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Fall 2021 Plans

Posted by on Thursday, March 25, 2021 in .

Vanderbilt University this week announced that fall semester classes will be offered in person.  

Positive trends related to COVID-19 case counts and vaccinations continue, and recent progress on campus is encouraging—made possible in part through diligent observation of safety protocols.  

While the decision signals a step toward the life we recognize, it was made with an eye to the dynamic reality of the pandemic. The university’s priority remains ensuring the health and safety of students, postdocs, faculty and staff as much as possible, and current COVID-19 testing and safety protocols remain in place. Should the status of the pandemic change dramatically over the spring and summer, or should public health guidance advise against in-person instruction, an alternative option may be required.  

University leaders continue to monitor the pandemic to inform the full fall semester plan, and additional information will be shared in the coming weeks. 

Fall academic calendar

  • In-person, on-campus undergraduate classes will begin Aug. 25 and conclude Dec. 10. Pending updated public health data and travel guidelines in the fall, all undergraduate students will return to campus after the Thanksgiving holiday to complete the final two weeks of classes and take exams in person. The semester will conclude Dec. 18. 
  • Academic calendars for graduate and professional programs will largely follow the undergraduate schedule, beginning Aug. 25 and concluding Dec. 10. Students will return to campus after the Thanksgiving holiday to complete the final two weeks of classes and take exams, if applicable, in person. The semester will conclude Dec. 18. Specific schools may have slight schedule variations. All students will receive additional information from their respective schools with full calendar details. 
  • The university will observe Fall Break Oct. 1415. Information about travel guidance and restrictions during that time will be determined based on updated public health travel guidelines in the fall.   
  • Undergraduate and graduate students will receive an additional reading day Dec. 8 to supplement regular reading days Dec. 1112 during final exams. 
  • Students must request a Leave of Absence through the appropriate school official if they cannot engage in in-person instruction on campus and do not have an approved accommodation. 

Study abroad programming

In anticipation of improved conditions for international travel, the Global Education Office will be offering a limited number of study abroad programs for fall 2021. Vanderbilt’s Global Safety & Security team and GEO will closely monitor identified programs through the spring, and final decisions about whether travel can proceed will be made on a location-by-location basis this summer. Applications are open now; for more information, visit GEO’s website. 

Fall housing for Continuing Upper-Division Students

Vanderbilt will welcome as many students back to campus as is possible. The university is a residential campus for undergraduate students, and that experience is an integral part of a Vanderbilt education. Information was shared March 18 about the fall housing assignment process. 

Housing registration for the 202122 academic year will begin April 1 and close April 5 at 6 p.m. CT. All students who plan to enroll in courses at Vanderbilt for the fall 2021 semester must register for the process during this time using the online Housing Portal. 

Students currently authorized to live off campus will be permitted to reside off campus for the 202122 academic yearonly if they properly register and re-apply between April 1-5. Failure to apply for off-campus authorization will result in a loss of authorization for the 202122 academic year, and the student will be required to reside on campus.  

Fall Housing for 2021 First-Year and Transfer Students

Vanderbilt plans to provide on-campus housing to all incoming first-year and transfer students. Additional information will be announced in the coming weeks.

The  Return to Campus website includes ongoing updates about the university’s pandemic response and protocols. 

Additional Questions

COVID-19 Protocols 

Q: Will COVID-19 bi-weekly testing, masking and physical distancing continue? 

We will share detailed information about our fall COVID-19 safety protocols as we get closer to the beginning of the semester in order to provide guidance based on the status of the pandemic and the best public health information available at the time 

Other Campus Activities 

Q: Will in-person extracurricular activities and events return?  

As the pandemic continues to evolve, we are still determining what extracurricular activities and events will look like in the fall. We are hopeful that positive trends in case counts and vaccinations continue, and we are planning for a fall semester closer to a life we recognize. We also are prepared to adjust our plans to ensure as much as possible the ongoing health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. Additional details will be forthcoming. 

Q: Can we travel outside the county without approval during the fall? 

Unfortunately, we cannot say for certain what guidance will be around travel in the fall. Many factors remain unknown and as the pandemic is evolving, we are prepared to adjust our plans to ensure as much as possible the ongoing health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. Additional details will be forthcoming. 


Q: Will the university have quarantine and isolation housing? 

 We plan to have quarantine and isolation housing available for the fall semester for on-campus residents and are determining our testing protocols based on the evolving pandemic as well as vaccination rates. 

Q: I’m a current 2020-2021 transfer student. Do I have to live on campus? 

We will welcome as many students to on-campus housing as is possible. Although adjustments were made last year to meet evolving COVID-19 safety protocols, our residential requirement has remained and will continue in the fall. Fall 2021 incoming transfer students will be required to reside on-campus.

Q: Can I request a roommate who has been vaccinated? 

As a reminder, information was shared March 18 about the fall housing assignment process. Upper-division student housing registration for the 2021-2022 academic year will begin April 1 and close April 5 at 6 p.m. CT.  Roommate requests can be made during the housing assignment process, however, vaccination status, which is considered private health information, will not be a consideration.  


Q: Will the university begin vaccinating students and faculty? Will all students and faculty be vaccinated by the fall return to in-person learning? 

Vanderbilt University is not a distribution site for the vaccine. At present, we are not eligible to become a distribution site because we are not a health care organization. Encouraging progress is being made in vaccine availability within our community. In Tennessee, vaccine rollout is managed by the Tennessee Department of Health in coordination with local county health departments. As has been the case in recent weeks, we are hopeful as vaccine supply continues the state will quickly progress through eligibility phases. When you are eligible to receive the vaccine, we strongly urge you to explore every option available, including the local health department and other community providers, to get it – not just to protect yourself, but to help achieve a broad level of immunity in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.  

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