FAQ: Undergraduate Fall 2020

We've created the following page to answer questions about the academic and student life experience for Fall 2020 undergraduates. We will update this page with more information as it becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below we've answered questions on the following topics:

Don't see your question answered here? Reach out to our preparedness team via email.

Fall Semester Planning Update

Why is Simmons choosing an all-remote model for the fall?

Our foremost guiding principle is ensuring the safety and health of our community which includes you, our students; followed by our second guiding principle to ensure equity and fairness in opportunity and experience for all Simmons students.

We have carefully reviewed coronavirus health data and the guidance of medical and public health officials. Our own thinking has evolved in recent weeks as we have grown increasingly concerned by a resurgence of infections around the country. Nearly every state that has moved to significantly reopen has experienced a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. This reality, combined with the likelihood of a second wave in late summer and into the fall, raises serious concerns about our ability to ensure the safety of our community.

The physical location of our university is also a factor. Simmons is located in the heart of Boston's Longwood Medical Area — a dense, highly populated urban center in close proximity to a number of large critical care hospitals. Our location makes social distancing difficult, especially compared to a larger residential campus or those in a more rural setting. The Simmons campus is accessible primarily by public transportation, and members of our community also have expressed concerns about riding crowded trains and buses — where it is nearly impossible to socially distance — to come to campus to learn and teach.

Our confidence in our ability to deliver a high-quality, online undergraduate curriculum is also central to our decision. Unlike what many college students experienced across the country during the chaotic days of Spring 2020, our Simmons program will be a highly interactive class experience that is flexible and meets student needs and will be accessible to all students.

Thanks to the hard work of our faculty and the help of our technology partner 2U, we are able to develop a virtual campus that features hundreds of online courses, which will offer small group discussions, a high level of student-faculty interaction, and excellent learning outcomes.

Who will be invited back to campus?

A small number of students in clinical and field placements; practicums; and research projects; and a small fraction of other students whose circumstances require particular consideration, will be invited to return to campus. Students in these categories will be contacted directly.

Why weren’t First Years invited back to introduce them to the Simmons community?

We are all disappointed that we cannot invite our First Year class back; however, we promise our First Years a memorable Simmons experience virtually. We have created some special opportunities just for this class.

What will the academic calendar be for the Fall semester?

At this point, the 2020-2021 academic calendar will proceed as planned. Classes begin on September 2, end on December 15, and exams are December 17-21. Changes may still occur during the academic year, particularly because the future and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic remains uncertain, but faculty are planning their syllabi for fall classes according to the posted calendar.

Will any classes take place on campus?

The only classes that will take place on campus are two courses in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

What offices and services will be available to students?

Students can expect to have access to all of the services that they are used to seeing on campus. This includes Academic Advising, Student Affairs, the Writing Center, Accessibility Services, the Counseling Center and many more, but in a virtual format. Over the summer students can expect to receive more information about how to access services online. For the limited number of students who will be living on campus, the Office of Residence Life will be available to assist you.

Will Simmons return to normal campus operations in the spring?

If we are able to do so safely — given the trajectory of the virus and public health protections at the time — we look forward to inviting students to campus this spring, although we do not know how many or how soon we will be able to do that.


Who can I talk to about my questions regarding the Fall semester?

We understand that you might be feeling nervous about attending college in a virtual format in the Fall. We can assure you that the essence of a Simmons experience will be preserved, the academic rigor that drew you to Simmons will be present in your classes, and our co-curricular experience will be robust and exciting. However, if you would like to talk through your questions and concerns, please email [email protected] and someone from the University will respond to your email within 48 hours. When possible, please include your questions and concerns in the email (for example housing, financial aid, or academic support) so we can direct your question appropriately and be prepared to assist you.

Can I still defer my admission or take a leave of absence for the 2020-21 academic year?

Yes. Admitted students are allowed to defer their admission up to one year. The tuition deposit will be carried forward to hold their spot. Please note: If a student defers their admission and completes more than 17 credits at another college, they will be required to reapply. To defer admission, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Admission at [email protected].

Current Simmons students may apply to take a leave of absence through the Registrar's Office.

Are housing deposits for Fall 2020 refundable?

If a student who has submitted a housing deposit is not eligible to live on campus for Fall 2020, we will apply the deposit to the next semester the student lives on campus to hold the student's spot in the residence hall. Students who do not want their deposit held can submit a request for a refund OR for the housing deposit to be applied to their student account for tuition and fees.

Are tuition deposits for incoming students refundable?

Due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding Fall 2020 and the decision to go online, students may request a refund of the tuition deposit if they decide not to attend. Requests should be made in writing and sent to Undergraduate Admission at [email protected].

Financial Matters

What will tuition be for the Fall semester?

We have carefully considered tuition and financial aid policies. Simmons will continue to offer financial aid to every student, and there will be a freeze on undergraduate tuition rates, with last year's rates remaining for this upcoming year. In addition, we will reduce our student activity fees by about 25%, to $115. Student Activities Fees will be used to fund events and programs planned by our (over 55) student-led organizations, class councils, affinity organizations, and the Student Government Association. Activities Fees also help support community wide student events such as our leadership series, Welcome Week programming, Shark Week activities, and to host performers and speakers for the Simmons community, which we are working to convert to a virtual format.

Why isn't Simmons discounting tuition?

We have carefully considered tuition and fees, as well as the support necessary to ensure the high quality educational experience our students deserve. In addition to freezing undergraduate tuition for the 20-21 academic year and reducing activity fees, Simmons will continue to offer financial support in the form of considerable scholarships and financial aid packages for traditional undergraduate students. Simmons will have a process in place to offer financial support to students in need of essential technology upgrades and equipment through CARES Act funding, the SOS Fund and 2U.

Will my financial aid/scholarship package change for the Fall semester?

As we have always done, we will continue to award financial aid to help meet students’ demonstrated financial need. Financial aid packages will be based on a cost of attendance that includes an “at home” room and board component, as there will be no on campus room and board fees in the coming year. In addition, we know students may have unanticipated personal expenses in these unusual times. Simmons will have a process in place to offer financial support to students in need of essential technology upgrades and equipment through CARES Act funding, the SOS Fund and 2U.

What if I or my family has been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and can't afford tuition?

If your family's financial situation has changed, we encourage you to be in touch with the Student Financial Services office as soon as possible at [email protected].

Is the SOS Fund still going to be available in the Fall?

The SOS Fund currently has a positive balance to distribute funds to both undergraduate and graduate students. There will be a continuing weekly review of SOS requests by Student Affairs and Student Financial Services as long as the funds are available.

Will there be available funds for students to purchase computers or tablets and internet service? 

Simmons will have a process in place to offer financial support to students in need of essential technology upgrades and equipment through CARES Act funding, the SOS Fund and 2U. 

Will Simmons pay for the software needed for design classes?

We are coordinating with academic departments and IT to determine how students will access specialized software across majors. You will hear specific information from your faculty in courses that require specialized software.

Will Kotzen Scholars experience any change to their scholarship?

Kotzen scholars receive a scholarship that covers tuition, fees, on campus room and board for all four years as long as they continue to meet the requirements. Kotzen Scholars also receive a $3000 stipend for study abroad, short-term courses, summer internship tuition, or research support. Unfortunately the scholarship does not cover off-campus housing costs.

Is there still funding available through the CARES Act allocation from the federal government?

There are some CARES Act funds available to eligible students who have had expenses related to the disruption to campus activities due to the coronavirus (the one regulatory requirement to award funds). If a student has expenses (e.g., technology needs), they should contact student financial services for further assistance.

What if I have already signed an off-campus housing rental agreement for the semester?

Simmons will continue to work with students who have secured a lease or have reasons to be living off campus this semester. Students who have questions or who would like to discuss the process should contact Student Financial Services at [email protected].

As the University will be online for the fall, will there be any adjustment to my costs?

The University has made a decision to freeze tuition at the 2019-2020 rate for all undergraduate students. Students who are not living on campus will not be charged the cost of Room and Board ($15,580) and there were reductions to the student activity and health center fee.

Why was my financial aid adjusted?

Students who are remote are not assessed the on- campus room and board charge. When determining your financial aid eligibility, we have used an "at home" estimate for living expenses, which will reduce the cost of attendance. This reduction is required by the federal regulations we must adhere to. The cost of attendance helps determine a student's need based aid so there will be a reduction to your need based aid. We have used the same ratio of grant aid to cost and those students who had previously been living on campus will see a reduction to their out of pocket costs as a result of these adjustments.

Why am I being charged a fee for living at home?

Students are not being charged a fee for living at home. The "at home" estimate of living expenses is an amount that is estimated in the cost of attendance (similar to how we use estimates for the cost of books, personal and travel). We are accounting for the fact that, even though you are not being charged to live on campus, there are costs associated with living at home.

I have already secured an apartment off campus, can that be taken into consideration for financial aid purposes?

We understand that some students may have already secured an apartment to be near campus. We have created a form which will allow you to update us on your living arrangements and seek an increase to your cost of attendance and need based financial aid. The form does ask for documentation of your living arrangements and can be found here.

I have decided because of COVID-19 I would like to take a leave of absence. Can I still retain my merit scholarship?

We have a process in place for students to appeal to reinstate their merit scholarship. Given the circumstances, and as long as you have met the GPA renewal requirements we would approve an appeal to reinstate your scholarship should you take a leave of absence. Please fill out the appeal application when you return from your leave.

My family's financial circumstances have been greatly affected by COVID-19, is there any opportunity to appeal for additional need based financial aid?

If your family has experienced significant and/or unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances that affect your family's ability to contribute to college costs, you may request an appeal of your need based financial aid. While we will do our best to help support you, enrollment decisions should always be made based on the current award package, as an appeal does not guarantee additional funding.

Will I be able to utilize the federal work study portion of my financial aid award?

We have removed federal work-study, from all packages at this time. The remote Fall plan has created some obstacles for this program and student employment in general which we are actively working to resolve. We are looking into all options for students to utilize these funds. Once we know what student employment options exist, we will reinstate the availability of these funds and communicate those options to you.

Will there be any remote work available to apply for through Simmons?

We are actively working to ensure there are opportunities for student employment. The options that will be available will be critical support positions and we will update students as soon as we are able.


Which clinicals and labs will remain in Boston?

Selected courses in nursing, education, social work,and physical therapy that require clinical, practicums, or field work.

How will studio and performance courses be taught online?

If faculty have determined that they are able to offer these courses online, they have been working to build them with highly skilled instructional designers who can help faculty build experiential course components, even when the courses are offered online.

What consideration is being made for students who don't live in the same time zone as Simmons?

As faculty work to fully develop their courses online, they are thinking a lot about the time spent together “as a class” and the work that can be done independently by students, before they are in class together. Faculty are very aware of the circumstances of students in different timezones, and will work with students to land on a strategy for the semester.

What will online classes be like? What can I expect?

Faculty are designing each of their classes to be highly engaging and follow best practices in online teaching. Classes will include a mixture of carefully-designed activities, such as interactive live video sessions, hands-on activities and assignments, discussion board posts, and readings and recorded lectures. The types of activities will vary, based on what approaches are the best fit for that particular class.

Will Simmons pay for the software needed for design classes?

We are coordinating with academic departments and IT to determine how students will access specialized software across majors. You will hear specific information from your faculty in courses that require specialized software.

Can we go part-time and then try to make up classes that we missed at a later time so we can graduate on time?

This is certainly an option, as it is during any semester. Keep in mind Simmons's tuition policy, which requires you to pay for any credits you complete over 18 credits. Be sure to talk to your Student Financial Services advisor before deciding to become a part-time student.

Do we still have the Boston course?

Yes! We're very excited about our Boston Courses in Fall 2020. All courses will include a special focus on “virtual Boston.” Your Boston Course will excite you about coming to Simmons physically, once we're able!

What are the options for international students?

During this difficult time, we will continue to advocate for access to a Simmons education for all of our international students. Our Center for Global Education will be reaching out to our international students individually. As an institution committed to excellence, we recognize and support the critical importance of international students to our full academic community.

Will I be able to cross-register for COF classes?

Cross-registration in the Colleges of the Fenway will be possible for Simmons students if the courses are offered online — Simmons students will not be able to cross register for campus-based courses at other COF institutions.

What about the Study Abroad Program?

It has been cancelled for this academic year. We are exploring alternatives to continue global education and engagement. The Center for Global Education will be in touch with students regarding additional updates. 

Student Activities

Will Simmons field athletics teams this fall?

In keeping with our top priority of health and safety, we have decided to place all sports on hold until January 2021. We understand that the Great Northeast Athletic Conference is considering placing a hold until this time as well.

What will happen to clubs, organizations and other student activities?

Student clubs, organizations, and other groups will be able to meet and engage in activities online during the Fall semester. The offices of Student Activities and First Year Programs are planning an array of online activities that will help Simmons students stay engaged with one another and the life of the University throughout the semester.

Will COF Intramurals run in the Fall?

Simmons will not participate in any COF intramural activities in the fall.

Student Support Services/Programs

Will I be able to see my therapist from the Counseling Center in the fall if we aren't on campus?

As we did in Spring ‘20, we will offer counseling services to students in a tele-health format. Over 85% of our Counseling Center clients switched to the tele-health services in the Spring so they could have uninterrupted access to their therapist. We will also continue our referral services for students who want to see a non-Simmons therapist.

Will the Health Center be open?

The Health Center will be available for tele-health appointments for all undergraduate students and will have limited in-person appointments for resident students. The Health Center will be available for both COVID-related and non-COVID-related medical needs.

Will Accessibility Services provide services if all classes are online?

At Simmons University, we are committed to the full participation of all students in our programs and activities and to ensuring that students receive equal access to their programs and educational experiences—no matter if those experiences take place on our Boston campus or in the online learning environment. During the Fall 2020 semester, the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) will continue to provide remote support to students who are eligible for academic accommodations. 

What types of programs will run through the Multicultural Center now?

The Multicultural Center will continue to provide programming in partnership with Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity. Programs include working with all 14 affinity student groups in their group's programming, leadership development for all students on anti-racism/undoing racism, intersectionality workshops for faculty on appropriate pronoun use and other programming to promote belonging and equity. MCC will also partner with OCIE in providing programming virtually to all other constituents: faculty, staff and trustees. Activities will include training, speakers, workshops and communications campaigns.

Residence Life

How will we get our items from the Fall that are in Olympia Storage?

Students can continue to work directly with the Office of Residence Life for assistance in getting their belongings out of Simmons or Olympia storage.

Can I assume that students who have labs will be able to live on campus?

No. The Simmons faculty and academic leadership are currently reviewing online lab options that will give students a rich laboratory experience. This means that students who are taking labs will not necessarily have to live on campus.

Will you need RAs in the Fall? Am I guaranteed my job for the Spring?

We will know if and how many RAs we will need in the Fall based on how many residents we house. We will prioritize returning RAs for the Fall. For the Spring, we will base our staffing levels on the number of resident students, once again prioritizing returning RAs. Students will not have to apply again for their RA role for future years when we are back to capacity.

Will RAs receive additional aid if we have to rent an apartment for the Fall semester if we can't return to campus?

We are working to develop plans to re-deploy RAs even if we are in a virtual format so we can continue to build community within student groups.

Will everyone get to live on campus if Simmons is fully open in the Spring?

We will make decisions about Spring residential life based on multiple factors including health and safety information available to us later in the Fall semester.

Limited Exceptions: On Campus Students

Who are the students that will return to campus?

A small number of students in clinical and field placements; practicums; and research projects; and a small fraction of other students whose circumstances require particular consideration, will be invited to return to campus. These students will be contacted directly.

What is Simmons' testing plan for on-campus students? Are we responsible for paying for our own COVID tests?

We plan to test all students, faculty and staff who are on campus 2x per week through a partnership with the Broad Institute. Simmons will cover the cost of testing through both the student health fee and the University budget.

What PPE will be available for on-campus students?

We will provide all students with three masks upon arrival along with instructions for their use and disinfection. Students are encouraged to bring their own masks for comfort, as needed. Hand-sanitizer will be provided along with disinfectant wipes.

Will face coverings be required on campus?

Yes, face coverings will need to be worn when physical distancing is not possible.

Will students who live on campus be charged for room and board?

Students who live on campus will be charged room and board for the semester.

Will students have roommates?

All students will be in singles — there won't be doubles or triples.

Will every student get their own bathroom?

Students will not be assigned a private bathroom, but Residence Life is working closely with our Facilities staff to ensure that all students will be assigned to a low-occupancy bathroom. We do not expect that students will have to share a bathroom with more than five residents.

Will international students be allowed to live on campus?

There will be direct outreach to our international students.

How will dining work in the fall for students who live on campus?

Dining will largely be grab-and-go. In order to maintain strict social distancing guidelines, we will not be able to open our dining facilities at capacity and students will not be able to dine together.

Will we be able to have visitors on campus? Can my parents come visit me?

Students living in residence will not be allowed to have guests, including family members or friends from other COF schools. This is necessary to ensure the safety of all of our resident students and to limit potential exposure to our campus.

Will we be allowed to visit friends in other res halls on campus?

We ask that students remain in their own rooms and only interact with other students in situations where they can remain physically distant, masked and in small groups.

Will I be able to freely travel home on the weekends?

Other than emergency situations, students will not be permitted to travel home for the weekend. This is to ensure that students are limiting exposure to COVID for themselves and for fellow students. Students who must travel home for emergency purposes must notify the Office of Residence Life prior to leaving.

Will all Nursing students be able to live on campus?

No, a small number of Nursing students will be offered housing. We know that students in clinical placements must be close to their hospital site to complete their required course.

Will the gym be open?

No, the Holmes Athletic Center will be closed to all student activities for the Fall semester.

What if I have nowhere else to live or my current living situation is unsafe?

Similar to Spring 2020, we will have an Exemption Process for students who need to live in on-campus housing. This may include students for whom Simmons is their permanent residence, students who are housing insecure, and students who do not have a safe place to live. Decisions for this exemption will be made on a case-by-case basis. The Office of Residence Life will be in touch with information about this process soon.