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Orientations FAQ

This document has been developed from questions taken during the Fall 2020 New Graduate Student Orientation. If you don’t find answers to the questions that interest you most, reach out to the Graduate School at

Professional Development

The following are based on questions and comments asked regarding professional development at UT.

How do I find out about professional development opportunities, including when and where?
There are a variety of places to find out about professional development opportunities. A great place to start is the main page for Graduate and Professional Student Professional Development (GPSPD). This page not only describes the professional framework that the GPSPD works under but also provides a brief calendar of upcoming events. From this page, you can also visit the full GPSPD calendar on the UT Calendar. We are currently working with units across campus to make us aware of events that we can then add to the GPSPD calendar.

You may also wish to visit the websites of many of our GPSPD partners, or follow them on social media. The Graduate School works to share professional development announcements, so following us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook can help you stay aware of events.

If I am a new graduate or professional student, should I attend professional development events?
It is never too early to begin planning for your professional future. Many of the skills highlighted in these opportunities are useful even while you are still working towards your degree, so getting started early is important. For example, the What’s Your Work About series provides advice and discussion around communicating research to a variety of audiences. However, even if you have not begun a research program, you can still learn from the workshop, so that you are prepared to present future work.

Where can I find out more about professional clothing options? How often is the JC Penney Suit-Up Event offered?
Events such as the JC Penney Suit-Up Event are normally offered every semester. For more about professional attire and other opportunities such as Smokey’s Closet, visit the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration.
Where can I go to get recommendations to make a resume look more professional?
The Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration offers assistance with resume and cover letter development. You may also wish to visit the Judith Anderson Herbert Writing Center.
Do you have any advice for those of us who are transitioning from fields outside of our degree program/ changing careers entirely?
As we learn more about our interests and values, whether that’s through a career assessment or personal observation, that may lead us to considering new career paths. The skills you developed along the way are competencies that you can apply in these new settings. Use the career readiness competencies guide to note key experiences and how they connect to your skills, and begin identifying growth areas to address as you transition to your new field. Even seemingly unrelated previous degrees and experiences (internship, jobs, leadership roles) provided you with valuable opportunities to develop your professionalism and build other transferable skills.
How do we find out who our career coach is?
The Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration has a number of career coaches available to help you. When scheduling an appointment in Handshake, you can find your career coach by industry area or discipline. Also, you can meet their career coaching team and see what disciplines they are responsible for.
Would you say most students end up being able to teach at their alma mater?
This will vary by institution and may be impacted by size, rankings, research-focus, and discipline. You may find that small to mid-size and liberal arts institutions are more open to hiring their alumni, but there are likely examples of people successfully getting hired by their alma mater across institutions.
What’s the normal track to finding a position as a faculty member?
While there are a number of factors that influence the variability of how candidates find positions as faculty members, there are common components–like preparing your application documents, networking, and interviewing–that show up in every search. Visit the Center for Career Development & Academic Explorations to begin your job search in academia.

Are there leadership opportunities offered through campus units, such as GPSPD?
The GPSPD is currently working on specific opportunities centered on leadership. Check with the GPSPD page for updates.
What is evidence-based learning contrasted with other types of learning?
Involves evidence to determine where students are in their learning and how to reach them with appropriate teaching strategies.
How do I find out dates/times of Teaching and Learning Innovation workshops or event and how to register?
Check the TLI events webpage for updates
Does Teaching and Learning Innovation serve people from all areas of academics, such as art and music, or is it mainly STEM?
Teaching and Learning Innovation is not limited to STEM only.
Do you have to be current faculty to sign up for Teaching and Learning Innovation classes?
Teaching and Learning Innovation offers opportunities for all UT instructional staff, including graduate students and postdocs.

How do I address issues with my advisor?
First, try to work it out directly with your advisor. If it cannot be settled at that level, the next step would be your department head. There is a process that then goes to the college level, but most problems can be worked out within the department.
If I have not been connected to an advisor, is there a protocol to follow for that to happen?
Reach out to the Director of Graduate Studies for your program. They can help you navigate the departmental procedures. You should also consult the graduate student handbook for your program.
How do you begin to form professional relationships with professors and advisors?
Common research interests will in many ways provide opportunities to work together and begin forming a professional relationship.
Do you have specific suggestions for how to connect with professors with similar research interests as a new graduate student?
Talk with your advisors/department about your interests and see who they might recommend.
How do you recommend making friends / professional connections within an online setting?
Participate in activities that come up, within your department, across campus, in GSS.
Will there be sessions on how to network at conferences?
We don’t have one like that yet but this is a great suggestion for us to think about developing.
Do you have any specific recommendations for connecting with professors who have similar academic interests to you when you have not met them yet?
You should email all the professors you think have a similar mentality as you. Set up meetings and tell them your interests!

Do we have resources to help us improve our public speaking skills?
The Tennessee Online Public Speaking Center in the School of Communication Studies has a page offering general resources for being an effective public speaker.
Are there resources to help learn how to read and write papers/proposals for those us who are new to that?
The Judith Anderson Herbert Writing Center offers services and resources on writing. The UT Libraries also offer resources on both writing and research. A good place to start would be You may also want to visit the Scholarly Communication and Publishing page for information on copyright and publishing.

As long as you have your VolCard are you allowed in the Rec Center?
UT students are members of the RecSports facilities/programs and automatically receive access privileges during the semesters in which they are enrolled upon payment of their University Programs & Services Fee. “Plus One” and dependent memberships are also available, as are guest passes.
Are there any options for gyms for students that are attending the Nashville campus?
We are checking on this information and will report back.
I am a working wife and mother who is working on my Masters. I am 38 years old and am absolutely terrified to attend class via zoom (I am more of a classroom learner). Could you talk about how this different class format works and how to manage attending class with a child who might need attention while class is in session?
Remember that you are not alone. Many people are experiencing this same challenge, and there will be times you may need to be “off-camera.” Know the classroom policies, and if necessary, talk with the instructor beforehand so they are aware of the challenges that you are facing. Finally, there are many professional development trainings popping up about telecommuting with children that offer creative suggestions for navigating this successfully.
Are / have any of you worked part-time outside of the university? If so, how did you balance that and work with your job to make sure they know that grad school is a priority?
It is possible. A key issue would be to assess how many hours you can realistically carry and maintain your coursework. Working more than 25 hours per week can be a struggle, especially if you are also balancing a family. Communication is important, so letting employers know that you are a student and have limitations on your time is a must. Still, depending on the employer, you may not be able to carry both and will need to look for a position that is more flexible.
What is the best way to balance having a GTAship, GRAship, an outside job, and classes?
More than likely, the positions internal to UT will require approximately 20 hours per week (10 hours for each position). Organizational and time management skills will help, but It is important to know that you can still just do so much. If it gets to be too much, reach out for help from your advisor or the Counseling Center, or other places of support on campus sooner rather than later. Also, talk with other students in your department to see what avenues of support and/or time management have helped them. They will likely be facing many of the same challenges.
I’ve been out of school for 5 years. What key advice do you have for getting organized and acclimated to being a student again?
You may enjoy being a student again. It is an adjustment but it’s also a wonderful opportunity for those who are able to go back to school and pursue their passions after being in the career field. Taking advantage of this opportunity and being willing to say “no” as mentioned is important; advocate for yourself.
How do you set clear boundaries with your advisor/etc. so that you have the space for self-care?
Communicate. If you need help, ask.
How do we balance small children (learning at home?) with this new role in graduate school?
This is so difficult but not impossible.
“I try to include my 4 yr old daughter into some of my work when and if I can…example: helping me choose shapes and count them in data visualization. I am honest with her about what I am working on and I am trying to help her understand that when mommy looks at the computer I am working on___ or I am buying groceries, etc. Finding childcare is tough too and I am still navigating that. Thankfully being remote means you can have them at home and seeing that as a gift.”
Use your Omsbudsperson and Title IX resources as you find need. Most professors will be very accommodating even if they don’t have the same lifetyle choices.
How often do you find yourself doing work outside of typical hours (i.e. late nights, weekends)?
Typically, you can arrange your out-of-class schedule to what best suits you. For some, that may mean early mornings or late nights, or even the weekends. Sometimes the projects you are on may require more work than others, or seasons of research may mean more hours. Still, it is important to strive for that work/life balance, regardless of when you do the work.
I am going to into an MS program after 4 years of gaps in education as I was working for 4 years, so any advice to keep up with study?
You can hone your study skills with various resources from the UT Library and other online tools. While many are written for undergraduates, the same skills apply equally to graduate students.
What are your tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
Realize that there will be waves of calm and waves of crazy. This too shall pass.


The following are based on questions and discussions regarding technology resources and support at UT.

Do you have any specific tips for utilizing online/hybrid course formats?
For learners, the Division of Student Success has developed a an online academic success guide with useful tips for success in an online or hybrid course.
For instructors, you may wish to visit Teaching & Learning Innovation’s Back to the Classroom or Teaching During COVID-19 pages. These pages have recommendations, best practices, and success stories from within UT and without. Vols Online also has the Online & Hybrid Teaching Guide to provide support and guidance to instructures at UT.
For those of us in distance education, can we access the UT network either through our home internet, in order to gain access to online campus resources?
To access some campus resources, you will need to use the UT Virtual Private Network. A virtual private network (VPN) is a way to create a secure, encrypted connection between two networks over the Internet. A computer connected to UT’s VPN is considered to be on the UT network, even if that computer is located off-campus or on another ISP’s network. The Office of Information Technology has a VPN User Guide with instructions to download and configure the software.
If I am a GRA who will not be teaching, would you just recommend creating a free account with Zoom using our UT email account to use for connecting with the professor we are supporting?
That is not necessary, as all students have access to an account through UT. To get to your account, visit, click “Create or Edit Account” and log in with your NetID and password. Visit for more information from the Office of Information Technology.
How do I access Zoom links for online classes?
Instructors have the option to integrate their Zoom sessions and recordings within a Canvas course site. If your course has a Canvas site, you may wish to check there first, using the instructions for joining a Zoom meeting from Canvas. If your course does not have a Canvas course, or you are not able to find access to a Zoom link, be sure to contact your instructor.

Does UT rent out equipment such as laptops, particularly for distance education?
There are a limited number available for check out through the Office of Information Technology. Make a request through the Tech Request form.
Where do I find out where on campus I can print/scan documents as a student?
Printing on campus is simple and convenient using the VolPrint system. More than 60 printers are available for students to use in OIT Computer Labs and many other areas across campus, including the UT Libraries. Users can print from either the computers located in the student computer labs or from their own personal devices.
In Hodges Library, printers (both black & white and color) are located on the second floor in the North and South Commons and on the first floor in the Miles Reading Room. You can use any of the computers in the Commons or in the Miles Reading Room to print. The Pendergrass Library also has a computer lab with printers. Both Hodges and Pendergrass offer specialty printing, such as large format posters.
With most everything online what is the best way to deal with internet issues?
The Office of Information Technology’s Help Desk is the best place to go to get help with problems you may have with getting access to online resources. You can call them at 865-974-9900, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can submit a help request, start a chat session, or explore the OIT Knowledge Base.
What software is available for UT students?
OIT offers software to active students, faculty, and staff at reduced or no additional cost. To find out what software is available for UT students to download and install, visit the Available Software page. You will be able to login with your NetID and password to download available software.

Medical Resources and Insurance

The following are based on orientation information provided regarding student health and health insurance.

What is a deductible?
A deductible is the amount you pay before insurance will cover any remaining eligible expenses. The UT Student Health Insurance has a $500 In-Network and $1,000 Out-of-Network deductible, meaning if you see providers in the UHC Choice Plus network you will need to satisfy a $500 deductible, and if you go out of network you will need to satisfy a $1,000 deductible before insurance will cover any other eligible expenses.
What is coinsurance?
Coinsurance is the percentage of eligible medical expenses that the insurance company will pay once you have met your deductible. The UT Student Health Insurance plan has an 80% in-network and 60% out-of-network coinsurance. Once meet the deductible, UHCSR will cover remaining eligible expenses.
What is an Out-of-Pocket (OOP) Maximum?
An Out-of-Pocket maximum refers to the maximum amount you will have to pay before insurance will cover 100% of essential health benefits. This limit includes deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. The Out-of-Pocket maximum for in-network providers is $6,350. There is no Out-of-Pocket maximum for out-of-network providers.
When will we be able to use the Student Health Center if we have paid our health fee?
Once active in the insurance system, you should be able to use your insurance immediately.
For medical care off campus (50 mi away, when SHC is closed, or emergency)… do students need to take any steps to demonstrate this is an allowable exception and will be covered at the best possible rate?
No referral is required uner the following circumstances:

  • when student is more than 50 miles from the UT campus (when calling to verify insurance, mention the student is more than 50 miles from the UT campus)
  • a medical emergency (student must return to the Student Health Center for follow-up care or further referrals after a visit to the emergency room; referrals from an ER provider are not Student Health Center referrals)
  • when the Student Health Center is closed: weekends and after 4:00pm on weekdays (student must return to SHC during normal hours for follow-up care or further referrals; referrals from outside providers are not SHC referral)
Does coverage continue over the summer? Or will there be lapse in coverage if we are not working for the university over the summer?
Yes, but if you are on a 9-month appointment, you will need to contact the insurance company to pay the summer premium in order to continue coverage.
What is the office visit fee for an uninsured student?
The cost of all Student Health Center visits is covered by the payment of Program and Services fees. However, if you receive any of the following services: all lab work, immunizations, injections, x-rays, physical therapy, and durable medical goods (i.e. crutches, splints, etc.), there will be additional, nominal charges associated with your visit. Except for the university-sponsored Student Health Insurance, the Student Health Center does not bill individual health insurers for charges. Subsequent to payment, the Student Health Center will issue an itemized statement of charges upon request from the student. This itemized statement may be submitted to their private insurance carrier for reimbursement.
Are vaccine costs (for required vaccines) at the student center covered?
The Allergy/Immunization Clinic provides vaccination services for disease prevention. If you are in need of certain vaccines required for attendance, participation, or travel, you may contact the AIC to determine what vaccines are currently available through our clinic. If the vaccine that you need is not available at our facility, you will be assisted with information regarding how and where to best access it. The following immunizations are generally available at the Student Health Center:

  • Hepatitis A (Havrix)–$53.00
  • Hepatitis B (Engerix)–$21.00(pediatric)/$60.00(adult)
  • Meningitis (Menactra)–$150.00
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine)–$101.00
  • Polio (injectable booster only for travel purposes)–$39.00
  • Td (Tetanus/Diphtheria)–$44.00
  • Tdap (Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis;Adacel)–$47.00
  • Typhoid (injectable only)–$131.00
  • HPV (Human Papilloma Virus;Gardasil 9)—$262.00
Where can we get a more detailed description of coverage, copays, monetary limits, etc?
The UT Student Health Insurance website has more information, such as a summary of the plan and documents with specific policies.
Is there a co-pay for students?
Nearly all services at the on campus UT Student Health Center are paid at 100% by the insurance. However, if you see medical providers off campus, copays, deductibles, and coinsurance will apply, and you will be billed by those providers after your insurance processes the claims. NOTE: There is a $25 in-network office visit copay, which means you will pay each doctor outside of the Student Health Center $25/visit before you see the doctor. Then your doctor’s office will file a claim for all other services to the insurance. Once the claim has been processed your doctor’s office will bill you if you have a balance due.
How do I figure out which tests are conducted by the Student Health Center, and which need to be done elsewhere?
The Student Health Center provides a list of clinics, services and staff.
I tried to create my account on the health insurance website, but it would not accept my student email, student ID, or SR ID inorder to create that account to get my insurance card. Who should I contact about getting that handled?
Due to the volume of students being added, there may be a slight delay in the time it takes for you to be active in the system. Check first with your department. If they have submitted your information, wait a few days and try again. Coverage will be retroactive to your employment date, so save all receipts for any services rendered in the meantime, in case you need to file a claim for services/ reminbursement.
Does the wellness center offer any nutrition counseling from a nutritionist or dietitian?
Volunteer Dining works in conjunction with the Center for Health Education and Wellness to provide a student nutrition educator for the UT community. The student nutrition educator works with students, faculty, and staff to assist those interested in reaching their nutritional goals, increasing nutritional knowledge and promoting excellent nutritional practices campus-wide. Visit the Center for Health Education and Wellness’ Nutrition page for more details.

What support is provided for women’s health issues?
The following are some examples of services provided at the Women’s Care Clinic: annual female examinations, pap smears, family planning, and birth control, pregnancy testing, and screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. For another provider that is not located at Student Health, no referral is required if it falls under the category of maternity or gynecology.

Is the Counseling Center free to students without having United HealthCare?
Yes. These services are included in your Health Services Fee each semester. The Student Counseling Center offers short term services for free to UT students who meet eligibility requirements. Couples Counseling is included in the services offered. Other services are available through the medical insurance option for dependents.
What is the cost for appointments with a therapist?
A mental health office visit is $25 co-pay, + 20%. Healthiest You (855-870-5858), a telehealth option, does offer free mental health visits.
How does the Counseling Center relate to covered counseling services from the student health insurance?
Insureds have immediate access to the Student Assistance Program, a service that coordinates cate using a network of resources. Services available include counseling, financial and legal advice and well as mediation. Counseling services are offered by Licensed Clinicians who can provide insured with someone to talk to when every day issues become overwhelming. Starting on the effective date of your coverage under the student insurance plan, you have access to mental health providers through a national virtual counseling service. Psychiatrists, psychologists and licensed therapists are available to you through a variety of communication methods, including phone and video.
What mental health services are covered and how would we find those options?
The Counseling Center can assist with mental health concerns that are new or not previously addressed, or with temporary additional mental health care while at the university. For those needing longer-term treatment, please refer to the list of in-network providers through your insurance carrier (e.g. UT Student Health Insurance). Those who are under the care of a local mental health provider are encouraged to continue that relationship.
If we already have a counselor in the area, can our benefits be applied through a referral?
You will need a referral if you want to reduce your out of pocket expenses when you see medical providers off campus.

  • To obtain initial referral, you must schedule an appointment at the Student Health Center (865-974-3648).
  • All referrals expire on July 31 each year and must be renewed after August 1.
  • To update an existing referral, an office visit may not be required. Contact your Student Health Center nurse by phone to ask.
  • All referrals must originate at the Student Health Center; referrals made by off-campus providers (such as an emergency room) are not valid. Visit the Student Health Center for all follow-up care after a visit to an emergency room or walk-in clinic.

Please view the Referral Guide in the UT Student Health Insurance documents for more details.

If we are local and already currently have a pharmacy, should we still consider filling prescriptions at the UT pharmacy instead?
Many prescription drugs are covered by the UT Student Health Insurance, but you must pay the copay at the pharmacy each time you fill a prescription until you reach the Out-of-Pocket maximum. The copay is determined by the type of prescription. For the most current prescription info, log into your account at or call OptumRx at 1-855-828-7716. Prescription prices and tier structures are subject to change at any time.
Is the pharmacy available even if students do not have insurance at through UT?
Yes. All services at the Student Health Center are available to students who have paid the Student Programs and Services Fees for the current semester. See Student Health Center Eligibility and Cost for details.
Are there any 3 month options when it comes to the coverage for prescription drugs?
Can I get my birth control prescription filled at the UT pharmacy?
Prescriptions can be filled at any pharmacy, including the on-site Student Health Center Pharmacy. Charges for filling birth control prescriptions are subject to insurance coverage and your pharmacy costs. For services regarding family planning and birth control, see the Women’s Care Clinic.

Was 500 the only dental plan? The cost is literally half of the max benefits? What does it cost to enroll in the optional vision/denatal coverage? Is the $500 coverage per procedure or a total coverage for the year? Where do we find in-network facilities for dental? Where do we find information on dental/vision options?
Optional dental insurance is available to purchase on an annual basis during fall open enrollment only. Servicing for the Voluntary Dental Plan is provided by UnitedHealthcare Dental, 877-816-3596. Your dental ID card with group, policy, and member ID numbers will be mailed to you once your enrollment has been processed. You may visit to search for providers in the National Options PPO 30 network or to create an account once enrolled. Knoxville: Group ID 574589, Policy Number 001268 . Additional information can be found here:
Optional vision insurance is available to purchase on an annual basis during fall open enrollment only. Customer Service for the Voluntary Vision Plan is provided by Spectera, 800-638-3120. This insurance includes a $10 copay for a network Comprehensive Vision Exam and a $25 Materials copay for Eyeglass Lenses/Frames or Contact Lenses up to the applicable allowance.  Exams and Materials are payable once every 12 months based on last date of service.  Please visit for a network provider directory and complete list of covered contact lens brands.
Can we enroll for the basic healthcare and then enroll for the dental/vision at a later date, before Sep 20? Can I add the optional dental and/or vision insurance at any time?
• NO!! These products may ONLY be purchased on an annual basis during the fall open enrollment period • Referrals are not necessary for dental/vision services • For details about dental/vision plans, visit broker website:
What was covered for glasses again in the optional vision insurance? How much is covered for frames/lenses?
Frames You will receive a retail frame allowance toward the purchase of any frame at a network provider. For frames that exceed your allowance, you may receive an additional 30% discount on the overage (available only at participating providers and may exclude certain frame manufacturers). Network: $130 Retail Frame Allowance (after applicable copay -The material copayment will apply once if frames and lenses, or contact lenses in lieu of eyewear, are purchased at the same time at a network provider.) Non-networkUp to $45
Is there a max number of dental cleanings that are 100% covered by the dental insurance?
Prophylaxis (Cleanings) Limited to 2 times per consecutive 12 months.
Do you have to wait until you get the email for United Health Care before enrolling in dental/vision?
No, but it must be purchased during Fall open enrollment.

Costs and Funding

The following questions/answers are based on topics involving fees, waivers, assistantships and funding sources.

Many of us have tuition waivers as a result of a GTA or GRA position. However, these waivers do not cover ~$2,000 in fees, like the transportation fee. Are there payment plans available for paying off these fees?
There are fees that are required for all students who are not classified as distance education. Payment plans are possible. Reach out to One Stop (865-974-1111) for more information and to set up payments.
My balance on myUTK says “0”. I assume this is because I have not yet registered for fall classes. Will this update once I register for classes?
If a distance education student has to relocate to Knoxville campus for their program, can they pay the fees if they would like to be able to take advantage of services such as TRECS during their program at UT in Knoxville?
Yes. Students can opt-in to the student services fee. Just contact One-Stop (865-974-1111) to complete the necessary paperwork.
How can a student find out which fees they have paid?
Payment of fees such as the Health Services Fee will be listed on the details of your account on MyUTK. Visit and log in with your NetID and password to view your details.
What about start-up funding? I have received a fee waiver but not the start-up funding.
Start-up funding is not currently managed centrally. You will want to contact your department for details regarding any available start-up funding.
Will fee waivers be applied to my MyUTK account prior to fees being due? If not, am I expected to pay this out of pocket?
Fee waivers are typically posted within the first two weeks of the semester; however, the Bursar’s Office will have been notified of your status, so the payment deadline will not impact you. If there is any question, contact your department to make sure they have submitted the necessary information to the Bursar’s Office. Students will only be responsible for the fees not covered by their waiver. No late fees will be charged on the portion to be waived, even if the waiver is not entered prior to the deadline. If you are unable to complete the payment for any fees not covered by a waiver, a payment plan might be an option for you. Reach out to One Stop (865-974-1111) for more information and to set up payments.
If there is an outstanding requirement on documents needed for financial aid, does that mean that I will not be able to get my tuition waived as apart of my GRA assistantship?
Usually the document requests resulting from financial aid are independent of the tuition waiver from a fellowship or assistantship. However, it depends upon the particular outstanding request. If it is related to the FAFSA, it should not hold up the tuition waiver.

Will returned over payment be available for the next school year?

financial aid is handled year-by-year, so each academic year you refile a FAFSA and are offered federal loans for the following school year. Other opportunities, such as fellowships, scholarships and assistantships should start with your department of major to inquire about how to apply and how often.My tuition and fees have already been taken out of my loan and I have my overpayment posted, but i have recently gained an assistantship that waives tuition and will pay fees. When will the money be returned to the loan amount and instead waived?If you wish to lower your loan, please email If you receive a refund as a result of the fee waiver and the loan disbursement, the refund is usually available the 2nd week of classWhen will we be notified who our loan servicer is once accepting loans?There is not an institutional person assigned; however, you can see more information about your specific loan at If additional assistance is needed, contact One Stop at 865-974-1111.Do I need to complete the FAFSA for a PhD program? I will not be taking out any loans.While it it not necessary to complete the FAFSA, it never hurts to do so. Sometimes additional funding opportunities will arise and the FAFSA may be a requirement in order to qualify.Since FAFSA is only available for US Citizens and Permanent Residents, are there any affordable federal loan options for International Students?A small number of lenders of private loans might offer an option for international students, but an eligible co-signer will likely be required. Please go to OneStop’s Student Loans page and scroll down to to the topic of “alternative loans”.The maximum amount one can borrow from a federal loan is $138,500. Does that number include the amount of PLUS loans disbursed to student?The lifetime limit is on the federal direct loans and includes the combined undergraduate and graduate loans. Grad PLUS loans would be in addition.I have already taken out loans (Direct and PLUS) to cover all costs of attendance, but was offered an assistantship recently with a tuition waiver and half time stipend. This will cover most of my expenses so should i return the whole PLUS loan first since it has a higher interest rate?It is possible that the assistantship would put you over the maximum loan amount. If so, the PLUS loan would be the first reduced by the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships to ensure that you are within the limitations determined by cost of enrollment. If you know that you wish to reduce your borrowing, please send in a request to do I get a deferment for my undergrad loans, or is it automatic when I start my grad program?Generally that deferment happens automatically via a national clearinghouse of colleges and universities as you enroll in a program. If you have any doubts, please contact One Stop at or 865-974-1111 to inquire.If a loan has already been taken out , when should that refund be posted in the account?If all paperwork is in order for a student loan and you are pre-registered for classes, the credits from the forthcoming loans are already reflected.

What type of grants/fellowships are offered through the Graduate School?
There are several opportunities available for both new and returning students. All fellowships through the Graduate School are handled via departmental nomination. Please visit the Graduate School website for additional information.
Since many fellowships, such as those offered by the Graduate School, rely upon nomination by a department, is it possible to be considered for a fellowship during the first year of a graduate program?
Yes. Many of the Graduate School Fellowships are designed for incoming graduate students. Departments make decisions about fellowship nominations during the spring prior to the beginning of the fall semester. For any other fellowships that may be available after the beginning of the semester, contact your department.
When will fellowships be awarded and accessible to the student?
Most of the Graduate School fellowship decisions are determined in the spring, and the bulk of those awards get added to student accounts late in the summer, prior to the beginning of the fall semester.
Are assistantships offered for students at a distance?
We would suggest contacting your academic department to inquire about assistantships for students in your program of study. Not all departments have assistantships, but it never hurts to inquire. A good first contact will be the Director of Graduate Studies for your program.
Will the university provide accounting of the fellowships and assistantships, so that if we do have tax liability we have documentation?
Yes, at the end of January each year the university will send a statement to all student recipients of funding to assist with this kind of information for your tax filing. I believe this is called at 1098-T.
If we are receiving GRA/GTA position that offers tuition waiver, can we still apply and be considered for other departmental scholarships?
Typically, yes; however, you should check with your department for specific award guidelines.
How can one ensure that departments honor assistantship commitments in order to avoid being asked to complete more work than the number of hours per week for the assistantship?
You should receive a written contract that details what your responsibilities will be and how many hours per week are expected. Please contact your supervisor if this document has not yet been made available to you.
What “hacks” would you suggest for making the most out of your stipend?
A good budget! Take advantage of student discounts and other cost-saving opportunities that arise. Talk with other students in your department to see what kinds of opportunities they have found. Avoid having to pay late fees or other costs that can eat into your budget.

Student Life

The following questions and answers are based on topics related to life on campus and the surrounding community, the impact of COVID-19, learning and engaging in research.

How does last year’s reported on-campus sexual harassment/assault rate compares to that of the year before?
The annual report, which includes campus statistics, is available each year at the Title IX website.
As graduate students, what is the best thing we can do to prevent sexual harassment/assault?
Awareness is critical. Valuable resources are available at VolsACT?
Can you tell me something about behaviors that international students need to pay attention to to avoid misunderstandings that could be reported to the Title IX office?
The Title IX office provides clear definitions and policies.

How do you like Knoxville?
We love it! We encourage you to take time to get out and enjoy the area while you are here!
Are there any daycares available on campus?
Not on campus, but there are daycares close by. You can Google or check with Visit Knoxville (865-523-7263).
My program is really quick, 3 semesters… As a short term transplant, can you recommend some “must see/do” things while at Rocky Top?
This comes down to personal preference, but there are many attractions and activities to enjoy while you are in the area. To begin with, we are just a short 1 hour drive from the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Pigeon Forge. Headed in the other direction, you can be in the Cumberland Mountains in an hour. Knoxville has many local areas of interest, as well: Market Square, Ijams Nature Center, Zoo Knoxville, Knoxville Museum of Art, and more! See for more information.
I was very involved as an undergrad and I am hoping to continue that as a grad student but feel like a lot of things on campus are geared towards undergrad. Any advice on remaining involved?
Connect to the Graduate Student Senate (, and stay up-to-date with social media from the Graduate School (@UTKGradSchool), GSS(@UTK_GSS), and other graduate student organizations. (MGSO, LAGS, etc.).
What’s the best place to hang out to meet other grad students (before COVID)? What’s your favorite place to study on campus?
There is a new area in the Library that is available: the Graduate Commons. Departments often have areas where students will meet. The Student Union is another option.
Do you mainly interact with grad students within your department?
This very much depends on your department; however, we encourage you to look for opportunities to network outside your own area. Utilizing spaces like the Graduate Commons will help with that.

>Will we be given updated information about positivity rates on campus and is there a predetermined threshold that would deem it unsafe for campus to remain open?
The Chancellor’s Office provides weekly updates, and daily statistics are available online.
Will we have access to coronavirus testing on campus if we do need to be tested?
What is the current wait time to receive COVID test results?
We currently have rapid tests available.
If we find ourselves in a position in which we will have to quarantine/self-isolate, will we be penalized for two weeks of missed class?
Talk with your instructor. Communication is key! There will be processes in place, but guidelines may vary depending on the type of course.
What if we have to self isolate more than once? Will we lose our GTA if we are unable to teach an in person course?
Communication is again a very important part of the process.
I’m an international student. Do I need to self-isolate/quarantine? If that’s the case, how will I attend the hybrid and face-to-face lectures?
Yes, you will need to self-isolate. Please contact your instructors regarding course-specific information.
Does the isolation for international students apply to out of state students too?
There is not currently a mandatory isolation period for people traveling between states.
Who do we contact if we have COVID-19 related questions that are not answered on the website? Also, much of the information listed on the website is not happening in practice. Who can we speak to to address our concerns?
Your department may be able to answer your questions, and should be made aware of any discrepancies between our guidelines and practices. You may also contact the Office of Ombuds Services to assist, if necessary.
How do we know if a student is not required to wear a mask due to a medical exemption?
Face coverings are required on campus by everyone. Face shields are also available, if needed. Students who need to discuss accommodations due to a medical condition should be referred to Student Disability Services.
How is UT addressing non-compliance of COVID safety measures, like wearing masks?
The university is taking COVID safety measures very seriously. Students who do not comply may be considered in violation of the code of conduct. Additional information is available at the Chancellor’s website and the COVID information website ( ).
If we do wind up having to change to a completely online format due to the pandemic, is there any chance that we may receive some form of tuition or fee reimbursement?
At this time, we do not anticipate this will happen. Please check back to the COVID information website for updates throughout the semester.
How would the COVID crisis influence assistantships and scholarships?
Some students may not be able to arrive on campus as planned for the fall semester, and as a result may need to defer their attendance and financial assistance. These situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Please stay in communication with your department.
In this time of COVID, what is the best way to meet new people/stay connected when you dont know anyone here?
Look for ways to participate in virtual and socially distant activities. No, it is not the best situation, but there will still be opportunities to meet new people. Watch for updates on social media and follow the Graduate School and Graduate Student Senate, as well as any departmental communication.
What is TAing during COVID learning (online) is like?
This experience will vary by department; however, please know that we will work to provide you with the necessary tools and training to prepare you for the experience. Also, OIT is available to answer questions or to assist as you prepare to teach, as is your department.
Am I allowed to work out in the TRECS before classes begin and does COVID disallow me from doing so?
TRECS has updated their hours for the semester and safety measures will be in place.
Does the student health center have a separate area for people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms? How do I know I am not being exposed when I attend the health center?
Yes. Safety precautions are in place to protect visitors from contamination. Currently, visits to the Student Health Center are by appointment only (974-5080).
Is there any specific counseling services for support for dealing with stress related to the pandemic?
Yes, there are many resources available to assist you during this time. You are also encouraged to let your advisor know what you are facing. Please see additional information at the Counseling Center website for a list of resources.
I have heard that there will some face masks distributed to all students this semester. Are graduate students included in this count? When can we expect to receive these facecoverings?
Yes, graduate students will be included. Information will be provided as we learn more about the distribution plan, or you may reach out to the Graduate School ( )
I have a class that is in person. Is there a plan a place for me to be able to do class virtually for the 2-week quarantine if I am exposed?
Yes. Please see the student guidelines regarding COVID-19.
Is there of sense of when the campus wide hiring freeze might be lifted? I was told that it was preventing me from being placed in an assistantship.
The hiring pause does not impact assistantships.
For a completely in-person class will there be an online option for class if we have COVID symptoms?
Please discuss this with your instructor. Details will vary by class.
Is there any idea of what the spring semester looks like? Time line wise will we end in person early as we are in fall semester? Will we be back on campus after winter break?
Precautions will still be in place for spring semester, and many classes will continue on-line or in a hybrid mode. However, we will continue to increase on-campus presence, and we will return after the winter break. View the Academic calendar.
If someone is found to test positive in an in-person class, will UT require that the entire class be tested for COVID?
The university’s contact tracing team will determine whether you need to quarantine or self-isolate and where to stay during that time.
For graduate students that have to teach labs, if we show symptoms or contract COVID, are we, the student, responsible for finding a replacement to sub our labs?
Talk with your supervisor. There will be departmental-specific guidelines for you to follow.
What if we still have questions after visiting the COVID website?
Feel free to reach out to your department, or to contact the Graduate School (

Can we expect to receive tangible student IDs in the mail?
The Vol Card Office is now open, and you can pick up a physical card. However, at the moment, you must call before coming. The building will be locked and a VolCard employee will have to meet you outside to give your card to you. Be sure to upload your photo ahead of time. More information can be found here: or you can call the office at 865-974-3430.
I am now a staff at UT so I have a VolCard; Do I need to get a new VolCard when my status changes in the fall?
Not if you will remain staff. If you are an active staff member, your VolCard will also work for you as a student.
I have an in-person class right after an online class. Do I have anywhere to go to attend the online class on-campus?
Check with your department to see if there are spaces available in your college; also consider the UT Libraries and the Student Union.
I am a PhD student starting this fall. I am just wondering if I can get an MS degree with an additional master’s thesis.
With departmental approval you can request a concurrent master’s degree. Visit Forms Central (link) at the Graduate School for the necessary form to initiate this request.
How do we view our syllabus/book list for each class?
It should be available through your course link on The VolShop will also have a record of textbooks ordered for your class. If you are not able to locate your syllabus or book list, you should contact your instructor.
I’m seeing a course I dropped in Canvas, but not the course I am registered for. How can I get this updated?
Please submit a help ticket at and the Office of Information Technology can remove the past Canvas courses from your list. Summer courses will disappear at the end of August.
None of my classes are published on Canvas yet. Is that an issue with my canvas account?
Not necessarily, but please reach out to the OIT Help Desk (865-974-9900).
When will teachers invite us to their Canvas sites?
You should have a class link to Canvas from your page. If not, the class may not be activated in Canvas yet. Follow up directly with your instructor.
I am going into my first year of my master’s program, straight from undergrad and I was wondering how the course load is different compared to undergrad?
The number of credit hours required for a full-time graduate student will be less; however, there are additional aspects to consider, such as research or employment as a graduate assistant. Seek out 2nd year students in your department to get a feel for what to expect and how to strike a work/life balance.
As a graduate student, I have a email account. I’ve seen that there are email accounts. Will my email suffice for classroom needs?
The email is the overarching email for all UT faculty, staff and students. Faculty and staff (including graduate students who are also staff) have an alias of and students have an alias of So, for example, if a student has the NetID “utgrad999,” that person as a single email account that can be sent to either by “” or “”. They are not separate email accounts, just different names for the same one.
Would be able to explain what the comprehensive exams are?
The comprehensive exam may be written or oral, and requirements will vary by department.
What is your advice for someone beginning a masters program who is potentially interested in pursuing a PhD later on? How can I make the most of my master’s program to prepare me well for that if I decide to take the doctoral route?
Gain skills and experiences related to research and statistical analysis. Some master’s programs have an optional thesis or research project; completing that may be useful. If you have some choice in the classes you take, talk to a faculty mentor about which ones may best prepare you for a PhD program; and be intentional about building a network and developing strong relationships with faculty.
What should I do if I suspect that my research is plagiarized?
Speak to your advisor or department head. You can also reach out to the Office of Research and Engagement. Additional resources can be at the Scholarly Publishing Toolkit.
What is the Community Engagement Academy and where can I get more information?
The Community Engagement Academy (CEA) is an interdisciplinary professional development program designed for new UT faculty (0-3 years) and graduate students who wish to learn the foundations of community engagement and engaged scholarship and apply knowledge to research and practice. Information on CEA can be found at the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach.

Prior to this meeting we had to upload our documents to our iVols account. Due to the pandemic, I was not able to provide them all. Do students like me get an extension to take care of their paperwork?
many cases, extensions are available. Please talk with your departmental advisor and/or budget manager to verify.
I’m assuming that the foreign language department has several options to research abroad?
There are many opportunities across campus. Reach out to the Center for Global Engagement or your college for additional information.
How does COVID-19 impact international travel for graduate students?
At this time, international travel is greatly restricted. Continue to monitor the COVID-19 information and support website for updates throughout the semester.
Is there a roadmap to resuming study/research abroad programs after COVID?
It is too soon to know what changes will need to be in place; however, we are working to make sure our students are able to conduct their research and complete their program of study.