Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The rules and expectations for going back to school are long and detailed. Here, we answered as many questions as we can. Have more? Ask them here, too.

July 25, 2020

Your Cornell Back-to-School Questions, Answered.

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As relevant questions change, and we get more answers, this page will be continually updated by Cornell Daily Sun staff. Have a question that we didn’t answer? Submit it here.

Jump to: Returning to Campus | Financial Aid and Health Insurance | Campus Life

Returning to Campus[ps2id id=’Returning to Campus’ target=”/]

I live on campus. When can I move in? 

It depends. Incoming and returning students will receive an assigned move-in date and time slot over a series of days in August. Housing assignments should be released by July 24 with move-in assignments shortly after.

Can anyone help me move in?  

No. Outside visitors are not allowed to enter residence halls. Because of this, Cornell recommends that students only bring two suitcases and a backpack when they move in.

Can Cornell students who don’t live in my building come to my dorm? 

Yes — eventually. Once students meet quarantine and testing requirements, those who live in residence halls can visit other dorms on campus.

Will on-campus housing cost less since the in-person semester ends by Thanksgiving break? 

Yes. The overall housing cost will be reduced. However, the total cost of attendance will remain whole and aid will not be adjusted. This is to recognize that students will still have living expenses after the semester moves online. If students need to stay and are approved to remain on campus after Thanksgiving, they will be charged on a separate, prorated amount. In the spring, students received housing rebates after leaving campus.

Can I live in a Greek house this fall? A co-op?

Cornell has both University-owned and privately owned Greek housing. All Cornell-owned Greek-affiliated houses are being required to cut occupancy to only host single or double rooms. Cornell “recommended” that all privately-owned Greek-affiliate houses act in the same way.

Can I stay on campus after Thanksgiving break? 

Yes, but only if you request and receive a waiver. The decision to end in-person classes after Thanksgiving was to mitigate the risks of students traveling to and from Ithaca, so you would have to stay through the break until the end of the semester.

Re-entry Checklist:

What is included in the Re-entry Checklist?

There are eight “checks.” The first six are available for students to fill out. All students must fill out the first two portions, which ask if you’re returning to Ithaca and your home address. If you are returning to Ithaca, you have to also answer your local address, when you plan to arrive, emergency contacts and when you plan to take your COVID-19 test.

Two more portions are listed on the Re-entry Checklist regarding the Cornell behavioral compact and enrollment in fall classes. You can’t fill these out at this time.

When do I need to complete the Re-entry Checklist by?

The first six checks are due on July 26.


Where can I get tested?

Testing for Cornell students will take place at the Fischell Band Center, in the parking lot of Schoellkopf Stadium.

How often do I need to get tested? 

We don’t know yet. While there has been no formal announcement on how frequently Cornell will test students, the model utilized to reopen Cornell anticipated testing every five days, regardless of symptoms. Students will be notified when they need to receive COVID-19 testing through their Daily Check.

How long will it take me to get test results? 

Currently, the time it takes to get test results varies greatly, with some getting results within 24 hours, while others have been told it would take five to seven business days. However, Cornell Health said results for surveillance testing will take one to two days.

Daily CheckWhat is the Daily Check and what information do I need to fill out daily?

Each day, all faculty, staff and students that intend to go to campus will have to take a daily five question quiz that asks questions about COVID-19 symptoms and potential contact with those that have tested positive for COVID-19.

This is in accordance with the guidance by the State of New York, which mandates daily health screenings

Do I need to schedule a test when I get to campus?

If you are living in University housing, then you do not need to schedule testing, but if you are living off campus, you will need to schedule a test through the Re-entry Checklist.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19?

If you test positive for COVID-19, then you would have to go into a 14-day isolation period. If you are living in on-campus housing, campus housing would relocate you to a different room for isolation. These isolation rooms will include a private bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. During isolation, you will receive daily calls from Cornell, asking how you’re feeling. After the 14 days, Cornell will conduct an evaluation with the Tompkins County Health Department to officially release you from isolation.

Do I have to download a contact tracing app?

No, Cornell will not be using a contact tracing app.

When and where do I have to wear a mask? 

Masks need to be worn when social distancing is not possible, both indoors and outdoors. They can be removed outdoors when six feet of distance between individuals is possible, and indoors when occupying a cubicle, office or “other unit designated area following social distancing guidelines.”

Will Cornell provide masks for students? 

Cornell will provide masks to those employed on campus, but there is currently no indication that they will provide masks to students.


Do I have to quarantine for 14 days once I arrive on campus and get a COVID-19 test?

Not necessarily. Students should self-quarantine for 14 days prior to arrival. After you arrive, Cornell requires you to book an on-campus COVID-19 test. While waiting for your test results, you should quarantine overnight. If you test positive, then you will need to quarantine for 14 days. If your test is negative, then a 14-day quarantine is not needed.

What if I’m traveling to Ithaca from a state on New York’s mandatory quarantine list?

Students entering Ithaca from a state on New York’s mandatory quarantine list will have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Cornell asks that these students arrive by Aug. 17. Currently, there are 34 states listed in New York’s mandatory quarantine order, and the travel advisory is set to affect more than 4,000 undergraduate students.

Read the list of states affected by New York’s mandatory quarantine order here

Where am I supposed to quarantine?

If you live on campus, Cornell will provide you with a quarantine location — either a hotel room or a residence hall — and meals once you arrive. If you live off campus, Cornell asks you to stay at your off-campus housing for 14 days if you test positive for COVID-19.

International Students: 

What happens if I can’t obtain a visa to come back to the U.S.?

The Trump Administration walked back a proposed restriction on student visas (F-1 visas) that would have barred international students from the United States who did not attend in-person classes. If visa difficulties still arise, Cornell has said that online options for courses will be available.

If I return to campus, am I allowed to take only online classes and stay in the U.S.?


Do I have to quarantine for 14 days once I return to campus? Even if I’m from a country that has a low number of COVID-19 cases?

Yes. A travel advisory issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) requires all travelers who enter New York from any international country to quarantine and federal guidance from the CDC requires all international travelers to quarantine. Anyone arriving to New York’s airports will be asked to fill out a travel history form by “enforcement teams.”

If my home country has travel restrictions, can I stay on campus after Thanksgiving break?

A petition process will be available for students requesting to remain on campus after Thanksgiving break until the term’s end on Dec. 21. The details on who and what qualifies for housing have yet to be released. In the spring, Cornell allowed students who could not travel home to remain in University housing.

Tompkins County Regional Airport

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Tompkins County Regional Airport


How can I get to campus from the airport now? Are busses still running? 

There is limited bus service between New York City and Ithaca. As of July 24, CoachUSA and Cornell’s Campus-to-Campus bus were maintaining the suspension of routes to Ithaca. Likewise, Greyhound showed no scheduled busses from New York or Syracuse to Ithaca in August. OurBus has several trips per day scheduled between New York City and Ithaca, including during the move-in period in mid and late August.

Financial Aid and Health Insurance [ps2id id=’Financial Aid and Health Insurance’ target=”/]

Financial Aid

Will Cornell decrease tuition? 

No. Cornell will raise tuition by the same percent increase as last year. The Board of Trustees approved this tuition hike in January.

Read The Sun’s story about the tuition hike here. 

When will Cornell send me my financial aid package? 

Incoming students should have received their financial aid awards already; if not, that may be an indication that something is missing from the application.

Returning students should expect to receive their award notifications by the time they are billed for the fall semester — which is set to be Aug. 7. Awards are typically sent for returning students in May, but Director of Financial Aid Diane Corbett said that the financial aid office is still “carefully reviewing” packages.

Day Hall 1 (Ben Parker)

Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Financial aid packages have not yet been released.


How can Cornell help if my financial circumstances have changed?

Financial aid awards for the upcoming academic year are based on family income information from 2018. If financial circumstances have changed since then, students can update the financial aid office about any special circumstances for awards to be reconsidered. There is also an emergency fund to provide assistance with necessary emergency expenses during the year; students should contact the financial aid office for assistance.

I worked an on-campus job last semester. Will I get it back? 

It depends. Federal Work Study will continue to be a part of financial aid awards this academic year, but the jobs may have to be “reimagined,” Corbett said. Many campus partners still plan to employ students in the fall, but it is up to each employer to make the decision.

Health Insurance: 

Will I have to pay extra for the increased health measures?

No. In-house Cornell Health services are all free or $10. Services related to COVID-19 will all be covered, while all other services will remain the same as usual.

Is COVID-19 testing and treatment covered under the Student Health Plan? 

Yes. Currently, federal regulations require health plans — including the SHP — to cover 100 percent of tests and treatment for COVID-19, without applying a deductible or co-payment.

When will my SHP coverage begin?

Insurance coverage will still start Aug. 1.

Campus Life[ps2id id=’Campus Life’ target=”/]


When can I sign up for classes? 

Most likely, early August. Cornell is still reworking the fall 2020 course roster for the upcoming semester to include modality for each class. Once that’s completed, pre-enrollment will take place shortly after. Due to the pandemic, this is the fourth time Cornell has pushed back fall 2020 pre-enrollment.

How many credits can I take? 

No more than 18. Students will be able to petition, especially seniors that may need more than 18 credits to graduate on time. Despite student concerns, Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Lisa Nishii defended the limit.

Once I pick my classes, how can I order textbooks? 

Textbooks from the Cornell Store must be pre-ordered and either shipped or scheduled for curbside or store pick-up. Executive Director for Campus Life Enterprise Services Pat Wynn urged students to pre-order course materials as soon as enrollment begins. The University also has encouraged faculty to participate in the Instant Access program — which provides digital access to course materials on Canvas — which will be more common this fall. While students have to pay for the materials or opt-out, it will be offered at a “significantly reduced price” this year.

Will we have opt-in S/U grading for the fall as we did in the spring? 

No. Cornell will reinstate its regular grading policy for the fall.

What are semi-finals? 

Semi-finals are similar to normal finals — there are reading days and a final exam period. The major difference is that these exams are earlier in the semester: right before Thanksgiving break, so professors have the chance to administer in-person assessments before the semester goes completely online.

Campus Life:

What will orientation for first-year and transfer students look like? 

Most programs will be an online or virtual experience.

Can my club meet in-person?

It’s unclear how non-academic events will be impacted.

Students gather at Barton Hall for the Fall Semester Club Festival.

Sun File Photo

Students gather at Barton Hall for the Fall Semester Club Festival.


What is this “behavioral compact” everyone’s talking about? When is it coming out? 

The behavioral compact is a contract that outlines all the rules students must follow in the fall — all students living in Ithaca have to sign it. The compact will include rules on social distancing, good hygiene practices, and mandates that students conduct daily health check-ins, get tested frequently and socialize in small groups only. If you live in on-campus housing, you will have to follow additional rules listed in the housing contract. Cornell expects to send the finalized version of the behavioral compact by July 28.

Do I have to sign the behavioral compact? 

Yes. Even if you’re not living in Ithaca in the fall, you still have to sign — and adhere to — the contract.

Can Greek life host parties?



Hannah Rosenberg / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A student masks up in Temple of Zeus.


Will shared spaces, like Olin Library and Temple of Zeus, be open for students?

Possibly. Administrators have said that Cornell plans to repurpose common hangout spaces like Temple of Zeus to better fit public health guidelines. But, the University has yet to release any information on what this would look like.

Policy Enforcement:

How will Cornell enforce these new policies?

Cornell is creating an online reporting system to help the administration keep track of behavioral compact violations. There will also be a team of public health ambassadors that will closely monitor student behavior — but Cornell is still sorting out the details. Additionally, Cornell will mandate that all on-campus events be registered and keep attendance lists for contact tracing purposes.

Can Cornell shut down campus again?

Yes, but we don’t know the specific threshold that could prompt it. Cornell could send students home because of public health concerns. But multiple campus leaders have said that if cases spike, it may be safer to stay in place. Administrators said they want to avoid a scenario similar to March, when Cornell abruptly shut down campus and sent everyone home, but haven’t clarified what circumstances would prompt a shutdown.

wegmans kathryn

Kahtryn Stamm / Sun News Editor

Wegmans’ shelves were bare in March, during and after the mass student exodus.


What happens if I don’t follow Cornell’s public health guidelines?

Cornell is still figuring out the consequences for flouting the behavioral compact. Certain violations may go through the Office of the Judicial Administrator. For flagrantly extreme violations, suspension or expulsion is possible.

If students living in on-campus housing don’t follow requirements such as testing and contract tracing, Cornell can end their housing license and deny them access to campus. Students who violate the contract won’t receive room and board refunds.


Will Cornell sports happen this fall?

No. The Ivy League announced that no competition will take place during the fall semester. Teams will be allowed to practice and train.


The Ivy League canceled all fall sports.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The Ivy League canceled all fall sports.


Will Cornell sports happen this school year?

Maybe. Under the Ivy League’s plan, teams may be able to resume competition in late December, but it’s much more likely we won’t see games until 2021.

Study Abroad: 

Can I study abroad this fall?


Can I study abroad in the spring?

We don’t know yet. The University has not made a decision on spring study abroad, but it has not yet been canceled.


Will we be on campus for the spring?

Yes, but that can change. Cornell currently expects to have a fully residential spring semester, starting in February. There are no further details on the spring yet. Ultimately, the course of the pandemic will determine what the spring will look like.

Will commencement for the Class of 2021 take place as normal? What about the Class of 2020?

Technically, the Class of 2021 will walk before the Class of 2020. The Class of 2021 will walk across the Schoellkopf Field stage over Memorial Day Weekend as originally scheduled. The Class of 2020 will walk the following weekend, on June 5 and June 6.

Raphy Gendler ’21, Alec Giufurta ’21, Alex Hale ’21, Caroline Johnson ’22, Tamara Kamis ’22, Meghna Maharishi ’22, Anil Oza ’22, Lucas Pichini ’22, Madeline Rosenberg ’23, Sarah Skinner ’21 and Kathryn Stamm ’22 contributed reporting.