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Student Affairs offices are operating both in-person and remotely. Visit individual department pages for services and contact information, and the event calendar for a full list of events. Additionally, our returning to campus guide provides information about campus life, COVID-19 Support, and other vital student services.

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Frequently Asked Questions
COVID-19 Pre-Arrival Testing

As  part of  Penn State’s  Back to State plans for fall 2020, the University has  implemented a COVID-19 pre-arrival testing program to  test individuals from locations with a high prevalence of the disease before arrival on campus, students involved in staffing arrival activities, and a small group of students selected from the general student body.

The pre-arrival testing program is mandatory and students may not return to campus until they have received their test results, and if positive, have completed their isolation period. We appreciate your cooperation with this important measure to minimize the spread of the virus and to keep the community safe and healthy. 

The guidance below answers frequently asked questions about the testing process, test results, and reporting procedures.

I received an email that I had not completed the pre-arrival testing, but I received my results through Vault Health recently. Can I return to campus?

Yes.  Penn State also receives a copy of your test result. Your results must have been processed shortly after we prepared to the email to send.  We apologize for any confusion.  


What’s the first step a student should take if they test positive?

Understand that you should stay home and not come to campus for any reason until you have isolated for at least 10 days after the test results and until you are symptom-free (fever free without the use of fever-reducing medications) for at least 24 hours. Those testing positive will also receive guidance from Penn State Student Affairs. You should not travel to any campus until you are cleared by a Penn State representative. In addition, you should seek care and advice from your primary care physician.

Will this test tell me if I have already had COVID-19 and recovered?

No, this is NOT a test for COVID-19 antibodies, which are produced by people who have had the disease and have recovered. 

Does Vault Health provide treatment or recommendations for treatment?

Vault test supervisors do not provide treatment for COVID-19. When you receive your test results, we will provide an explanation to you and you will be referred to the most current  guidelines for what to do if you have symptoms. If you have symptoms, you will be asked to get in touch with a local healthcare provider for care. You can share your test results with your primary care healthcare provider to assist in your care.

Can I be a “carrier” of COVID-19?

There is no “carrier” status for COVID-19. If you test positive, it means you are infected with the virus, based on what we currently know. However, about 25% of people who are infected do not have symptoms, but can still spread the virus to others because these people are still considered infected.  

Who will get the test results?

The test results will be sent to you directly form a Vault Health email and a copy of your test results will also be sent to Penn State.

Are the test results confidential?

Yes, the test results are confidential. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State may encounter situations where there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of students or others. When acting in such situations and Penn State determines that it is in the best interests of public health or safety, Penn State may disclose information from an individual’s COVID-19 test conducted by Vault. Such disclosures may include disclosures to faculty and staff, and other individuals who, in the University’s discretion, have a need to know such information due to a threat to the health or safety of a student or others.  

Why do I have to complete a COVID-19 pre-arrival test?

Penn State has implemented mandatory pre-arrival testing to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the number of individuals that may otherwise bring the virus to Penn State campuses and their local communities. Individuals were chosen for mandatory pre-arrival COVID-19 testing based on the infection rates in the counties where they reside or the nature of their position at Penn State. We selected individuals living in coronavirus “hot spots,” or areas with high or rising virus rates. We also selected some individuals based on their front-line role in welcoming students back to campuses. 

Why was I not instructed to complete a COVID-19 pre-arrival test?

Not every student will be tested within the pre-arrival testing phase of our multi-pronged testing approach.  Individuals were chosen for mandatory pre-arrival COVID-19 testing based on the infection rates in the counties where they reside or the nature of their position at Penn State. We selected individuals living in coronavirus “hot spots,” or areas with high or rising virus rates.  We also selected some individuals based on their front-line role in welcoming students back to campuses.  If you think you should have been selected, we encourage you to check your email folders for an email from Dr. Barron with the subject “Penn State Pre-Arrival Testing.”  If you did not receive an email, you do not have to complete the pre-arrival test. 

I just received an email regarding pre-arrival testing and was told it was voluntary. Why did I receive this?

Penn State selected a small group of Penn State faculty, staff, and students living in the local community to participate in the pre-arrival testing to help ensure the health and safety of the community as we prepare for students to return to campus. This is voluntary and we encourage you to participate.   


How did the University decide who received testing?

Individuals were chosen for mandatory pre-arrival COVID-19 testing based on the infection rates in the counties where they reside, the nature of their position at Penn State, or from group of students selected at random.  

Is Penn State paying for COVID-19 testing from Vault Health?

Yes. Students, faculty and staff are not required to pay for the test.

When will I receive the email with the link to order my Vault Health test kit?

All students required to complete pre-arrival testing received their email no later than  Tuesday, Aug. 12  with instructions on ordering a test kit. You should order your test kit immediately upon receiving those instructions, so please keep an eye on your email. ​The code included in the email is unique to each individual and may not be shared. 

How will the Vault Health COVID-19 testing process work?

Students will receive an email that provides directions about the testing process and an individualized registration link at Vault Health’s testing website for students residing in the United States. Through the link, you will be directed to the Vault Health testing registration process, where you will apply to have a COVID-19 testing kit sent to your current address. The code included in the email is unique to each individual and may not be shared.

You need to allow at least 7 days from the time you order your test kit, collect and return your sample, processing of your sample and receipt of your test results so do not delay.

After receiving your testing kit in the mail, the telehealth visits can begin. The test is performed through a secure video visit supervised by a Vault Health practitioner, eliminating the potential risk of exposure to others involved with in-person sample collection.

The Vault Health practitioner will guide you in remotely conducting the test and collecting the saliva sample. You also will be assisted in preparing the test packet to be sent to the  lab for processing, using the provided, prepaid shipping UPS label that can be dropped off at the nearest UPS location (note: UPS is closed Sundays).

Your test results will be sent to you directly via a Vault Health email. Those results can be expected generally within 48-72 hours after your sample kit arrives at the  lab for processing. A copy of your test result will also be sent to Penn State.

How long after I produce the sample do I have to ship it back to the lab?

The lab must test the sample within 56 hours of it having been produced, which means that you need to ship it back to the lab as soon as possible after producing it. As is widely done already in the medical community, specialized lab tests are routinely sent to single locations for analysis from around the country. The FDA's Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for this test states that "Saliva specimens must be transported and stored at ambient temperature and tested within 56 hours of collection.” For this reason, as well as to ensure that you are able to get your results as quickly as possible, Vault Health uses next day shipping and, when necessary, insulated shipping materials, to get samples quickly back to the lab while maintaining their stability. 


Why does my collection at home need to be supervised by a test supervisor?

In regards to the at-home collection, Vault believes that

  1. This is fundamentally different from what is often thought of as traditional "at-home” collection because it is being supervised every step of the way by a test supervisor, patients are not left to their own devices
  2. Remotely supervised testing interactions currently are, and continue to grow in widespread recognition of as an appropriate patient-supervised interaction, and given that Vault utilizes real-time synchronous audio/visual technology, it is no different than if a patient was standing in front of a testing supervisor in a physical office
  3.  In the uncertain times we find ourselves, with social distancing showing real results of flattening the curve, plus the scarcity of PPE, Vault believes this is an effective method to maintain the safety of test supervisors and the patients to whom they provide care.
Do I need to schedule an appointment to give my sample?

No need to schedule an appointment. When you have your testing kit just download Zoom and go here.

Vault Health is experiencing a high volume of appointments mid-day and encourage you to complete your test at an alternate time for a shorter wait time.  

Where do I go to take the test?

All testing will be conducted through remote testing (via Zoom video call) with a Vault test supervisor. There is no physical location to visit to take this test with Vault, all appointments for testing will be through remote testing (via Zoom video call). Only patients who have placed orders will be able to meet with a Vault test supervisor to supervise the test.

Are there remote supervised appointments available for testing that are accessible for individuals who are deaf or visually impaired?

If you require additional accessibility for your supervised COVID-19 remote testing (via Zoom video call) with Vault, please reach out to our Patient Experience team by email at We will respond to you directly to schedule an appointment that can accommodate your request.

Can I request an appointment in a language other than English?

If you require a video appointment conducted in a language other than English for your supervised COVID-19 test with Vault, please reach out to our Patient Experience team by email at We have translation services available for 200 languages (including American Sign Language) and can connect with you to meet your translation needs for your testing appointment.

What happens after my remote testing (via Zoom video call)?

After completing your sample collection with a Vault test supervisor, please immediately attach the overnight shipping label included. Find the nearest drop-off location that matches your label and send your test kit back.

What happens after I have shipped my completed test kit back?

When your results are ready, a Vault test supervisor generates an email notification with a link to your test results along with recommended next steps depending on your results. The test results will be ready within 48 - 72 hours after the sample arrives at the laboratory.

What do I do if I don’t receive the confirmation email that my completed testing kit was received for processing?

If you do not receive a confirmation email, contact for more information. 

Can I take the test without video supervision from a test supervisor?

No. Vault’s SARS-CoV-2 test will only be performed in the laboratory after (1) a licensed test supervisor orders the test for you and (2) your sample collection is observed by a test supervisor (via Zoom-enabled video supervised testing). Once the sample has been received by and tested in the laboratory, you will receive your results via electronic reporting. 

If you do not collect saliva under supervision from a test supervisor, the test results will be invalidated. 

I do not have a US government issued ID, can I still be tested?

Yes, you can also use your PSU Student ID or any identification card with your name and a photo.

How long will it take for the test to arrive once I register through Vault Health?

It will take 2-4 days for tests to arrive from the time you register at Vault Health. 

I am having an issue in the Vault Portal (uploading ID, entered information incorrectly, etc.)

Please contact the Vault Health team at

I want to learn more about the specific test used by Vault Health.

Please visit and refer to the frequently asked questions at the bottom of the page for more detials.  

Do I need to be tested again even if I had tested negative for COVID-19 earlier this summer or this month?

Students who previously tested negative through another means not associated with Penn State do need to be re-tested. You will receive an email from Penn State explaining how to access an at-home testing kits offered through our Vault Health partnership.  

Do students who choose to participate in 100% remote coursework need to take the COVID-19 test offered for free by the University through Vault Health?

Students who plan to participate in fully remote courses, and who will not be traveling on or near a Penn State campus for the fall semester, will not be asked to be tested. 

What happens if a student is unwilling to participate in the University’s mandatory COVID-19 testing plan?

Students selected for pre-arrival testing will not be allowed to move into University Residences or attend on-campus classes until a completed test result is on file with Penn State.

What happens if I do not have my test results in time to move to campus?

The University implemented a pre-arrival testing program as a measure to minimize the spread of the virus as students return to campus. It is an important part of our efforts to enhance the health and safety of our community. Unfortunately, students are unable to return to campus until they have received their result and if positive have completed their isolation period. We understand this will likely impact your travel plans and move-in date. If you are living on campus, you can request a new move-in time through the eLiving portal. Students may not return until the pre-arrival testing is complete.

Will the number of positive COVID-19 cases from residence halls, research facilities and other buildings be reported and disclosed to the public?

Positive case information will be reported publicly, encompassing the Penn State community as a whole. Information will not be broken down by the Individual building or residence hall.

How is Vault Health reporting COVID-19 test results to state and federal governments?

Vault Health reports COVID-19 testing results as required to applicable health care government authorities for their public health activities.

As the semester progresses, are there plans to conduct random testing on campus?

Yes, plans for ongoing surveillance testing will be released as part of Penn State's Back to State plan.

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COVID-19 Pre-Arrival Testing