with no limitation. 

If you have any questions regarding your status, our International Services Office will support and advise our students on compliance with the rules. The International Services office has also published a Fall 2020 International Student FAQ page that provides up-to-date detailed information. 

Yes! All current international students can enroll in online courses. This includes students who are enrolling in SEAS courses from abroad because of a visa delay, travel restrictions, or personal preference.

Visas are only required for international students participating in GW programs in the United States. Incoming graduate program students who plan to enroll in the Flex-Start program and take their courses online while abroad will not need a visa for the Fall 2020 semester.  

Enrollment in hybrid courses from abroad may impact your ability to accrue benefits associated with time in F or J status in the United States (e.g. Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, and Academic Training). If you're currently in your final term of enrollment at SEAS, it may also impact your ability to use these accrued benefits. We strongly encourage you to reach out to the International Services Office for further information.

All undergraduate SEAS students can contact the SEAS Undergraduate Advising Team at [email protected] with any questions.

All graduate students studying at SEAS have an assigned professional advisor as well as a faculty advisor from your academic department. 

  • Continuing students: Your faculty advisor's name is listed on DegreeMap. Please feel free to reach out directly to your faculty advisor or schedule a virtual appointment with your professional advisor.  

  • Incoming graduate students: You received the name and email address of your faculty advisor in an email communication sent in June. If you have any questions about who your faculty advisor is or about the hybrid instruction options for the fall, please schedule a virtual appointment with your professional advisor or contact the Office of Graduate Admissions & Student Services at [email protected]

New On-Campus Graduate Students: 

All incoming MS graduate students at SEAS have the opportunity to start your classes online this Fall 2020 semester by opting into the Flex-Start program or you may defer your admission to the Spring 2021 or Fall 2021 semester. All new MS students should email the Office of Graduate Admissions & Student Services at [email protected] with their decision to start with us online through the Flex-Start program or defer their admission by August 1. If you will need additional time to finalize your decision, please also notify us by email and we will work with each student on an individual basis to determine your plan of action moving forward.


For additional information about the Flex-Start program, please visit the Flex-Start website.

All new PhD students should be in direct consultation with their faculty advisor and department chair in order to determine an appropriate plan of action. Faculty advisor approval is required in order for any new PhD student to start their studies online or defer their admission to the spring 2021 or fall 2021 semester. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your options, please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions & Student Services at [email protected]