2021-22 Graduate Student Information

The Annenberg School is aware of the profound disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and the impact it’s having on the research and scholarship of doctoral students. We are making every effort to support our Ph.D. students during this time.  

Vaccine & Testing Requirements

As announced by the University on August 25, all current students. faculty, staff, and postdocs are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than October 15, 2021 unless you have a religious or medical exemption. You can record your COVID-19 vaccination status securely and confidentially in Workday. Those who do not record a vaccination will face disciplinary action up to and including termination. Visit the University's vaccination page for more details.

All students should have completed an initial gateway test upon arrival to campus. More information on how to schedule a COVID-19 test can be found in this scheduling tip sheet.

All students enrolled in an on-campus program will be required to take COVID screening tests twice a month. These are saliva-based tests.

Students who have not yet reported being fully vaccinated must continue to test twice a week unless they submit vaccine documentation. After October 15, those who have been granted a medical or religious exemption from vaccination will be required to continue to test twice a week.

In addition, any member of the Penn community who wants to access a COVID screening test for any reason may participate in volunteer testing by scheduling a screening test.

PennOpen Pass

For symptom tracking and contact tracing purposes, everyone on campus is now required to complete PennOpen Pass every day, including weekends.

Academic Policies

Penn’s and Annenberg’s normal grading and course registration (add, drop, withdrawal, and pass/fail) policies will resume.

Building Access

The Annenberg School building is fully open to the Annenberg community, and requests for access will no longer be required. Anyone entering the building may be asked to show their Penn ID. Penn community members are expected to use PennOpen Pass every day, including weekends.

Annenberg students (and others in shared spaces) are asked to be sensitive to other returning officemates and communicate their individual comfort level about shared space. Graduate students may request alternate short-term workspace if needed by emailing Joanne Murray.

Please consult the building procedures for information on masks and other safety requirements.

Childcare Support

Unfortunately, this is an issue affecting not only graduate students, but many across Penn’s community, including healthcare workers, university staff, and faculty. The Penn Family Center offers a full page of Childcare Resources. However, as long as the stay-at-home and social distancing orders are in place, childcare facilities will not reopen.

In addition, the university has strict policies on reimbursement for childcare and will not reimburse faculty, students, or staff for childcare services. It offers Family Grants to help offset the cost of childcare and other expenses for Ph.D. students with children. Please check Penn’s Graduate Student Family Grant for application deadlines and grant amounts.


The University is fully in-person for the Fall 2021 semester. 


Many of the forms for the graduate program have been reformatted into DocuSign templates, which can be signed electronically. Please find them on the academic forms page here. 


  • Please remember that Telehealth services are available to all PSIP enrollees, which provides assistance in navigating your healthcare.
  • Aetna will waive copays for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19.
  • The Student Health Service Referral requirement is lifted for the remainder of the plan year.
  • Please contact the Insurance Office at (215) 746-3535 or vpul-shsinsur@pobox.upenn.edu with any questions.

If You Are Sick

Any student who is showing COVID-19 symptoms, has tested positive, or has health-related questions can call Penn’s Student Health Service at (215) 746-3535 for guidance. Students outside of the Philadelphia region can still contact Student Health, or you can contact another provider. Penn Student Health Insurance covers students anywhere they go.

If you are unable to teach or work remotely due to illness, you should email your instructors as well as ASCGradCourses@asc.upenn.edu. If you are a TF this semester, you should also contact the faculty member teaching the course.

Library Access

Beginning Monday, August 30, the Annenberg Library will be open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. It will be closed on weekends. 

For the latest on this and other library services, consult the Penn Libraries' Phased Service Availability FAQ. Please email Katie Rawson with any questions.

Milestones & Deadlines

Qualification Evaluation (QE) and Comprehensive Exams will take place under normal procedures. Proposal and dissertation defense meetings will continue to take place online. Please see the Graduate Student Handbook for detailed information about program milestones and other degree requirements.

Dissertation research sometimes requires travel for field work or archival research — trips that may not be currently possible. Advisors and advisees should communicate closely to discuss research strategies and adapt research projects as needed.

If you have concerns about the timeline of your progression through the program — related to Comps, the QE exam, dissertation proposals and defenses, or something else — please contact your advisor, Joanne Murray, or John Jemmott.

Mutual Commitment to Academic Integrity, Equitable Instruction, Trust, and Respect

The switch to remote instruction in the context of the pandemic creates vulnerabilities and opportunities associated with teaching and learning. A group at the University of Pennsylvania has drafted and endorsed this set of principles for students and faculty.

Stipend Disbursement

The disbursement schedule of the academic year 2020-21 stipend  has  changed  from 9 months to 10 months and  will be dispersed from August 2020 through May 2021 unless other arrangements have been made with the ASC Business Office.

Please continue to contact ASCBusinessOffice@asc.upenn.edu with any financial questions.

Other Concerns

If you have any other concerns not addressed by this page, please contact your advisor, Joanne Murray, or John Jemmott. In addition, you may find helpful the Graduate Center at Penn’s extensive library of resources.


Return to 2021-22 Guidance Page