Updates: COVID-19, Our Office, and Your Graduate School and Fellowship Plans

Update: June 1, 2020
As the university begins to implement a phased return to campus operations, we encourage everyone to stay informed by frequently checking for updates on the dedicated reopening website. In particular, we draw your attention to the Principles for the Return to On-Campus Research, which make clear that absent “extraordinary circumstances in which undergraduate students’ skills are essential to a program,” undergraduates should not be resuming on-campus research at this time.

Update: March 25, 2020
COVID-19, Pass/Fail, and Your Fellowship and Graduate School Plans

We have heard from a few Huskies who are concerned about how COVID-19 will impact their graduate school and fellowship futures. Here’s our update for you:

REMEMBER. You are irreplaceable and your health is invaluable. Taking care of your health and that of others is the top priority.

I’m worried about my GPA! Will earning a “bad” grade hurt my chances of getting into the best graduate school program (MS, PhD)? Will taking a course Pass/Fail ruin my chances of getting into the best graduate school program?
Applications to graduate schools involve many different components and an anomalous grade during a pandemic is unlikely to make or break your future. They are looking for broader patterns of success in a number of places. That said, the process involves so many different departments, where decision-making about admission gets made, that uniform advice is difficult. Our faculty experts’ general advice is that the people who make graduate school decisions are people living through this disruption, just like you, and taking one or two courses Pass/Fail, even in core courses, will not harm your chances of getting into graduate school, particularly if you have strong grades otherwise. However, not doing as well as you might otherwise have done will also notharm your chances either and will certainly be understandable to reviewers given the situation. Again, particularly true if your other grades are strong. What we’ve heard from folks is that if you think you may earn a B- or below in an in-major course, consider going Pass/Fail. Otherwise, B or above, better to take an in-major course for a grade if your plans involve graduate school. Remember, you and your references can always explain exigent circumstances in your application materials, whether they are COVID-19 related or not. In any case, reach out to your professors, most of whom will likely be understanding and help to accommodate health or family related needs. Also, remember, you don’t need to decide until April 14. See how things go.

I’m worried about my GPA! Will earning a “bad” grade or taking a course Pass/Fail ruin my chances of earning a fellowship?
Many fellowship competitions involve some type of application to a graduate program, so the advice above pertains. They likely also involve applications sent not to graduate programs but to fellowships selection committees. These selection committees are likely to be quite understanding and are seeking people with patterns of success in cultural engagement, intellectual work, leadership, and service. If the pattern is strong prior to this semester, making sense of an anomaly will be possible. The applications exist to introduce you to selection committees and to help you and them make sense of your life experience so far. Do your best and make your decisions in conversation with your professors, faculty mentors, and our office.

I’m worried about my GPA! Will taking a class Pass/Fail harm my future in the law?
Law school admissions tend to be a bit more standard across institutions. The advice prior to COVID-19 for applicants still seems mostly relevant.  In normal times, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) does not compute/convert courses taken Pass/Fail into their GPA calculations. The goal is not to take too many courses Pass/Fail, avoid taking courses that are pre-requisites or in your major Pass/Fall, and get a high overall GPA. Because of the COVID-19 circumstances and the fact that Pass/Fail is an official Northeastern response to these circumstances, our pre-law advisor in Career Design, Montgomery Thomas, notes that most law school admissions committees will not look at Pass/Fail grades for this term in a negative light. In your application, you would also have the opportunity to disclose any impacts the crisis might have had on your performance. Admissions will still vary by institution, though, so try to do well in courses that are in-major and pre-requisites to avoid having to use Pass/Fail, but if you think you will earn a B- or below in your major courses, take the option. Again, talk to your professors and see where the situation is by April 14. We also recommend reaching out to Montgomery Thomas, who advises Northeastern students about the law school admissions process in Career Services.

How admissions teams will make decisions is evolving so keep checking in — and you may want to participate in the LSAC Webinar for prospective law applicants on Friday, March 27, from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Eastern time about “Law School Admission in the Time of COVID-19” to hear from Deans from schools around the country.

I’m worried about my GPA! Will taking a class Pass/Fail harm my future in the health professions?
Our pre-health advising team has sketched out some important things to think about for those of you who may want to go into the health professions. Take a deep breath and take a look at their guidance.

I applied for the Gilman Scholarship in March, what’s happening?
The Gilman Program is delaying the review of Gilman applications submitted in March 2020. In addition, the Gilman Program will require any students awarded Gilman Scholarships for summer programs (i.e. those beginning between May 1 and July 31, 2020) to defer their awards to programs starting no earlier than August 1. We are prepared to work with March applicants to identify alternative study abroad options if their proposed programs were slated to begin before Aug. 1 and they are awarded a Gilman Scholarship.

What’s happening with the Fulbright Scholarship?
The Fulbright Program for 2019-2020 is now suspended for all U.S. participants currently out on their grants because of the Level 4 Travel Advisory. Grants are still being made for those who put applications in during the fall of 2019 for the upcoming grant year, 2020-2021. We hope that international travel and study will be resuming by the time those awards would be scheduled to start but there is uncertainty. The Fulbright competition cycle for 2021-2022 will take place and the new application portal is scheduled to open on March 31. We anticipate helping students with applications throughout the spring, summer, and fall when the next round of applications comes due. Recent alums and people graduating in 2021, write to to access our latest information sessions about applying for the Fulbright, available soon virtually.

Will the other major fall fellowships have competitions?
So far, we believe that all of the major distinguished fellowships will be running competitions through spring and heading into the fall.

What’s your best advice to me?
Don’t worry too much. Do your best. Reach out to your professors and advisors for help and assistance. Your health and well-being matter.

Original Post: March 12, 2020
As members of our community are certainly aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant changes to Northeastern University’s programs and operations, including the transition to online instruction on the Boston campus. We would like to let you know how we anticipate these changes might affect the work of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. The response to COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, and further adjustments may be necessary. We encourage everyone to stay informed by checking the university’s dedicated COVID-19 website frequently and to use Find@Northeastern 24/7 mental health support resources.

Workshops and Information Sessions
We will transition all of our workshops and information sessions to a virtual format. Students should continue to register for these events as normal, and registrants will be contacted with information about how to access the virtual programs.

Appointments and Advising
Appointments and advising sessions for Faculty Fellows and staff will continue to be available but will be held virtually. Please see our Open Office Hours Page for more information.

Spring 2020 PEAK Experiences Awards
We have contacted current recipients of PEAK Experiences Awards with information about transitioning their PEAK Awards presentations to a virtual format.

Summer 2020 PEAK Experiences Awards
Many proposed research and creative projects will need to be modified in light of current guidance. Please consult with your faculty mentor about the advisability of moving forward with your project and the modifications you may need to make to it. While not an exhaustive list, the following considerations are likely to come into play:

  • Travel. The university has suspended all non-essential domestic and international travel. Because we do not know how long these restrictions will last, the Summer 2020 PEAK Experiences Awards will not fund any travel.
  • Move to remote and online learning. Learners may be away from Northeastern’s campuses and on-campus activity is likely to be limited.
  • Social distancing. The university has canceled non-essential large events. Projects that involve extensive face-to-face interaction with other people will likely require adaptation in light of best practices for social distancing.

We are asking you, in consultation with your mentors, to give serious thought not only to the practical and logistical implications of this situation, but also to the ways in which your projects’ goals and outcomes might need to shift. What can you do that is interesting, significant, and meaningful—even if this differs somewhat from your original idea—while keeping yourself safe and well and protecting the health and well-being of others within our communities?

We are extending several of our deadlines and asking PEAK Experiences Awards applicants to supplement their applications with a narrative describing how they plan to adapt their projects in light of these considerations—including goals, outcomes, methodology, and timeline.


  • Although Trail-Blazer Award applications have already been submitted, review of these applications will be paused while applicants consult with their mentors and produce a supplemental narrative detailing modifications to their proposed projects. This supplemental narrative can be submitted through March 26 via a new section that will appear within the application. You can access your application via “My Applications” within Northeastern’s Internal Fellowships Portal.
  • The deadline for Ascent and Summit Award applications is extended until March 26 so that applicants can consult with their mentors and produce a supplemental narrative detailing modifications to their proposed projects. This supplemental narrative can be submitted via a new section that will appear within the application.
  • The deadline for Base Camp Awards remains May 11. Base Camp proposals will not require a supplemental narrative; rather, the entire application should take the COVID-19 situation into account.
  • The Campfire Chat and Shout-It-Out Awards are on hiatus until further notice.

The well-being of everyone in the Northeastern community is always paramount, and we encourage you all to take care of yourselves and one another as we navigate these challenging times together. Contact us if you encounter questions or challenges moving forward.