Summer FAQ 04, August 8, 2020

This email continues our weekly series of FAQ’s; after several weeks without submitted questions we are returning to you this week after one of this summer’s only Arch HQ vacations. Those remaining behind and working on the FAQ this week include Andreea O’Connell, Doug La Vie, Matt Harrington, Cynthia Stewart, Reneé Caso and Les Norford. Many thanks to all! 

As always, some questions are amalgamated. If you asked a question that you do not see here, please let us know ASAP so we can respond and include in next week’s list as well. We remain grateful to all of you for your patience and engagement as we all navigate this strange trip through the summer to the experiment of the Fall Semester.

1. When will the TA positions be announced? Should we apply for it ourselves? Or are we assigned the position – stated in our offer – by the department?

Please see the email sent out on Wednesday, August 5 titled “Fall TA selection in the Department of Architecture.” Some positions, including many guaranteed by the department as part of financial awards, will be assigned by Discipline Groups. The remaining positions are open to application through the process outlined in the email below. This summer’s process covers all positions that were open as of July 15; we expect the process for subsequent semesters to be able to offer even more open positions to a common application process.

2. Will the new process for TA positions apply to RA positions as well?

The Department will continue and expand an open application process for all department-funded positions, including department-funded RAs. Many RA appointments, however, come from funds held by individual faculty, who have full discretion to hire any eligible student. In addition, these positions are not necessarily available or funded on the same schedule as TA positions. We will be encouraging faculty, wherever possible, to use an open application process to hire for these positions, but they will generally not be part of the same process as department-funded positions.

3. What is the process of signing a contract for TA/RA in case we don’t manage to get a student visa and enter the US? Will we be able to receive payments in our local bank accounts?

If students can be paid by MIT Payroll and they do not have a US bank account, they are encouraged to set up an account with the MIT Federal Credit Union  for direct deposit.  The MIT FCU will assist in transferring funds to their home country bank account and/or they can also use the MITFCU’s MasterCard branded debit card to access funds in their home country. If you anticipate needing this service, we would encourage you to contact the MIT FCU to start setting up an account ASAP (The MIT FCU is a reliable and low-cost banking option available to all community members, including students).

4. Is a Social Security Number (SSN) required if we are working remotely from our respective countries? If so, how can we obtain it?

New international students working in home countries and who do not have an SSN are not required to secure one.  Once you are able to come to the US you will need to acquire one within 30 days per eVerify rules.

5. Will changes in the fall semester dates/planning affect payment date of tuition installments?

Tuition payment is overseen by MIT’s central Student Financial Services (SFS) and not by individual departments or schools. The payment schedule for 2020-21 can be viewed here..
Questions about tuition payments should be directed to

6. What options are available for students who do not have access/face issues with technology at home, for example; unreliable internet access?

MIT has made a wide variety of resources available to students for the Fall term, and IS&T is offering several options for loaner equipment, including laptops, cellular enabled iPads, and prepaid cellular hotspots, that may help with technology challenges at home. More information about these programs can be found at the following link: Computing Equipment Loan Program FAQ

24/7 remote support is available from the IS&T Service Desk to assist with general computing help, access to central technology resources, remote learning platforms, and any issues pertaining to your MIT kerberos account or certificates. They can be reached via email and phone from the following link: Service Desk 

In addition, the department’s internal team, STOA, is available to consult and assist with technology issues and concerns, and can be reached at

7. Can we remotely connect to on-campus computers to access certain licensed programs that are not installed in our laptops?

While remote connection to on-campus workstations will not be broadly available, we are actively working with software vendors and IS&T to ensure that certain software packages and licenses will be.  We will have more information available via the STOA website in the near future.

IS&T also maintains an extensive range of software and applications via its Software page.

8. Will we have remote access to online libraries (digital copies of books, journals, etc.)?

MIT Libraries has a wide range of digital resources available to the community, and has been working to expand access through various institutions and publishers.  More information can be found at the MIT Libraries website and the links below.  Please be advised that many resources do require the use of MIT’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) when accessing remotely.

LibGuides: Expanded and free resources during COVID-19 closure: Textbooks + e-books

Library services and resources during COVID-19 response

9. Can we benefit from student discounts for laptops if we are not in the US?

MIT maintains vendor relationships with Apple, Dell, and Lenovo to provide discounts to MIT students.  These discounts are available to all students enrolled at MIT, and more information can be found via vendor sites linked at Student Computer Purchase Discount Links

10. What kind of resources are available for international students enrolled remotely who are interested in prototyping/fabrication? Are there any efforts to partner with local fab-labs?

Interested students are urged to identify and contact local fab labs associated with the fabfoundation.  Different locations may be operating under different restrictions. As needed, the department will help make connections and support access.

11. Is there a change in the number of courses we are supposed to attend this semester due to special circumstances?

Incoming international students planning on studying in the US will need to be registered for 24 units of in-person or hybrid listed subjects. If a subject is listed in the MIT Subject Listing and Schedule for Fall 2020 website published by the MIT Registrar with a room number (not as “virtual”) it is an in-person / hybrid class. Once registered for the 24 units of hybrid subjects, students may add several more virtual classes to their registration. It is advisable to review the curriculum for your program on the Department website, or contact your advisor or program administrator.

Incoming international students who are not planning to study in the US, do not need to register specifically for in-person/hybrid subjects unless it is part of your required curriculum. All such subjects do not require students to be there in person and can be taken from afar online.

Continuing international students do not have this same restriction.

12. How will the class shopping period and registration work in the online format?

There will be a list of the Zoom URLs provided on the Subjects page of the Departmental website. Students with a kerberos ID and password will be able to access this list and “attend” the classes they wish to explore prior to registration. Some instructors may set up a waiting room. The link will likely change after the third week to allow for greater security. Students should make their decisions and register for the class by then so the instructor can send students on their class list the permanent zoom address.

13. Will online classes be recorded? It may be challenging to coordinate 4-5 courses within a tight time-frame that is suitable for multiple time zones. How will this be addressed in the fall term?

Recording of classes will be the prerogative of the instructors. Instructors who are working with students across time zones may choose to do so, or they may choose to adjust the time of their class based on the schedules of those within the class. Instructors have been encouraged to schedule a discussion of course meeting times for the first class session.