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Flex-Start Program for SEAS MS Students

GW SEAS offers admitted masters degree students the ability to start their MS degree program online through the Flex-Start program. The Flex-Start program is ideal for admitted students who may be impacted by travel restrictions or visa delays.  Students who participate in the Flex-Start program will have the ability to take one, two or three courses online during their first semester and then continue their studies in-person in Washington, DC starting the following semester (assuming they complete their courses in good academic standing and receive a valid F-1 visa prior to the start of the semester).

What quality can I expect from the Flex-Start Program?

us news best online program

Though typically known for facilities to promote research and innovation, GW SEAS is also extremely reputable when it comes to online education. GW SEAS currently ranks #15 in the country for online engineering masters programs and thus, will be able to leverage the resources already in place to provide top-quality education in an online capacity.

Who is eligible to participate in the Flex-Start Program? 

All students who have been admitted to the following on-campus master degree program for the Fall 2020 & Spring 2021 semesters, but who are experiencing some type of visa delay, travel restrictions or concerns regarding relocating to the Washington, DC area. 

  • Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering
  • Master of Science in Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Master of Science in Computer Engineering
  • Master of Science in Computer Science 
  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity in Computer Science
  • Master of Science in Data Analytics
  • Master of Science in Electrical Engineering 
  • Master of Science in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
  • Master of Science in Engineering Management
  • Master of Science in Systems Engineering
  • Master of Science in Telecommunications Engineering

 

What courses are available online during the Spring 2021 semester? 

SEAS is committed to providing our graduate students with the highest quality education, regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves. SEAS is preparing for all graduate-level courses to be taught online. Flex-Start students can register for any graduate-level SEAS course listed on the Spring 2021 schedule of classes.

Please note that new Spring 2021 students will not have access to register for classes until registration is open in mid-November.

We strongly encourage incoming students to schedule a virtual advising appointment with your Graduate Professional Advisor prior to registering for courses. Incoming MS students are eligible to register for any graduate-level SEAS course (6000 level course) listed in the Spring 2021 Schedule of Courses which are listed by academic department: 

*Please note that GW SEAS does have the discretion to cancel courses listed on the schedule due to low student enrollment.

How do I register for Flex-Start classes?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all SEAS graduate courses offered in Spring 2021 will be online. Flex-Start participants can register for any current SEAS graduate-level course listed on the course schedule for Spring 2021. There are no separate courses only for Flex-Start participants. To see the Spring 2021 course schedule, please visit this website and choose your academic department. For guidance on how to register for a course, please review the Office of the Registrar’s step-by-step instructions.

How many online courses can an incoming MS student register for if they are participating in the Flex-Start program for Spring 2021? 

Incoming MS students participating in Flex-Start may enroll in no more than three courses for a total of 9 credit hours for the Spring 2021 semester. F-1 visa-seeking students can take one, two or three courses as a Flex-Start student for the Spring 2021 semester (they are not required to enroll in a full-time course load of 9 credit hours as long as they participate in the Flex-Start program by participating in classes online prior to entering the US for the Fall 2021 semester). 

Are online courses taught asynchronously or synchronously? 

SEAS graduate courses will be taught in a combination of synchronous and asynchronous methods. Each course instructor will have the discretion to determine the best mode of instruction in order to meet the course objectives. For example, lectures may be pre-recorded and posted, and discussions may be scheduled for synchronous participation, as well as office hours will be synchronous at different times throughout the day to accommodate students located in different time zones. 

What systems will be utilized for online instruction? 

GW utilizes Blackboard and Webex for our video conferencing tool. Classes will primarily be taught on these two platforms. The course instructor may choose to use a different platform where appropriate. For example, a class could be taught in Blackboard Ultra and office hours held via Webex or a different platform that is accessible to the student and faculty member. 

What resources are available for students who are taking courses online? 

The majority of engineering applications are available for students to download and install on personal computers. Some applications are very resource intensive and require a powerful computer in order to work efficiently and effectively. Most applications are licensed explicitly for the use of individuals in the GW network therefore, students who wish to install these applications on their personal computers will need to use the GW VPN. SEAS also offers remote desktop access to our physical computer labs for students through the GW VPN. For those students who can not install the applications on personal computers, you will have access to our virtual computer labs that are available via any web-enabled device. 

For those students who may not have access to the GW VPN, we will provide additional information regarding platform accessibility prior to the start of the fall semester. 

For international students, we have provided the following resources to assist with online instruction: 

10 Tips for Online International Students

Teaching International Students in Online or Hybrid Context

Is there any required equipment needed in order to participate in online courses? 

A stable internet connection is the only requirement for students to effectively participate in online courses at SEAS. For any students looking to purchase a new computer or laptop for their graduate studies (even though it is not necessary), it is recommended that the laptop or computer has at least 16GB of memory, 1TB SSD, and a relatively new processor.

Do you have any other required courses listed on your admissions letter? 

If you have any specific courses listed on your admissions letter that are conditions to your admission, you must register for those courses for the Spring 2021 semester unless you have received written approval from your faculty advisor that you do not have to take these courses during your first semester in the MS program.

Information for 5-year program students:

I am an incoming 5-year program student starting my MS program in the fall semester. Can I take more than 3 courses if I’m participating in the Flex-Start program?

Yes, students who are participating in the 5-year program may take up to four courses online through the Flex-Start program during the fall semester.

Information for F-1 visa-seeking international students:

The International Services Office has published a Fall 2020 International Student FAQ page that provides more in-depth information which we encourage you to review.

I am a new F-1 visa student currently outside of the country planning to enter the United States for the Fall 2020 semester. Can I enroll in a full load of online classes while in the U.S.?

No, incoming F-1 students in new or initial status who are currently residing outside of the United States cannot enter the U.S. to pursue a full course of study that is fully online. Students in new or initial status must register for one in-person course if they plan to enter the United States for the Fall 2020 semester.

If you have an active F-1 visa and are planning on traveling to the United States for the Fall 2020 semester, you must notify the Office of Graduate Admissions & Student Services at [email protected]. We will work with you on a one-on-one basis to identify the proper in-person course for you to register for so that you can keep in compliance to maintain your F-1 visa.

I am a new F-1 transfer student for Fall 2020. Can I enroll in a full load of online classes?

If you are a transfer student who was actively enrolled at any U.S. institution since March 9, 2020 and have otherwise maintained your status, you are considered to be in continuing F-1 status and can enroll in online coursework at GW while in the U.S. with no limitation. You must arrive in the U.S. and complete the check-in process through the ISOGateway within 15 days of your program start date which is August 31, 2020. 

If you are a transfer student who plans to remain outside of the United States and are currently in initial transfer status, you must contact the International Services Office at [email protected] to arrange for a record correction with DHS when you decide to enter. The time period for correction may vary and is outside of the ISO’s control.

I don’t know yet if I will be impacted by visa delays or travel restrictions. Do I need to register for Flex-Start now?

We understand that many factors affecting your arrival in the U.S. may be last-minute and unpredictable. If you are interested in considering this option if needed for the fall semester, please just complete the required form below to receive further information. 

The deadline to opt into the Flex-Start program will be August 1, 2020. If you have not done so already, you will be required to submit your I-20 request documents, including valid financial documents, by August 15, 2020. You will still have the option to pursue your studies on-campus if circumstances allow!

Will the EAP course be offered online? 

Fall 2020 Online EAP: Students will have the opportunity to register for EAP online during the Fall 2020 semester. Students who elect to take online EAP in the fall will only be eligible to register for 2 other classes for a total of 9 credit hours of online coursework during the Fall 2020 semester.

If I am required to take EAP, will I need to take EAP during the fall semester if I participate in Flex-Start? 

SEAS will make an exception for incoming graduate students who participate in the Flex-Start program and are required to take EAP. We will extend the timeline of the condition and allow you the ability to fulfill the EAP requirement through the end of the Spring 2021 semester. This will allow those students to take EAP online during the Fall 2020 semester or take the course during the Spring 2021 semester depending on your preference. Information regarding EAP coursework is available here.

If I participate in the Flex-Start program will I be required to pay the Student Health Insurance Fee? 

Students participating in the Flex-Start program and taking courses online for the Fall 2020 semester, may defer their insurance reporting obligation until the Spring 2021 semester. Students must complete the Fall 2020 Waiver Form. Failure to complete the waiver will result in a student being enrolled and responsible for paying the Student Health Insurance Fee.

Will I still receive an I-20 form for the Fall 2020 semester if I participate in Flex-Start? 

Students who enroll in the Flex-Start program will not receive an I-20 form for the Fall 2020 semester but instead will receive an I-20 form for the Spring 2021 semester. We will work with students on a case-by-case basis to determine what documents are needed to receive the Spring 2021 I-20 form. If you choose to opt into the Flex-Start program after you have already received your Fall 2020 I-20 form, we will work with you to defer your SEVIS record and issue a new Spring 2021 I-20 form.

Will I be eligible for CPT if I participate in the Flex-Start program?

Students’ will be eligible for CPT after they have maintained their valid F-1 status in the US for a full academic year as is required by law. This means that students who enroll in the Flex-Start program for Fall 2020 and arrive on campus in Spring 2021 will become eligible for CPT at the end of the Fall 2021 semester.

Can I start my classes online in the Flex-Start program and then come to campus mid-way through the Fall 2020 semester if I receive my F-1 visa? 

As an F-1 visa-seeking Flex-Start student you will be receiving a Spring 2021 I-20 form, therefore you cannot arrive on campus until after the Fall 2020 courses are complete. You cannot enter the country mid-way through the semester as that will violate necessary F-1 visa regulations. You may enter the US thirty days prior to the program start date listed on your I-20 form, which will be set in January 2021.

I am a new F-1 visa student currently outside of the country planning to enter the United States for the Spring 2021 semester. Can I enroll in a full load of online classes while in the U.S.?

Current emergency COVID-19 provisions from the Department of Homeland Security for the Fall 2020 semester do not permit new initial F-1 students to enter the U.S. and enroll in a full course load of online classes. New initial F-1 students are currently allowed to enter the U.S. if they enroll in a minimum of at least 1 in person course. 

As of yet, SEVP and DHS have not issued any guidance regarding Spring 2021 and the permission of F-1 students to take classes online. For now, students who are outside of the U.S. and want to opt into the Flex-Start program for the Spring 2021 semester should plan to remain in their home country. As soon as SEVP finalizes guidance for the spring semester, we will update students accordingly.

I am a new F-1 transfer student for Spring 2021. Can I enroll in a full load of online classes?

Current emergency COVID-19 provisions from the Department of Homeland Security for the Fall 2020 semester permit students who have been actively enrolled at any U.S. institution since March 9, 2020 and have otherwise maintained their F-1 status to remain in continuing F-1 status and enroll in online coursework while in the U.S. with no limitation. 

As of yet, SEVP and DHS have not issued any guidance regarding Spring 2021 and the permission of F-1 students to take classes online. For now, students who are transferring their SEVIS record to GW should be allowed to enroll in a full course load of online classes. Should guidance be released that has different requirements for transfer F-1 students, we will update students accordingly.

I don’t know yet if I will be impacted by visa delays or travel restrictions. Do I need to register for Flex-Start now?

We understand that many factors affecting your arrival in the U.S. may be last-minute and unpredictable. If you are interested in considering this option if needed for the fall semester, please just complete the required form below to receive further information. 

The deadline to opt into the Flex-Start program will be December 1, 2020. If you have not done so already, you will be required to submit your I-20 request documents, including valid financial documents, by December 15, 2020. You will still have the option to pursue your studies on-campus if circumstances allow!

Will the EAP course be offered online? 

Spring 2021 Online EAP: Students will have the opportunity to register for EAP online during the Spring 2021 semester. Students who elect to take online EAP in the spring will only be eligible to register for 2 other classes for a total of 9 credit hours of online coursework during the Spring 2021 semester.

If I am required to take EAP, will I need to take EAP during the fall semester if I participate in Flex-Start? 

SEAS will make an exception for incoming graduate students who participate in the Flex-Start program and are required to take EAP. We will extend the timeline of the condition and allow you the ability to fulfill the EAP requirement through the end of the Fall 2021 semester. This will allow those students to take EAP online during the Spring 2021 semester or take the course during the Fall 2021 semester depending on your preference. Information regarding EAP coursework is available here.

If I participate in the Flex-Start program will I be required to pay the Student Health Insurance Fee? 

Students participating in the Flex-Start program and taking courses online for the Spring 2021 semester, may defer their insurance reporting obligation until the Fall 2021 semester. Students must complete a waiver form that we will share at a later date once it’s available. Failure to complete the waiver will result in a student being enrolled and responsible for paying the Student Health Insurance Fee.

Will I still receive an I-20 form for the Spring 2021 semester if I participate in Flex-Start? 

Students who enroll in the Flex-Start program will not receive an I-20 form for the Spring 2021 semester but instead will receive an I-20 form for the Fall 2021 semester. We will work with students on a case-by-case basis to determine what documents are needed to receive the Fall 2021 I-20 form. If you choose to opt into the Flex-Start program after you have already received your Spring 2021 I-20 form, we will work with you to defer your SEVIS record and issue a new Fall 2021 I-20 form.

Will I be eligible for CPT if I participate in the Flex-Start program?

Students’ will be eligible for CPT after they have maintained their valid F-1 status in the US for a full academic year as is required by law. This means that students who enroll in the Flex-Start program for Spring 2021 and arrive on campus in Fall 2021 will become eligible for CPT at the end of the Spring 2022 semester.

Can I start my classes online in the Flex-Start program and then come to campus mid-way through the Spring 2021 semester if I receive my F-1 visa? 

As an F-1 visa-seeking Flex-Start student you will be receiving a Fall 2021 I-20 form, therefore you cannot arrive on campus until after the Spring 2021 courses are complete. You cannot enter the country mid-way through the semester as that will violate necessary F-1 visa regulations. You may enter the US thirty days prior to the program start date listed on your I-20 form, which will be set in August 2021.

 

I’m interested in learning more about the Flex-Start Program option. Where can I find out more information?

Please complete the following form if you’re interested in learning more about the Flex-Start program and an administrator from the SEAS Office of Graduate Admissions & Student Services will follow up with additional information: