Welcome Back: Final FAS Fall 2021 Plan

May 25, 2021

Dear incoming and continuing students and faculty, researcher, and staff colleagues,

We write today to announce our final plans for the Fall 2021 academic program.

In March, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) announced an expected return to full campus-based operations in Fall 2021. Today we write to confirm that the undergraduate program and all FAS-based graduate programs will return to campus-based teaching and research this fall and to provide more details on our campus-based practices and programs.

Both the graduate and undergraduate residential programs will return to normal campus operations this fall. 

Harvard College Residential Program
All undergraduate students will return to campus-based learning this fall. This means a return to normal housing density in the Yards and Houses and to in-person dining. Harvard College is anticipating the largest entering class in its history, having admitted a normal class size in addition to the large number of deferrals from last year. To accommodate this larger student body, the College has expanded the undergraduate residential program and support system to include additional housing on campus and adjacent to campus. All housing will be incorporated into and have access to the support structures of the College residential system. More information about the process and timeline for housing assignments is available at the Dean of Students Office website.

Undergraduate move-in will be staggered by class year. The Class of 2023 move-in begins on August 20. The Class of 2025 move-in starts on August 25, and their orientation will be held from August 28 through August 31. The complete undergraduate move-in schedule is available here.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Residential Program
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) residence halls will return to normal housing density this fall, and all students who applied by the housing deadline will be accommodated. Students living in the GSAS residence halls are required to participate in the meal plan. More information about the GSAS residence halls is available here.  

Graduate student move-in for the 2021–22 academic year will take place August 20 through 23, and more information will be communicated to residents over the summer.

Campus Public Health Protocols 
Harvard announced on May 5 that COVID-19 vaccination will be required for all enrolled students this fall. We understand that access to the COVID-19 vaccine is variable across the world. Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) will provide vaccination to any enrolled, full-time student who has not been vaccinated. Students who have been fully vaccinated should submit their completed vaccination card to HUHS by June 11, if possible, but submissions will be accepted any time before move-in. Instructions for submitting vaccination documentation and answers to other questions about vaccination are available here

Residential students should expect a short arrival quarantine period. Additional information about public health protocols for move-in will be released in June and will reflect the latest available public health guidance and current requirements of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

As the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals in the community increases, state regulations and federal public health guidelines are evolving rapidly. Harvard will establish public health protocols to keep the campus community safe and to protect against disruption of the academic mission. These protocols are likely to include, at a minimum, regular viral testing and contact tracing. Harvard’s public health practices for fall will be set closer to the start of the fall term, with the expectation that these will necessarily evolve along with state and federal guidelines. Current University policies regarding protocols for access to campus are available here

For undergraduates, the residential agreement will outline expectations regarding required public health protocols. N.B. There will be no separate College Community Compact this fall. Additionally, Harvard College will no longer be operating under a color-coded “phases of reopening” system starting in the fall semester. After the arrival quarantine, all students will move to regular campus access, though the College will be attentive to any changes in public health conditions and may adjust as needed. 


All undergraduate and graduate course instruction this fall, including sections, will be carried out in the classroom. The experience of the past year has demonstrated that technology can be a powerful pedagogical tool and instructors may use some pre-recorded materials to supplement their in-person teaching. However, they should plan to spend the customary amount of time in the classroom. Instructors may hold office hours online if they feel this will better meet the needs of their students. 

These plans assume that the public health situation in Massachusetts will continue to improve with expanding levels of vaccination. Should public health conditions deteriorate, we will be prepared to deliver the curriculum safely and within state guidelines. The Office of Undergraduate Education and GSAS will coordinate contingency planning, as needed. Harvard has taken careful precautions to make our classrooms safe. COVID-19 vaccination is required for all students, campus public health practices will continue, and improvements have been made to air handling and ventilation in buildings across campus. 

Libraries and Museums
The Harvard community will have access to all in-person and virtual library services at the start of the fall semester and FAS Museums will reopen to the Harvard community in September.

International Students 
Harvard College will permit international undergraduates, whose arrival has been delayed by visa processing or other barriers, to enroll this fall if they can arrive on campus by the Fifth Monday (October 4). The Office of International Education will contact these students and advise them in selecting courses that they can begin remotely and then join in person after arrival. International undergraduates who cannot arrive by the Fifth Monday may enroll in the spring semester.

GSAS students are expected to be on campus by the start of the fall term. Some international GSAS students may experience delays in visa processing or other barriers that could impact arriving by September 1. GSAS will contact international students not currently residing in the U.S. to request details about arrival plans, which should be submitted by July 15, and to provide information about how to manage arrival delays.

We expect to resume in-person co-curricular activities, events, and programs. 

Earlier this month, the Ivy League announced that they expect to resume competition across all sports, beginning with fall seasons. Additionally, Harvard Athletics will return to regular access to campus athletics facilities and will resume recreational, fitness, club, and intramural activities at the start of the fall semester.

The University has targeted Monday, August 2 as the date when faculty, researchers, and staff will be authorized to return to campus. Work is underway at the University and FAS levels to prepare for our return, from updating HR policies to determining density requirements to establishing public health protocols. The FAS Pandemic Planning Response Group has convened a Return to Campus Working Group focused on developing an FAS-wide approach for campus return. More information can be found here.

In the days and weeks ahead, you will receive more detailed information about fall plans.

Even as we look forward to reengaging the face-to-face community that has always been core to our institutional identity, we know that the campus experience this fall will be different than the one we left last spring. How could it be otherwise? Our ways of coming together to advance our mission will necessarily be shaped by all that we have learned and experienced over the past year. And thanks to the efforts and insights of this community, we are well prepared to take this next step.

With this fall we begin a period of transition, building our way to a new normal. We encourage you to come to campus with a spirit of experimentalism, to embrace the opportunity to find new and better ways of doing things. While there will be much that is new, our commitments remain the same—putting the health and safety of our community first and centering our academic mission in all we do. Your unbridled academic ambition defines us as a learning community, and we welcome that ambition, along with your boldness, passion, and energy as we create a post-pandemic Harvard that honors our past while delivering on the full promise of our mission for the 21st century and beyond. We are truly excited to be with you this fall and invite you to view this short message of welcome as we eagerly await your arrival.


Lawrence Bacow

Claudine Gay
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences 

Rakesh Khurana
Danoff Dean of Harvard College 

Emma Dench
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences