Admissions | Fall 2020 FAQ

FAQ - Fall 2020 Incoming Students

A list of frequently asked questions for fall 2020 incoming students can be found below. For all other questions, including questions on stipends, travel to Houston, or questions about your specific case, you are encouraged to reach out to your graduate program administrator.

Rice Systems Access

When will I be able to access my student account?

Once your offer is accepted, Rice begins the process of setting up your student record, including your ESTHER login, netID and Rice email. This process is typically complete by early June, or within 2-3 weeks of offer acceptance. If you have not received a ‘Welcome to Rice’ email from after this time has passed, please check your spam mail first, then contact for assistance. Please refer to this email to set up all of your Rice accounts.


Will there be an online option for orientation?

Orientation will be reformatted based on University social distancing principles. The mandatory plenary session on Wednesday will be offered online asynchronously. Other orientation events are still in the planning phases.

Will all required training be available online for those who cannot be on campus?

Yes. Details are forthcoming and will be emailed to you as plans are finalized. The Responsible Conduct of Research and Sexual Harassment Prevention training are already online and information can be found here. Lab Safety Training will be available online, and details will be forthcoming.

Fall 2020 courses

Will classes be held online this fall?

The university is planning for a combination of in-person and online classes, beginning August 24 and ending November 20. All classes held in-person will also be available online. More information is available here.

How will classes be held online for students in different time zones? Will classes be recorded? Will there be flexibility in communicating with professors?

All sessions will be recorded solely for access by those in the class, particularly to enable those who are in substantially different time zones to reasonably access the classroom instruction. More information can be found here. We encourage you to stay in active contact with your instructors and work with them on particular issues of concern.

If I am able to arrive in Houston at some point this fall, am I able to take online classes instead of in-person classes, due to COVID-19 concerns for myself or those close to me who may be high-risk?

All classes, with very limited approved exceptions, will be delivered in dual mode, that is available both on campus and remote delivery simultaneously. Because certain members of our community, such as those with underlying health conditions, are especially vulnerable, they may choose not to be in the on-campus classroom setting and will be accommodated. International students should consult with OISS upon arrival for specific requirements as it relates to their visa. More here.

When will we choose our classes? How do we sign up for classes?

Course registration for incoming fall 2020 students will open on August 20. Course selections can be found here, and students can register for courses via ESTHER.

When should I contact my advisor to talk about classes I need to take?

Students are advised to consult with their graduate program advisor(s) prior to registering for courses. Your graduate program administrator should be your first point of contact to determine how advising will work within your graduate program. You will find your program handbook helpful in determining your course selection. Your administrator can help you locate this handbook. Handbooks, as they are updated for 2020, will also be listed in your program’s General Announcements Page. (Example.)


What should I do if my visa appointment is later than expected?

If you are able to request an expedited appointment once your original appointment is set, we encourage you to do so. If you cannot be in Houston for the start of the fall semester, courses can be taken online. We look forward to welcoming you to campus whenever you are able to arrive. Please update your Incoming Student Survey as you schedule your visa appointment and arrange your travel.

When will I receive my I-20?

The Office of International Students and Scholars will begin working on your immigration documents as soon as your student record has been created. At that point you will be able to upload all the necessary documents through your secure OISS Portal account, where you can also track the progress of your I-20 processing. Between the months of April and June the OISS office is handling a very high volume of admissions paperwork and our goal is to get I-20s out as quickly as possible. For more information, please see the OISS Portal Info Page


In the event that I am not able to travel for fall semester 2020, is it possible to defer until spring 2021?

For all questions regarding deferrals, including deadlines, process to request, and opportunities, please contact your graduate program administrator to discuss the options available to you. Deferrals are not automatically granted.


I may not be able to get to Houston before the semester begins. Are there resources to help me search for housing?

Currently there are still openings at the Rice Graduate Apartments and the Rice Village Apartments. New university-owned graduate townhomes will also be opening in the fall. Students who have already accepted their housing offer and made a deposit may contact Housing and Dining before mid July and choose the option to be waitlisted if they do not anticipate a September arrival. Graduate housing then will be offered on a first-arrived first-placed basis until the property is filled. If the property becomes full before the end of the Fall 2020 term, Housing and Dining plans to assist incoming students that have applied to campus housing with identifying short and long term places to live. The housing market in Houston is not tight at this time; many apartment buildings that are typically 95% occupied are now seeing occupancy rates of 80%.

Once your student record has been created, you will begin receiving the GSA weekly announcements. Sublets, roommate requests and apartment shares are frequently listed here and in several Rice Facebook groups such as the GSA Facebook Group,Rice University Housing, Sublets & Roommates, and Rice Students Selling Things(you’ll need a Rice email to join this one). The Graduate Student Association has a searchable tool of off-campus housing available here.

Am I able to be refunded my deposit for on-campus housing?

Students currently offered and accepting apartments will be offered an opportunity to request a full refund of their security deposit in mid July if they cannot fulfill the agreement by September 1, 2020. Students may also choose the option to be waitlisted and will be eligible to be placed in graduate housing on a first-arrived first-placed basis until the property is filled. If the property becomes full and cannot fulfill the housing request, Housing and Dining will refund the deposit.

Health Data Forms, Health Insurance

I am worried I cannot make the July 1 deadline for the Health Data Form.

The form will still be accepted after the deadline. Students who do not submit the form by July 1 will have a hold placed on their record that will prevent them from registering for classes until it is turned in. During peak times, clearing this hold could take up to 3 days, so we encourage you not to wait until the last moment. Please note that note that you must complete the health history, TB screening questionnaire and vaccine record. A physical exam is not required for this year. More.

The deadline to enroll in an insurance plan is August 28. If I cannot be in Houston on this date, will I be able to wait until I will arrive in Houston to register and pay for my plan?
  • Students that do not expect to arrive in the United States before August 28, will not be required to participate in open enrollment and will not be required to have health insurance until they arrive in the United States. Please make sure that your arrival plans have been updated in the Incoming Student Survey if this situation will apply to you. When you move to the United States you will be required to enroll in the Aetna Student Health plan or the Alternative SAS plan (for international students only) in accordance with the health insurance policy. Both plans will be available for enrollment as a Qualifying Life Event based on the move to the United States. The premiums will be prorated based on the date of enrollment. Domestic students arriving from abroad will still be eligible to seek a waiver if they have insurance that meets waiver requirements.
  • Students in the United States but not in the Greater Houston area before August 28, will be required to participate in the open enrollment/waiver process and must have health insurance that meets our waiver requirements in their current location. When they arrive on campus they are required to change their health insurance plan or re-verify that they have an insurance plan that will meet our waiver requirements in Houston. The premiums will be prorated based on the date of enrollment.
  • The Medical Insurance Subsidy for eligible students will be prorated based on the date of enrollment in the plan.
  • Additional information can be found on the Student Health Insurance website, questions related to health insurance may be directed to
Will any immunizations be required?

All information regarding required health data can be found here

Will the university require me to quarantine upon arrival in the United States?

Policies regarding travel and quarantine can be found here.

Rice University and the Coronavirus

How will the campus be different given the current pandemic?

Because of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we are sure you have many questions about fall semester at Rice. Please know that everyone at Rice is working diligently on details of the precautions we will take on campus this fall. Please feel free to review our website to learn more about measures Rice is taking to keep our community healthy.