Pre-arrival requirements for Penn State students for return to campus, community

Student compact, pre-arrival checklist for returning to campus

As part of Penn State’s Back to State plans, the University has shared requirements for students to meet prior to returning to campus and local communities this semester. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of Penn State’s Back to State plans shared at a town hall meeting in preparation for the fall, the University has developed requirements and expectations for students to meet prior to returning to campus and local communities this semester. Along with stocking up on face masks, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectant wipes, students should prepare for back to school by reviewing the following criteria and completing these steps.

Before returning to Penn State, all undergraduate and graduate students at every campus location must:

  • Read and sign the new required “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” that outlines expectations for the semester.
  • Complete mandatory pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, if notified. Select students living in counties across the United States with high infection rates will be contacted by the University on an individual basis in August to complete mandatory testing.
  • Self-quarantine for at least 7 days immediately prior to arrival.
  • Review Penn State and local requirements for masking and social distancing.

Students who are already living on campus or have moved in to off-campus housing should also complete the above steps before the start of classes.

“We are looking forward to welcoming all of our students back to our campuses this fall. While this will be a different kind of semester than any we have experienced before, these criteria have been developed to support the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and community members in accordance with public health guidance and our own infectious disease specialists,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “We know our students want to do their part to not only help reduce transmission of the virus within the community, but also to increase our chances and ability of remaining on campus for the semester. These are concrete steps students must take as Penn Staters to do their parts.”

In preparation for the semester, the University developed the “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” for students to acknowledge their responsibility and to agree to follow the rules outlined in the compact, as well as other directives from the University, to protect campus and local communities from the risks posed by COVID-19. Students who are not able to sustain these commitments throughout the semester may forfeit their ability to continue with on-campus activities, classes and living.

“We know this is a uniquely challenging time for many of our students, and our goal is to help support you, provide necessary resources, and also set clear expectations and requirements for this semester — as the behavior of one individual can impact the collective,” said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs. “I urge every student to take their behavior seriously — whether on or off campus — and to consider the impact of your decisions not only on your own health, but that of your friends, teachers, staff and local community members.”

The following offers additional information about each pre-arrival requirement and expectations:

Read and sign the “Penn State Coronavirus Compact”

All students will be given access to carefully read and sign the “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” in LionPATH in August. The agreement covers a variety of critical topics and health and safety expectations and requirements for the upcoming semester, including agreeing to participate in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing throughout the semester, isolate or quarantine if needed, wear face masks and social distance on campus, adhere to travel policies, and get a flu vaccination when available. The agreement also covers potential consequences for failing to abide by the compact in ways that risk others’ health and safety, such as through the student conduct process.

Self-quarantine for at least 7 days immediately prior to arrival

Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected without feeling symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others and monitor their health. Students should fulfill this requirement in order to reduce the impact of the virus on the community.

All students:

  • Should self-quarantine — even if you do not feel sick or have no symptoms — for at least 7 days immediately prior to your arrival on campus, prior to moving into off-campus housing, or prior to starting classes if you are already living off-campus.
  • For those who are sick, think you have been exposed to COVID or are experiencing symptoms, should continue to isolate and not return to campus until cleared by a medical professional in accordance with CDC guidance.
  • If you test positive at a location away from campus, including in a different state, you should immediately contact University Health Services.

Complete pre-arrival COVID-19 testing

As part of the University’s comprehensive pre-arrival, asymptomatic and symptomatic testing and contact tracing strategy, in August, Penn State will contact approximately 30,000 students, faculty and staff who have been chosen for pre-arrival COVID-19 testing based solely on the infection rates in the counties where they reside. Students living in coronavirus “hot spots,” or areas with high or rising virus rates, will be sent a COVID-19 test kit in the mail and asked to complete the test before returning to campus, moving into on-campus residence halls or beginning classes.

Students selected for mandatory pre-arrival testing:

  • Will be contacted by email in August with instructions regarding how to register for testing. They will then be mailed a kit with instructions for taking and mailing the test back.
  • Tests results will be shared with the student and the University. Those who test positive should not travel to campus until they are cleared to come to campus by a health care provider in accordance with CDC guidance. 

Review Penn State and local requirements for masking and social distancing

To reduce the risk of widespread virus transmission and in alignment with public health guidelines and Gov. Tom Wolf’s requirements for higher education institutions, students will be required to wear face masks and practice social distancing at all times in campus buildings and wear face masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Per a statewide order, wearing face masks is mandatory in Pennsylvania in public places and outside when social distancing is not possible, including, for example, when on a busy sidewalk, waiting in line or congregating when others are present.

By signing the “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” students will agree to:

  • Wear face coverings at all times in campus buildings, outdoors when you cannot social distance from others, and wherever state or local laws require.
  • Honor the physical distancing requirements established in classrooms, other campus locations, and all other gatherings on campus; do so in any other context off-campus that requires distancing.
  • Follow guidance from the University and other authorities, including signage, postings, emails and other notifications.

Students also should review local policies, as communities across the state, including State College Borough, have passed or are exploring mask-wearing ordinances that could include warnings or citations for those who do not comply.

As previously shared, the University will provide every student with two cloth face masks at the start of the semester. More information will be soon be provided for how and when students living on and off campus can collect their masks.

Additional pre-arrival considerations for students

To help students navigate the new complexities of academic and campus life this semester, a Student Coronavirus Handbook will be shared with students across Penn State’s campuses this fall. The handbook will contain guidance about a variety of topics — from what to do if you are sick to contact tracing, isolation and quarantine protocols — and information about helpful campus resources.

In addition, students should:

For the latest updates and information on Penn State’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including frequently asked questions and information specific for students, faculty and staff, visit

Last Updated September 22, 2020