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Actually, Stanford says you can’t come to campus. Now what?

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One day after announcing that 43 students on campus tested positive, Stanford has canceled plans to bring frosh and sophomores to campus for winter quarter

Students with approved special circumstances and resident assistants (RAs) had already begun to move to campus, and will be allowed to continue to reside on campus. But, if you were planning to move to campus starting Jan. 21, you may have to change your plans. So what are your options?

Applying for special circumstances housing 

Because some frosh and sophomores may not have applied for special circumstances housing, Stanford is offering a new application period for students who did not previously apply. If you are considering seeking campus housing in this way, you should fill out a ServiceNow ticket and explain your situation by 5 p.m. on Jan. 17. 

Special circumstances cover international students who might face travel or visa complications, as well as students who live in home environments that prevent them from being able to participate in remote learning, or who live in home environments which are unsafe. They also include undergraduates with a compelling academic need or other special needs. 

Attending classes online from home

Classes and student support services will continue to be fully available online, as they were in the fall, according to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell. Aside from undergraduates with approved special circumstances and undergraduate RAs, the bulk of Stanford students will likely be continuing their education online this quarter.

Stanford announced in September that it enrolled 1,676 first-year and transfer students during the fall quarter, compared to 1,701 last year. Around 20% of first-year students chose to take a gap year. About 82% of last fall’s number of undergraduates enrolled full time this fall. Another 9% took a Flex Term (explained below). 

Instructors have attempted to make the best of the situation. Some studio art professors found creative solutions, including mailing 3D printers to students to address the loss of campus resources. Instructors teaching lab classes have shipped lab kits and utilized virtual simulations to recreate a hands-on experience. 

However, international students have cited difficulties adjusting to time zone gaps, with some waking up in the early hours of the morning or late at night to attend synchronous courses. Still other students have said mandatory video policies in classes can create negative impacts. 

Online classes aren’t for you? Undergraduate students have two options: a leave of absence or a Flex Term. 

Leave of Absence (LOA)

If you take an LOA, you’ll retain your admitted student status, but you won’t be registered and will not have the rights and privileges of registered students. For first year students, a leave lasts the rest of the current academic year. After your first year, you can take a leave for one, two or more quarters. Students are usually allowed up to eight quarters of leave during their academic career, but due to the pandemic an LOA taken in the 2020-21 academic year will not count against the eight-quarter maximum. 

If you have Cardinal Care health insurance, it will still be available during your leave. Your Stanford email account will continue to be available. 

The LOA deadline for a full refund was extended to Tuesday Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. The deadline to submit an LOA request for a partial refund is Friday, Feb. 19, at 5 p.m. After, an LOA is only granted for “approved health or emergency reasons with supporting documentation.” However, if you submit an application after the Final Study List deadline on Jan. 29, it will result in a “W” notation on your transcript for all registered courses.

International students are encouraged to consult the Bechtel International Center to discuss the impacts of an LOA. If you’re an international student, taking a leave could impact your ability to stay in the United States. 

Instructions regarding how to file for an LOA can be found here. After filling out the eForm located in Axess, you will need to schedule a meeting with your academic advisor to discuss the leave and obtain their signature on the form. Then you’ll need to get the endorsement of your residence dean (whom you can find here). After you’ve obtained all the necessary signatures, the form will be routed to the registrar’s office for final approval.

As long as you return on the date indicated on your LOA form, there’s no special process to register for courses again. 

Flex Term

In Stanford’s traditional four quarter model, students are expected to enroll in fall, winter and spring quarters, and usually take summer off. However, this year undergraduates can enroll in any three of the four quarters, with the remaining quarter considered a Flex Term

During a Flex Term, undergraduates and coterm students on undergraduate billing can enroll in up to five units of coursework for free. But course fees still apply for music courses, and sliding-scale aid is available to all students taking lessons. 

During a Flex Term, you are not required to enroll in classes,  and you don’t have to file an LOA. You can indicate that you are taking a Flex Term in the Quarterly Check-In in Axess through Jan. 29 at 5 p.m.

This article has been updated to reflect that the deadline to request an LOA has been extended to Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 5 p.m.

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Newsroom Development Director
Emma Talley is from Sacramento, California. She is the volume 260 Newsroom Development director, and has served as a two-time news editor. She previously worked for the San Francisco Chronicle with the metro team covering breaking news and K-12 education. She's obsessed with coffee. Contact her at etalley 'at' stanforddaily.com or news 'at' stanforddaily.com.