COVID-19 Admissions FAQs
We understand that COVID-19 is impacting students and families as they continue to make college decisions. During a time that should be filled with excitement for the future, we recognize the uncertainty and disappointment you may be feeling. While we don’t have all the answers, we want to help where we can, so we’ve put together the following information to address some commonly asked questions.
The university fully intends to welcome as many students on campus this fall as we can safely accommodate, both in our classrooms and in our residence halls. While we do not have all the details, all final decisions will be aligned with guidance from public health officials.
We anticipate a blend of in-person and remote instruction. Decisions will be made on a course-by-course basis. We will make every effort to accommodate each student in a manner consistent with their personal risk factors and protect those who are most vulnerable. The health and safety of our community remains our top priority.
To prepare for a successful reopening of campus, we will be implementing the following health and safety protocols:
- Our physical facilities are being reinvented to accommodate social distancing (room capacity limits including classrooms are being lowered, tables spaced out and signage displayed reminding people to social distance).
- We are creating a culture of wearing masks on campus.
- Plexiglass barriers are being installed at high-visited areas such as service desks, reception desks or retail check in/out areas to keep people safe and apart.
- Multiple hand-sanitizing stations are being installed throughout campus.
- Move-in days are being planned to avoid large congregations of students arriving at the same time.
- We will follow CDC and MDH guidelines for residence hall accommodation, limiting the number of students per bathroom.
- COVID-19 testing is currently in place on campus at the Center for Well-Being. Additional capacity for testing and contact tracing is anticipated prior to fall.
- A designated location has been established to safely quarantine and care for sick students should anyone test positive or show symptoms of COVID-19.
The above list represents just the start of what we are committed to do. As more information and guidelines become available, we will add to this list.
No matter what the future holds, we are prepared to take action to safeguard our community. While we have every intention of opening campus this fall, we have the technology infrastructure and faculty talent to pivot if needed. While we prefer to offer our education face-to-face, we are confident in our ability to continue to safely deliver a world-class education regardless of the circumstances.
With over 2,500 classes being offered in the fall, we are in the process of assessing each class to determine how it will be offered. Considerations that go into that decision include:
- Classroom capacity – All classrooms are being reconfigured to maximize capacity while ensuring compliance with social distancing guidelines.
- Classroom technology – All classrooms are being fitted with the appropriate equipment to offer in-person and synchronous online learning (i.e, simultaneous online instruction). Document cameras are available in each classroom to support remote capture of documents and new mobile cameras are being installed to capture a view of the instructor, whiteboard and classroom during synchronous sessions. In addition, microphone arrays to capture lecture, classroom discussion and Q&A are being installed and faculty are being supported with resources to ensure their course design is optimized for the type of instruction offered. Prior to COVID-19, St. Thomas was investing in experimentation with complementary online instruction, so there is a strong foundation from which to build further online capabilities.
- Faculty personal risk factors – All classes will continue to be 100% taught by St. Thomas faculty, who came to St. Thomas because they love teaching and nurturing personal relationships with students. Faculty with underlying conditions or other high-risk factors have the choice of being present in the classroom or teaching online. All other faculty are anticipated to have a classroom presence.
- Student personal risk factors – In most cases, first-year students with underlying conditions or other high-risk factors will have the opportunity to be fully online. If there are students in these categories who wish to take lab courses or courses requiring field experience (where in-person presence is necessary), we will work with them on scheduling options (postponing a particular course for a semester, for example) to make sure their needs are accommodated. All other students are anticipated to have a blend of in-person and online instruction. Assuming no further changes from the CDC or the Minnesota Department of Health, it is our goal for no student who wants an in-person experience to have a schedule that is fully on-line.
Taking into account the constraints above, we expect student academic experiences to look like some combination of the offerings below. Decisions on which classes will be offered in which format should be made by mid-June. The options will be:
- Online: A course offered fully online. This may happen when the faculty member teaching the course has a high personal risk factor and is not able to be in the classroom. In addition, some of our courses – and some academic programs – lend themselves particularly well to an online environment. These courses and programs will be offered online.
- Mixed-Mode Participation: These are courses that combine in-person experiences with varied levels of online engagement. Online engagement will be achieved through Zoom or Canvas. Faculty may use and adapt various models for this purpose. Course size, disciplinary content, schedule, and room capacity will all factor in as courses are developed. In-person class time will range from 25% to 75% in these courses. Some course design models that will be used and adapted are:
- Blended Design (sometimes called Hybrid): This approach accommodates both in-person and online learning, with the possibility for students to move from one to the other. The goal for blended courses is to provide in-person classroom engagement 50% of the time when room capacity permits.
- Co-Flex Design: These are courses that offer an in-person mode with one other option, either synchronous (online via Zoom during class time) or asynchronous (with engagement through our Canvas learning management system). Classroom capacity will shape how often students are in-person in the classroom for any given course. Our goal is for classrooms to hold at least 50% of registered students, so students would have the opportunity for in-person classes at least half the time.
- HyFlex Design: These courses are offered simultaneously in 3 modes: in-person, synchronous and asynchronous.
- In-person courses: For some courses with small enrollments, we may be able to offer a fully in-person experience. Even these courses, however, will have a Canvas presence that allows for a pivot to online if needed.
Faculty are preparing to respond with flexibility to accommodate students who need to be absent from class for health-related reasons, and, if necessary, to take their courses fully online, as we did last spring.
As mentioned above, 100% of our classes are taught by St. Thomas faculty. We hire and attract faculty who are committed to our mission and care deeply about students. St. Thomas is very proud of our reputation for personal attention and in our spring semester we generally were successfully able to translate that care for students into an online format. Below are some quotes from students from a survey conducted to understand their academic experiences this past spring:
“In more discussion-based courses, meeting at regularly scheduled times has been great. We have still been able to have the conversations we would have had in the classroom, and I feel I still got a lot out of that class.”
“Professors have been able to create productive and comfortable environments through Zoom. Despite not being able to be with one another in person, it eventually felt almost very similar to the in-person experience. Small group breakout rooms were very effective and allowed everyone to share, be heard, and interactive with each other more personally.”
“I believe St. Thomas has done a great job. All three of my courses are laid out differently online but they each work well exactly how they are laid out. One is a Zoom at normal class time, another is videos posted that you watch on your own time and the third is the professor on Zoom during our class times where you can ask questions or say hello while our teams find time during the week to work on our capstone project.”
The success of transitioning our spring classes online with less than a week’s notice to our students, staff and faculty, gives us confidence that with the advance planning and time afforded by preparing for fall now, we will be in a position to offer the whole-person, rigorous academic education for which we are known, regardless of format.
The university has extended its first-year, domestic deposit deadline date to June 1, 2020. We realize, however, the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the pandemic will cause many families to feel uncertainty well beyond this date.
Students who submit deposits by the June 1, 2020 deadline may be eligible for a refund if the university’s intentions for housing or in-person learning change for the fall. We will update this information as decisions progress throughout the summer. We understand your plans may change if we have to limit housing or offer online courses and will work with you if those decisions need to be made.
Students admitted for fall 2020 will have the option to defer their admission to spring 2021 with no changes to their spring semester merit-based institutional scholarships (with one exception – the Common Good Award). All other funds awarded may be subject to change based on individual program requirements. The intention is to be as flexible as possible and accommodate students on a case-by-case basis. Please contact your admissions counselor with any questions.
We are available to answer any questions you have and talk through your personal situation. While our staff is currently working remotely (as advised by the CDC and the State of Minnesota) we continue to remain available in the following ways:
- Call the Office of Admissions at (651) 962-6150. Our phone will be answered from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Outside of those hours, we will be sure to follow up quickly to any voicemail messages.
- Send us email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your admissions counselor and let us know how we can help.
- Schedule a virtual campus visit.
Due to COVID-19, we've decided to modify our 2020 Orientation & Registration (O&R) Programs. All advising and registration-related activities will be online this summer and in-person orientation activities will take place during Welcome Days in early September.
We remain committed to offering a significant experience for students that allows them to build connections with each other, explore their academic futures and be equipped for success at St. Thomas. We will do this while maintaining as much of personal attention and care that you’ve come to expect from us.
Students will engage in online content that will provide foundational information about the curriculum and course registration and make personal connections with academic counselors and faculty. Students fall class schedules will be confirmed by the end of July, just as they would in our in-person programs. Additional optional online opportunities will take place throughout the summer for students to connect with upperclassmen leaders, have questions answered, and help them meet and connect with classmates before they get to campus.
It's currently our plan for students to come to campus in early September and participate in a dynamic and engaging in-person orientation program that expands on their summer content – building deeper connections with one another and their new community and settling into their new experience as Tommies in the Class of 2024.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered our original plans for welcoming our newest students to St. Thomas, we will not let it stop us from giving you the richest experience possible as you become Tommies.
During the time that our staff is working remotely, we will only be receiving USPS mail a few times a week. We will honor postmark dates for all confirming deposits and other paperwork sent through the mail, but want you to be aware of the delays we will experience in receiving it. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to confirm if we have received mail that you have sent.
We know that school districts are making individual decisions about how to handle online learning and grading. We will be understanding of these decisions and also flexible and compassionate as we review high school and college transcripts.
Seniors (class of 2020): We will continue to require an official final high school transcript (that includes a graduation date) and will ask that you send this prior to starting classes at St. Thomas in the fall. You will not be penalized if the transcript contains pass/fail grades from spring 2020. This will not affect your admission or scholarship offers. Be mindful that senior grades do matter. We will review your final high school transcript and may contact you if your performance in your senior year is not consistent with the grades we used to make your admission decision. Finish strong!
Juniors and younger (class of 2021 and younger): As we review your application in future years, we will be aware of the reasons your transcript may contain pass/fail grades during spring 2020. We encourage you to share your story when applying for admission. Let us know how COVID-19 impacted your learning and grades/GPA this spring. Letters from high school teachers may also help to give us a better understanding of your situation. For example, if you were getting a strong grade and then your school moved to pass/fail grading, knowing of the grading directly from the teacher will have a positive impact on the review of your application.
Transfer students: We encourage you to share your story when applying for admission. Let us know how COVID-19 impacted your learning and grades/GPA this spring. Letters from professors may also help to give us a better understanding of your situation.
St. Thomas will continue to honor our policies on accepting Advanced Placement test results, even though the COVID-19 virus is impacting how tests are being administered.
Although International Baccalaureate exams will not be administered this year, the IB Organization has announced that it will centrally score IB subjects and Diplomas (using the same scale as the IB examinations). St. Thomas will grant credit based on these scores, as outlined in our existing credit policies.
The cancellation of spring ACT and SAT tests will most greatly impact high school juniors who will now miss out on an opportunity to take these standardized tests. Earlier this year, St. Thomas made the decision to become a test-optional school beginning with those students applying for admission in the fall of 2021. We will begin accepting applications for fall of 2021 in August and students will have the option to send a test score if they have one or apply without a standardized test.
Seniors who planned to take a standardized test this spring to improve their chance of admission should connect with their admissions counselor to talk through their personal situation.
Due to COVID-19, the deadline to submit confirming and housing deposits and to request a refund has been extended from May 1, 2020 to June 1, 2020. We encourage you to submit deposits as soon as you’ve decided on St. Thomas so we can continue to send you all the important information that our future Tommies will receive this spring and summer.
We continue to review new applications on a rolling basis and expect to review applications and award financial aid and scholarships throughout the summer.
We understand that your financial circumstances may be in a state of flux. We have processes in place to help you with your special circumstances and to potentially give you the opportunity to appeal for additional financial aid. To get help navigating these processes we encourage you to: