COVID-19 FAQs for Grad Students

Last Updated August 07, 2020

As we work to keep our communities safe and healthy, we're also here to keep you informed as things change, sometimes quite rapidly.

We are working remotely and will address your inquiries through our ticketing system, Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm. Responses take approximately 3 business days.

See information regarding:

Primary Sources of Information

Where should I look and who should I connect with if I have questions?

Modified July 21, 2020

Information will come to you from multiple sources at SFU. In addition to the links (above), please pay particular attention to the following:

  1. SFU COVID-19 FAQs: This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date source of information from SFU.
  2. Student Services Bulletin: you will receive updates directly to your SFU email addresses. We are working with them to ensure that information is also sent to you.
  3. Your graduate program assistant: your graduate program staff are also working remotely. We are continuing to work with them to address your inquiries. Please continue to be in contact with them via the appropriate means.
  4. Your supervisor: It is important that you remain in contact with your supervisor. Develop communication and research plans for you both while you work remotely.
  5. International students: international student advisors are available to provide the most up-to-date guidance and resources to assist you. Please connect with them, here:
    Additional information can be found here:
    Immigration and medical insurance:
  6. Additional SFU Services (SFU Library, ORS, GSS, TSSU, etc.): they are also working remotely and will continue to provide relevant updates as required. Each of these services has information about how to connect with them on their websites.
  7. SFU Research Ethics Board provides weekly virtual information sessions on amending your research in light of COVID-19.
    They also have information for gathering research data through Zoom.
  8. Learn about SFU's COVID-impact scale and what that means for you.

If you have additional queries that do not seem to be addressed via the channels mentioned above, please submit a ticket or send an email to We will respond as quickly as we can.

A reminder: If you're visiting campus, please practice physical distancing and additional measures to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.


How should I prepare for an online defence?

Modified August 07, 2020

Find guidelines and processes in the Virtual thesis defences document.

Finances and Awards

What are the deadlines for upcoming scholarship competitions, including Tri-Agency Scholarships and Fellowships?

Modified August 07, 2020

2021-22 Tri-Agency Competition is now open!

For the latest updates from the Tri-Agencies,, please visit their FAQ page on paid extensions. Any further questions, please contact the Agency directly and for more information go to their COVID-19 webpage.

Will MSFSS deferrals extend past December 2020?

Added prior to July 21, 2020

Yes, MSFSS recipients will be allowed to defer their travel to next year should pandemic travel restrictions persist. Requests will not be processed more than 6 weeks in advance.

I'm having difficulties paying for my tuition. What options are available to me?

Added August 07, 2020

You can contact Student Accounts if you need advice. 

Learn more →

What kind of financial assistance am I eligible for?

Added prior to July 21, 2020

Need to connect with a Financial Aid and Awards Advisor?
If you can't find an answer to your question through our website, please connect with a member of our financial aid and awards advising staff. We are available by phone 778-782-6930 or via email at  

Phone contact hours are currently available as follows: Monday – Friday – 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
*subject to change without notice

What is happening with the UPass program?

Updated August 07, 2020

The UPass BC charge for fall 2020 has been applied to your student account if you were eligible for the UPass. The GSS and SFSS are in conversation with Translink regarding the UPass. If the UPass is revoked for fall 2020, you will receive a credit on your account.

Visit TransLink’s U-Pass website for further updates.

  • The U-Pass BC program is offered to students under agreements in place between TransLink, participating colleges/universities and their associated student societies. Students pay for this pass through mandatory student fees.

How can I receive award payments and refunds?

Modified August 07, 2020

Award payments and refunds (via direct deposit and cheques) will continue in accordance with the graduate awards payment schedule. The vast majority of you are enrolled in Direct Deposit, but for the few who are receiving physical cheques, the method to pick-up in person from the registrar's office has changed.

New incoming international students who are currently residing outside Canada and don’t have a Canadian bank account and SIN #, scholarship funds will be disbursed to their students’ account to pay off any tuition and fees. If there are any remaining funds, the funds will be sent as cheque (in CAD dollars), or the balance will remain on the students' SFU account (in the case of students residing in Canadian-sanctioned countries). Please ensure students to have their mailing address in goSFU account up to date.

Learn more →

Graduate Progress

How long do I have to complete deferred work from Summer 2020?

Added August 07, 2020

The DE (deferral) grade deadline for all graduate courses taken in Summer 2020 is September 30, 2020. If you need additional time you must seek approval from your instructor and graduate chair in writing with a timeline on when your work will be completed. The maximum allowable deadline is December 31, 2020.

Note: Completion of Summer 2020 deferred coursework during Fall 2020 does not constitute continuity of enrollment for Fall 2020. (See GGR 1.4.1 and 1.4.5)

Working from Home (WfH)

What are some suggestions for graduate students Working from Home (WfH)?

Modified August 07, 2020

The challenge of working from home (WfH) will be different for everyone, as our home spaces, and our responsibilities within them, vary greatly. What will be shared experience is the change in of the physical resources you may be used to working with – and this ranges from books and manuscripts to specific laboratory tools and materials. However, we encourage you to work closely with your supervisor and your colleagues to define a way of working from home that suits you and your inclinations and which brings out the best in your research, even in this difficult context. Identify and reflect upon the issues that you may be having and set out to rectify, lessen, or deflect them before they stall you. You will have to no doubt innovate in accessing research materials. While our libraries have not physically opened yet, online resources have expanded and include the university libraries, public think tank publications, industry sponsored research sites, the websites of public art galleries and museums, etc., and many publishers and organizations have recently opened greater access to their online books, journals, and archives. Challenge yourself to develop new research skills even as you work in this limiting context.

We also urge you to pay attention to your own health and well-being –working from home can tend to collapse life and work, and work can take over in a way that can be physically or mentally unhealthy. Make sure you have an ergonomic workplace and that you take frequent breaks to give yourself time away from a screen. You are a graduate student, so take time to look off in the distance – good for the eyes – and ponder. And make sure you take walks or exercise if you are able, or meditate, or stream ambient music, or Erik Satie’s Vexations, a one-minute song played 840 times (as a colleague has done during research time).  The point is, find a way to find productive and enjoyable forms of work and living. If you do feel that you would benefit from speaking to someone about the myriad pressures of grad life at this moment in the world, you can reach out to MySSP – an online service brought to you by SFU and our student societies – which gives you 24-hour access to counselling (and in 30 languages).

Communication with your supervisor and committee →
  • Communication is a key factor in starting and, unfortunately, stopping progress.
  • In this time where face to face communication will be extremely limited, learn to use other forms of communication to to ensure there is no mis-communication.
  • And as always, put all decisions in a follow-up email and have the other people affected acknowledge the accuracy of the memo.
  • Recognize that your preferred and learned style of communication may not work well with physical distancing. Accept that and develop new styles of communication may be needed in your communication repertoire.
  • Be open and transparent with your supervisor. Communicate regularly and more often than you may have done when the campus was open.
  • Listen, listen, listen. But more specifically, listen well. What you heard may not be correct. Document, and then authenticate what you heard.
  • Adopt professionally accepted styles of communication throughout all of your academic related interactions; it can be easy to fall into more casual forms of communication.
  • Unrecognized cultural norms do affect communication, or more specifically, mis-communication. Understand diversity in culture, and that a cultures norm for communication may not translate to another culture.
  • There are resources for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) available, as a starting point, at SFU VP Academic. See for example, Nature, 558, 19-20, 2018.
Program Requirements →
  • Complete an academic progress report with your supervisor. If you have courses yet to take, peruse SFU and other University offerings in Western Canada. Use the Western Deans Agreement to enroll after consulting with your supervisor and Graduate Program Chairperson to get approval in writing to use toward your degree requirements.
  • Are major program milestones (e.g., candidacy examination, comprehensive examination, research proposal, thesis defence, general progress report, etc.) coming up in the near future? Discuss this with your supervisor, and develop a plan for you to progress to and successfully through this milestone.
  • Each milestone can be perceived as a daunting, new task. Learn how to compartmentalize a large task into smaller, manageable parts. Progress on small components can be rewarding as it is more easily observable and documentable. Similarly, learn how to synthesize the parts into a comprehensive report.
  • Consider developing, or joining, a peer-mentoring group with your colleagues in your program or in another on-line forum of researchers.
Research RequirementS →
  • Schedule and have frequent, open, dialogue with your supervisor. Explore strategies for you to make progress as you WfH.
  • If any aspect of your research changes, consult with your supervisor and then seek approval from the appropriate review board (e.g., ethics, biosafety).
  • Discuss with your supervisor a transition plan for when your research is again performed on campus. Put that plan in writing and provide it to your supervisor.
  • Discuss and plan with your supervisor a new academic timeline for you to complete program requirements in the event your research has been slowed down to the point where your degree completion date may have changed.
  • Discuss with your supervisor the possibility for an alternate plan for a section or portion of your thesis that will allow you to complete in a timely way.
Work-Life Balance/Life-Work Balance →
  • Many things in our society considered norm only months ago are now not, and these stressors are affecting us as individuals. Review your goals often, and reflect on how external factors are affecting you and your goals. Talk openly and often with your trusted friends and family members.
  • Call MySSP or reach out to SFU Health and Counselling if you are feeling overwhelmed, the events in our communities are unprecedented across several generations (SARS CoV2).
  • Set realistic limits.
  • Expect up and downs.
  • Stay focused on goals. Learn when you are most productive, and learn to concentrate well on the more mentally demanding tasks during those periods. Learn when you are less productive, and use those times for other aspects needed to realize your overall goals.
  • Time management strategies. Many tips and hints are readily available through business-oriented publications online; some of these may work for you, some may not.
  • Manage your productivity to enable you to take time to meet with your friends.
  • If your academic unit is not conducting scheduled virtual meet times on a regular basis to allow social connection, ask for this to be initiated.
  • Understand the ergonomics of your WfH workstation and get yourself properly set-up. A small pain now means there is a problem, so don’t let it develop. Your muscles and mind need variety. Take time from your WfH station to exercise, stretch, and don’t forget your eye muscles!
  • Get creative with your social network, but stay within Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Provincial Healthcare Guidelines.
  • New skills, and new tools may be needed in your duties as an online tutorial assistant/laboratory demonstrator. Learn these skills that are being recommended to you. Communicate with the TSSU if you recognize aspects of your assignment that could be optimized with other tools.
Financial →
  • New information regarding terms of study visas, funding opportunities, etc. are disseminated through Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies communications and International Student Services.

Additional Sources of Support

What technical support is available for me?

Added August 07, 2020

IT Service has some information and links to software and support. You can connect with them with questions.

You can also connect to SFU Library computers remotely, which can provide you with access to software on their computers.

I'm feeling anxious/isolated/lonely right now. Where can I go to get help with my mental health and/or well-being?

Updated August 07, 2020

Your health and well-being is important to us. In addition to the services offered through SFU’s Health & Counselling Services and MySSP, our office has collected and collated some resources to ensure that you are taking the time and space for self-care where ever you may find yourself at this time.

Additionally, the following are also available for you

I don't think I'm being treated fairly. Who can I contact for support?

Added prior to July 21, 2020

If you're not able to get support through the channels mentioned above, you can connect with the SFU Ombudsperson. They are an independent, impartial and confidential resource for students. They provide information and assistance on issues relating to students' rights and responsibilities, and University regulations, policies and procedures. Please contact them at and 778-782-4563.

I'd like some suggestions with how to transition to an online learning environment or help my undergrad students do so. What resources are available?

Added prior to July 21, 2020

SFU Centre for Educational Excellence has a number of workshops, resources, and helpful suggestions for remote learning. Graduate Students can take advantage of their support. SFU Student Services also prepared a toolkit for online learning that you might find useful.

Newly Admitted Students

Where can I learn more about being a graduate student at SFU?

Take a look around our Getting Started section of the website which includes information about getting connected with SFU systems, getting connected with other SFU students, and partaking in Orientation activities (including GPS's orientation, your department/programs, and more!)

You can also learn more about additional resources and support in our Community Guide.

What are my options for submitting my final transcripts?

Updated August 07, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we made adjustments for students who have been admitted for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Transcripts can be received digitally if sent from a secured service or directly from the institution. Please have them sent to

Students who were admitted Fall 2020 have until October 2020 to have them submitted.

Classes and Being on Campus

What services is SFU offering in person?

Added August 07, 2020

In collaboration with the federal, provincial, and SFU guidelines, SFU is working in accordance with a COVID-19 impact scale, determining recovery planning and implementation.

How do I know if my classes are held in person or remotely?

Added August 07, 2020

I have to come up to campus. What are the protocols for being on campus?

Starting August 10, we are asking everyone who visits our campuses to wear a non-medical mask in all indoor public areas. Public areas include building entryways and atriums, hallways, stairwells, washrooms, and study areas.

Even with limited numbers of people on campus, common areas can be congested, making it difficult to consistently maintain a safe physical distance. Non-medical masks are proven to protect others from the spread of the virus, so we ask everyone to do their part to protect each other. For those who are not able to wear a mask for medical or other reasons, please be especially careful to maintain a safe distance.

SFU branded washable cloth masks will also be available soon – stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, please take a moment to learn how to safely and effectively wear a mask.

COVID-19 prevention reminders

While safety plans are being developed with specific measures for activities in labs, offices and classrooms, the following reminders continue to be core to everyone’s health and safety:

  • Do not come to campus if you have any symptoms of illness
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Maintain a safe physical distance of six feet (two metres) from others at all times
  • Wear a mask when it is not possible to maintain a safe physical distance

I have to come up to campus. What is the cost for parking?

Added prior to July 21, 2020

Effective June 1, 2020, pay parking is back in effect for visitors. However, if you're a student and you don't have a permit, you can contact to request being put on a courtesy list for complimentary parking.

Newly Arriving Graduate Students to Canada

I am an international student who recently arrived in Canada and I’ve been asked to self-isolate. What does this mean?

Updated August 07, 2020

All travelers arriving in Canada are required by law to self-isolate (quarantine) for 14 days. Please see this self-isolation guide to learn more about how to self-isolate and what contactless options for getting food (necessities) are available.

I am an international graduate student and have questions regarding my immigration status (e.g, effect of taking distance learning courses online on my post-graduation work permit and/or can I start my program online from my home country). Who should I contact?

Added prior to July 21, 2020

Newly admitted international graduate students who have concerns about their immigration status (study permit, post-graduate work permit, visa) should contact an International Student Advisor, Immigration Specialist at International Services for Students. As every international student's situation is unique, Immigration Specialist with proper knowledge and training will provide more credible answers based on your program and individual circumstances. For more information, please visit COVID-19 FAQ for International Students.

Visiting Research Students (VRS)

I have plans to attend SFU as a Visiting Research Student for fall 2020. How is COVID-19 affecting these plans?

Added prior to July 21, 2020

Due to the continued impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic and Canadian travel advisories, the University has made the decision to suspend admission for Visiting Research Students (VRS) for fall 2020 and until further notice.

If you have already been approved for fall 2020, please contact your SFU supervisor to discuss your options. If you choose to start your research in a future term, once the global health crisis is resolved, you will need to submit a new application.

If you were planning on applying to become a VRS, we will not be accepting VRS applications until further notice.

If you have any questions, please contact your Graduate Program Assistant for additional information.