Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19

LAST UPDATED: Friday, May 22, 2020 @ 1:55 p.m.


I am a student and I am showing symptoms of COVID-19. What am I advised to do?

For guidance on symptoms and treatment, students should call the University hotline at 212-854-9355. If you are a Master’s student, please inform your advisor. If you are a doctoral student, please inform your faculty mentor/sponsor and the doctoral office.

How can I access counseling support or mental health services?

There are several resources available to you:
Counseling and Psychological Services: Can be reached 24/7 at 212-854-2878
Office of the University Chaplain:
CSSW Office of Advising:
Office of Religious Life: or 212-854-2184


What is the impact of COVID-19 on course offerings for the rest of the spring semester and the summer term?

All courses are being offered online for the rest of the spring term. Although we cannot confirm at this time, we strongly suspect that summer courses will also be offered online. We will firm this up as soon as possible.

Which CSSW courses will offer Pass/Fail grading?

All 14-week courses for doctoral students and Master’s students in both the Online Campus and the Residential Campus will be offered as Pass-Fail this spring, without exception. All transcripts from this semester will include a clear notation that this was a University-wide decision impacting all students. Based on the University decision, students will not have the ability to “opt out” of P/F grading during the Spring 2020 semester. Please know, however, that you will continue to get feedback from your instructors on your assignments. And instructors will be prepared to discuss your performance in, for example, letters of reference that you may request. Courses taken at Teacher’s College will also be graded P/F. See details here.

Does Pass/Fail grading apply to mini-courses from the first half of the spring semester which have already concluded?

Courses that were delivered and completed during the first half of the spring semester will be awarded letter grades, as usual.

Will summer courses be available to students?

Yes, all summer courses will be offered online for Summer 2020.

Will summer classes be restricted to Pass/Fail grading as well?

The University will discontinue its Pass/Fail policy at the end of the Spring 2020 semester. Summer courses will be taken for letter grades.


I am a current student facing one or more significant challenges and am seeking financial help in the short term. Are there any resources I can access outside of additional loans and budget appeals?

Yes, the School may be able to help. With the generous help of some of our alums and CSSW Student Union representatives, we are currently seeking additional donations to expand a COVID Emergency Fund for students facing immediate crises in their lives, including food insecurity, housing insecurity, or other unexpected COVID-related expenses. Because funding is limited, we need to prioritize emergencies and address the most significant situations first. A special, confidential committee of thoughtful staff members has been assembled to review requests; please be assured that your confidentiality will be protected. Please contact the Financial Aid Office via if you have questions or to receive a link to the online request form for emergency funds. You will receive an answer to your query within 3 business days.

Will the University or School issue any rebates on tuition or fees for the Spring 2020 semester?

The University has given each School the flexibility to provide rebates on School-based fees. Residential Campus students will receive a total of $100 in rebates from the CSSW Student Activity and IT fees. All students expecting to graduate in May 2020 in both the Online Campus and Residential Campus will also receive a $100 rebate on the CSSW Student Events fee to account for the May 2020 commencement exercises. Please note that the rebate pertaining to commencement will not impact the likelihood of a separate commencement event that may happen in the future. Additionally, in recognition that some on-campus services and facilities are no longer available for the spring term, those students who were assessed a Facilities fee will receive a credit of $119 representing a portion of that fee. There will be no rebates on tuition since the University moved swiftly to ensure instruction continues throughout the spring semester and students can earn full credit for the semester’s work.

How will the rebates be applied to my student account?

The above credit(s) will be either applied to any balance on your account or refunded to you. Should you be due a refund, it will be processed within three days after the credit is posted and you will receive an email notifying you that this is in process. Please note that any refund will be issued in the form of a direct deposit within three to five business days if you have enabled direct deposit in SSOL. If you have not set up direct deposit, you may do so by following instructions found under direct deposit in SSOL. Otherwise, you will receive any refund by check within seven to ten business days, mailed to the US address provided in the “local address” field in SSOL. Your refund can not be paid until you have set up direct deposit or have a valid US local address in SSOL.

I need more funds to cover living expenses. What can I do?

Remaining Loan Eligibility: Students who have remaining loan eligibility and want to receive additional funds should submit requests and any other required documentation. We recommend submitting requests as soon as possible so that Financial Aid can complete the process prior to the end of the term. Students can consult their Netpartner accounts to determine if they have remaining eligibility or contact the Financial Aid Office ( Budget appeals are not necessary if a student’s remaining eligibility would cover their expenses.

Budget Appeals: Students who have incurred additional medical, housing, or transportation expenses related to COVID-19 should contact the Financial Aid office to find out if they can be considered for the purpose of a budget appeal to increase a student’s loan eligibility.

I am employed through the Federal Work-Study program. Can I still get paid?

Federal Work-Study: Students who are employed through the Federal Work-Study program can continue to receive pay through May 15. Students should coordinate with their supervisors to determine if their work can be done remotely and if not how to report their scheduled hours for payment.

I’ve lost my job outside of CSSW. What can I do?

Job losses are mounting, and we recognize that the effects on you can be profound. Please reach out to the Office of Career Services ( to explore options. In addition, please reach out to Financial Aid to see if other resources can be accessed.

I live in university housing. How will my charges be affected if I move out?

Housing: Charges will be impacted differently depending on the date that a student officially leaves housing. Please consult Columbia Residential’s FAQ.

I’m an international student with financial concerns. Whom should I contact?

While availability of resources can be more complicated and limited for international students, please get in touch with our Office of Financial Aid to explore options. The Office of Financial Aid will continue to notify students when we become aware of available resources.


I understand that CSWE requires only 900 hours of practicum placement activities for most students, while Columbia is approved by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for 1200. Can this difference be reconciled?

We’re very glad to report that CSSW has applied to and been granted temporary approval by NYSED to award the MS degree with a minimum of 900 hours of field as opposed to 1200. This should relieve a lot of the pressure on individual students.

If most of us have already accumulated 900 practicum hours, why are we continuing with practicum activities at all?

Field practice is the hallmark of social work education. We at Columbia feel very strongly that it is critically important to sustain field learning as much as possible. At the same time, we recognize that these are NOT ordinary times. Hence we’ve made a number of adjustments and options available to you – as described below. While field continues, our expectations are being adjusted in response to current conditions. As always, if you are facing unique challenges in your own life, please do not hesitate to reach out to your Advisor and Field Director for clarification, support, and adjustments where necessary and where possible. We are ready to work with you.

When will practicum placements end?

Field education engagement and assignments will continue through the end of the semester – through Friday, May 8th. Please note that we will communicate separately with students in our 16-month and international programs about summer placements prior to this date.

Can I participate in my original practicum placement remotely?

Yes, if the site where you are placed can accommodate remote activity. Each student should work with their site supervisor, Field Director, and Advisor to resolve any questions.

What if my personal circumstances prevent me from participating in my original practicum placement remotely?

We understand that individual situations may require a different approach. Please contact your Advisor and Field Director to come up with a mutually agreeable plan that meets your needs and ability to work.

What if my practicum placement site does not offer a remote option?

Depending on the nature of the site, remote work may not be possible. In this event, the Office of Practicum Learning will work in coordination with the Office of Advising on activities that support the type of learning you would normally gain in your field placements. Please consult the CUSSW Practicum Learning Contingency Plan document that was released by Associate Dean Kathryne Leak on March 22nd 2020.

Why is the Practicum Learning Contingency Plan document so long?

Don’t be daunted! The Contingency Plan, constructed in consultation with social work school colleagues across the nation, sets out a wide range of options so that it can meet the needs of diverse learners. You are NOT expected to work your way through the entire list. Rather, we wanted to make a host of options available to you. Please review and discuss the various options with your Advisor and practicum Director to come up with the activities that make the most sense for you and your learning.

Do I have the option of coming up with my own remote learning activities?

Absolutely. Please consult with your Advisor and Field Director to consider other options that you all agree could enhance your ability to gain field practice competencies.

Am I expected to complete 21 hours per week of remote practicum activities?

No, we do not expect you to continue to devote 21 hours to practicum every week – unless you want to and are able to. Please work with your Advisor and Field Director whether you are engaging with your original practicum placement site remotely or are pursuing activities outlined in the Contingency Plan document.

Am I limited in my choice of Contingency Plan activities based on my specialization?

Absolutely not. Please consider the entire list and let your Advisor and Field Director know which areas you are interested in pursuing.


I live in Columbia Housing. If I don’t need to be on campus, what are my options?

Columbia Housing has assembled an FAQ page that you can view here. If you are a doctoral student and decide to move out, please be sure to inform the doctoral office.

What changes have occurred with respect to student housing?

Columbia Residential has developed a COVID-19 FAQ page. Please visit it for the latest developments.


How can I access support from the CSSW Office of Career Services? Can I still access these resources after I graduate?

The Office of Career Services stands ready to support you now and after you graduate. Our services include one-on-one guidance with the job search and career planning process, workshops, networking opportunities, and much more. Please visit our website for more information on services and resources available to you. To book an appointment, you can log in to your existing Career Connect account, which you can continue to access as an alum. You can also email us at


I am an international student and I have concerns about my visa. Where can I get up-to-date information?

The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) has detailed information relating to immigration related questions here.


How will dissertation defenses (and proposal defenses) take place? What about comprehensive exams?

GSAS is suspending the requirements relating to in-person participation in dissertation defenses and proposal defenses until further notice. For the time being, any and all participants will be able to attend a defense that has been arranged to take place online. The doctoral program will schedule the event via Zoom. Likewise, the oral component of the comprehensive exam should be conducted via Zoom.

I would like to receive my degree in the May 20th conferral. What is the deadline for the dissertation deposit? What is the deadline for the Mphil application?

For the PhD: Students must deposit their dissertations by May 22, 2020.
For the MPhil: GSAS must receive the MPhil application by May 29, 2020.

I am approaching the seven-year limit in the doctoral program and will need more time to finish my dissertation due to the disruption of the pandemic. Can I request an extension?

Due to the disruptive nature of COVID-19, we expect some students to ask for additional time beyond the seven years to complete the PhD. Any such appeal (detailed below) should include clear reference to the particular effects of the pandemic on the individual’s ability to conduct research, access archives, or otherwise complete work toward the PhD.

Students who do not complete all requirements for the doctoral degree by the end of the seventh year will no longer be considered to be doctoral degree candidates, and will be notified accordingly in writing. Note that the seventh year ends on May 31. Students so notified may appeal this determination within thirty days of receipt of notification.

To appeal, students must do the following:

  • Submit a letter to the Chair of the Doctoral Program that indicates all the steps that they will take, with a timetable, to distribute, defend, and deposit the dissertation in at most two additional semesters of candidacy.
  • Submit to the sponsor all chapters and materials produced to date on the dissertation, as well as a copy of the timetable referenced above. After examining the materials, the sponsor should write a letter to the Doctoral Chair that evaluates the materials received, and that endorses as feasible the timetable provided.

The Chair will review the request and determine either that a) the student be allowed to remain a degree candidate as a registered student for at most two additional semesters; or that b) the student not be allowed to continue as a degree candidate. If the appeal is granted, but the student does not complete all requirements for the doctoral degree, including the deposit of the dissertation by the stipulated date, the student will no longer be considered to be a doctoral degree candidate.

  • Students who have not registered continuously (and did not receive an official leave of absence) must reapply for admission in order to return to doctoral study.

NOTE: The above language is adapted from the GSAS policy to reflect CSSW’s internal policies regarding our seven-year time to completion and our process for requesting additional time.

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting my ability to complete doctoral milestones. What am I advised to do?

Please reach out to your faculty mentors and the doctoral program office if you have any concerns about your ability to complete program milestones such as the field of practice tutorial, comprehensive exams or dissertation. Students should also consult Columbia’s guidance on research activities.


We know that commencement ceremonies will not be held in May 2020 as planned. Will we have other opportunities to celebrate the graduating class?

We invite graduates and their guests and the Columbia School of Social Work community to celebrate the Class of 2020 via a Commencement Ceremony portal, which opens at our originally scheduled date and time of May 20, 2020, at 2:30 p.m. EDT. More information on Commencement can be found here.