FAQ: Students

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings as a mitigation practice. Recent studies have shown COVID-19 can be spread by people who don’t show symptoms. Requiring a face covering helps minimize exposure to infection and spread of the illness. This helps protect the health of students, faculty and staff – and the entire Ames community. Wearing your face covering helps protect those around you. Their face coverings help protect you. Please review ISU's complete face covering policy.

2020-21 Instruction

The five-week winter session will begin Monday, Dec. 14, and end Thursday, Jan. 21.

Iowa State’s academic colleges are currently identifying a set of online and hybrid courses to be offered during the winter session. Generally, these will be core, general education and gateway courses that students need to complete graduation requirements. The courses will be posted on the winter session website.

We believe changing our academic calendar to start two weeks later, and eliminating spring break, provides the best opportunity to successfully complete the spring semester on campus. This includes the ability to maximize face-to-face instruction, maintain experiential learning programs and preserve the integrity of our final exams. Health and safety protocols currently in place for the fall semester will also continue during the spring, including reduced classroom capacities, mandatory use of face coverings and extending time between class periods to avoid congestion.

Individual classroom size will be reduced to 50% of capacity. Classes will be offered in three delivery modes: face-to-face, online and hybrid.

  • Face-to-face: Classes offered in-person will be similar to those offered in person in other semesters, with the exception that there will be additional spacing between students and face coverings will be required, consistent with CDC and other public health recommendations.
  • Online: Classes offered online will be similar to those offered online in other semesters. Students will not be physically present in the room with the instructor. The online content may be delivered asynchronously (students may access it at any time) or synchronously (during a scheduled class time to facilitate real-time engagement). Class engagement may occur through discussion boards, group work, online apps, and other activities.
  • Hybrid: Hybrid courses will use a combination of face-to-face and online teaching. Learning activities and assessments can occur both online and in person. Online activities may include some synchronous online engagement (with participants meeting at the same time), and/or asynchronous content delivery (with participants accessing the materials independently). The mix of delivery modes will depend on an instructor’s teaching strategies and course learning objectives.
  • Arranged: Individual or small group format including research projects, internships, and independent study where students work closely with faculty or industry partners.

Students at a higher risk to develop severe illness from COVID-19 based on their age or underlying medical condition, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, are given preference for placement in online courses. Additional information on this process can be found on the Dean of Students website. However, it is important to note, not all classes will be able to be offered with an online option, such as labs where students use special equipment, or courses that feature a unique instructional experience.

ISU is providing course options to support and facilitate the continued academic progress of all students, whether they choose to return to campus or are more comfortable with online options. Students should reach out to their academic adviser to explore options.

Student teaching assignments follow the academic calendar and contract times of the school district where the student is placed. As such, placements may start before Iowa State’s spring semester begins, and may extend past the end of the semester, as they have in the past.

Academic support and learning services – including academic advising, career advising, learning communities, tutoring, supplemental instruction, and coaching – will continue to be offered. In most cases, appointments and services will be offered in virtual formats.

Yes. Face coverings are required indoors in all university buildings, including classrooms. Please review ISU's complete face covering policy. Campus buildings will have signage to remind you. It’s a good idea to keep a face covering handy at all times, and make sure to wear it correctly – over your mouth and nose.

Recent studies have shown COVID-19 can be spread by people who don’t show symptoms. Requiring a face covering helps minimize exposure to infection and spread of the illness. This helps protect the health of students, faculty and staff – and the entire Ames community. Wearing your face covering helps protect those around you. Their face coverings help protect you. 

For individuals who cannot wear a face covering for health reasons, a face shield and/or other mitigation measures may be required.

Students in isolation and quarantine should not attend class and follow instructions provided by Iowa State’s public health team. Instructors understand some students may miss multiple classes because of quarantine or isolation. Students should contact their instructors to make arrangements to complete assignments and exams.

Fall classes will begin on Aug. 17. The semester, including final exams, will end Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. Classes will be held on Labor Day.

Residence and Dining

Residence halls will be offering single and double occupancy dorm rooms and apartment style living. Campus dining will be open and serving our campus community modifying dining services to expand get-and-go options and locations and contactless payment.

Iowa State’s residence halls will open, and meal plans will begin, on Thursday, Jan. 7. Meal plans will end on Friday, May 7, and students will need to move out by Saturday, May 8.

Yes. Students need to complete the testing requirement at Lied Rec Center before moving into their residence hall or campus apartment.

Student Employees

Direct deposit is the most efficient way to be paid. All employees should use Workday to begin direct deposit or to update existing direct deposit. Follow these instructions  to update direct deposit in Workday. Please enroll by the end of the day Wednesday, March 25. 

If employees do not have a bank account, they may open a bank account at any bank of their choice. They may also open a bank account associated with their ISUCard at any U.S. Bank location. Employees should bring their ISUCard to a U.S. Bank office as one form of identification or open their account online. Additional information regarding the ISUCard/U.S. Bank partnership may be found here: on the ISUCard website.

COVID-19 Concerns

All close contacts will be notified by the Department of Public Health or a member of the ISU Public Health Case Management team. Public health officials rely on a case investigation process to determine close contacts. If you have not been notified, you are most likely a proximate contact only (less than 15 consecutive minutes and more than 6 feet).

We are asking every member of the ISU campus community to wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from others, wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you are sick. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should avoid contact with others for 14 days after your last contact with an infected individual, check your temperature at least daily, watch for symptoms of COVID-19, and, if possible, stay away from people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19. Follow up promptly with your medical provider or Thielen Student Health Center 515-294-5801 if any symptoms develop. If you feel you need to be tested, you can complete the Iowa State University Pretesting Questionnaire.

The university also encourages students and employees who may have anxiety or depression regarding how they are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak to seek mental health services through Student Counseling Services or the Thielen Student Health Center.

It is important to obtain credible information from experts including the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and public health agencies, and ensure you are only sharing credible resources. Outbreaks can cause fear and anxiety and we encourage our campus community to be supportive and speak out against negative and stigmatizing behaviorCampus resources are also available for support.

You can also support the Cyclone community by wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distancing, practicing proper hygiene and staying home if you're sick.

Class/work absences and personal health

There are steps you can take to limit your risk for any illness. The Thielen Student Health Center encourages the campus community to practice infection control strategies including:

  • The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Video: Tips for wearing face mask coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with tissues when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash after use.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to avoid spreading germs.
  • Improve your immune system by getting enough rest (eight hours is ideal), exercising regularly, and eating healthy.
  • Stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Instead of a handshake, give a wave to avoid spreading germs.

To help stop the spread of disease, it is important for students, faculty and staff to stay home when they are sick. While COVID-19 has not been detected on campus, influenza, colds and other illnesses are prevalent during the winter months. Cyclone Health also has helpful information and additional resources for taking care of your behavioral health during the outbreak.

Students who miss class due to illness are encouraged to contact their instructors as soon as possible, to notify them of their illness, and to determine how best to make up class time and assignments. If students are not able to contact their faculty due to their illness (hospitalized, etc.), they can contact the Dean of Students office to assist with the notification process. Student Assistance staff is available if students have additional concerns.

Faculty and staff are encouraged to notify their department chair or supervisor as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made to cover classes or work, as necessary.

ISU, working with its health insurer Wellmark, has decided to implement the following steps to help our Student and Scholar Health Insurance members:

  • Waiving prior authorization processes. Wellmark will waive prior authorization processes for covered services related to COVID-19 to ensure patients receive the right care at the right time and location.
  • Covering diagnostic tests for COVID-19. Members will have no cost-share for appropriate testing to establish the diagnosis of COVID-19.
  • Increasing access to prescription medications. Wellmark prescription drug benefit plans will allow for early refill and we encourage the use of 90-day retail and mail order benefits. They also will ensure formulary flexibility if there are medication shortages or other access issues. Members will not be responsible for any additional charges if they receive a non-formulary medication as a result of a shortage. 
  • Offering 24/7 help. Members have access to Wellmark’s BeWell 24/7SM service which connects members to people who can help with a variety of health-related concerns 24/7.

UPDATE: Effective March 16, 2020, for the next 90 days, Wellmark is waiving members’ cost-share for both medical and behavioral health virtual visits – whether it be with their current primary care physician or another in-network provider (including Doctor on Demand). Neither ISU nor its’ student scholars will be financially responsible for virtual visit cost-share (copay, coinsurance, and/or deductible) through June 16, 2020.

Wellmark will continue to use the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), and South Dakota Health Department as their official sources of information. For the latest U.S. impacts of COVID-19, please see the data reported by the CDC.

To learn more about Wellmark’s response to coronavirus, please visit Wellmark.com/coronavirus.

Non-study abroad travel

Is all international travel restricted?

Yes, ALL university-sponsored international travel remains suspended for students, faculty, and staff. The Board of Regents will be extending the 30-day travel ban that began on March 5 by 7 days each Monday, effective March 9, until conditions improve.

Faculty, staff, and students may not conduct university business (such as delivering a lecture at an institution or conference, or conducting research) while traveling internationally for personal purposes. 

Is domestic travel restricted?

Travel within Iowa and the U.S. for university business is allowed, but must be pre-approved by the employee’s direct supervisor. Travelers should follow CDC guidance. Approval should be granted if in the supervisor’s view the travel is appropriate pursuant to the guidance below and other university policy. The request and approval should be documented and can be done through e-mail.  

The university strongly recommends decisions are made to minimize travel, consistent with our goal of taking reasonable actions to reduce transmission risk. Some factors to consider when evaluating travel include: whether the activity is necessary to enable a student to remain on-track for degree completion; whether the activity could be postponed, moved online, or done by phone; the number of attendees and whether the attendees can practice social/physical distancing (e.g. sitting at least six feet apart). 

Travelers are encouraged to review travel restrictions they may encounter upon arrival at their destination. Please check the state and territorial health department websites for the latest information. 

Is there a university policy for personal travel?

There are no university rules restricting travel by faculty, staff, and students for personal reasons. It is important to note that, aside from incidental university business such as checking email and making phone calls, university business may not be conducted while traveling out of state or internationally for personal reasons. Faculty, staff, and students who travel out of state or internationally should be aware that they may have isolation or other restrictions imposed by other states or countries that could restrict or delay some aspects of their travel and/or their return to Iowa. We strongly urge you to use extreme caution and judgment for personal travel. Please check the state and territorial health department websites for the latest information


Cases of COVID-19 have been reported in all states and many countries, and many areas are experiencing community spread of the disease. Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19, if there are other travelers with COVID-19. There are several things you should consider when deciding whether it is safe for you to travel and when returning from travel.

For international students

Consistent with CDC guidance, if you have known exposure to COVID19 you must self-quarantine for 14 days. If you have traveled internationally and engaged in high risk activities (which include "being in an airport"), you should follow CDC guidance to:

  1. Stay home as much as possible.
  2. Avoid being around people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  3. Consider getting tested for COVID-19.

The Office of Risk Managment has additional guidance for travel.

Both online and in-person instruction will be offered for classes this fall. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has indicated that F-1 and M-1 visa holders in the United States may not be enrolled entirely in online programs or their visas will be revoked. Therefore, International students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. For more information please see President Wintersteen’s July 7th message.

We recognize that your ability to arrive on campus for the start of the semester may not be in your control. If this happens, the Office of Admissions and your academic college will work with you to determine how best to proceed so you can enroll and begin your studies at Iowa State.

Study abroad programs

The university takes guidance from the CDC, the U.S. Department of State, our international security information provider, and public health officials in host countries. When making decisions about specific programs, we also consider local conditions as well as input from peer institutions and our overseas partners.

Due to global uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, study abroad programs and courses that start before Dec. 1, 2020, are canceled. Decisions regarding programs starting after Dec. 1, 2020, will be made later in the fall. Contact studyabroad@iastate.edu with questions.

While now is not the best time to travel, you can start planning for a future study abroad experience. The Study Abroad Center is holding virtual walk in advising or you can contact the international program office in your college.