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Before the semester begins:

Complete Your Background Check

Because the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) is a federal site, you must successfully complete a background investigation and fingerprinting in order to reside on the premises. You must also have your photo taken for the badge that gives you site access.

Students admitted to SMSC will receive an email with detailed instructions for completing the background investigation, including transportation information, and a list of the upcoming SCBI processing dates. All current Mason students are required to come to SCBI in Front Royal, Virginia, to complete the process on site. Non-Mason students who are not local to Northern Virginia have the option to complete the process remotely on their own. Required forms will be sent to these students via postal mail on request.

Questions about the background investigation may be directed to Robert Barrett at

Health Insurance Coverage

Students must supply their own health insurance and present proof of coverage. See George Mason University’s insurance website for minimum requirements and insurance plans available for purchase.

Turn in the Immunizations Form

Virginia state law requires all students to be up-to-date on immunizations. If you’re not already a Mason student with an immunization record on file, you must complete the Immunization Record form by October 1 for fall semester programs, and March 1 for spring semester.

Our field work requires additional precautions:

  • Tetanus shots should be up to date.
  • Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, currently has no immunization available. It’s important to take prevention measures when you’re out in the field.

Disability Services

Students with disabilities must register with Mason’s Office of Disability Services in order to assist with accommodations and other services, including Emotional Support Animal (ESA) requests.  Approval documentation will be required in order to ensure that accommodation requests are adequately met.

NOTE:  Due to the sensitive environment of SCBI’s animal collection, ESA requests for dogs will not be permitted. 

Your Mason ID

Your Mason ID card will provide access to the residence hall, your room, and your meal plan. Current Mason students should bring their Mason ID when they check in to the Residence Hall.

Non-Mason students must submit a headshot photo to the Mason Card Office using the guidelines for distance learners. Let them know you’re an SMSC student who is new to George Mason University, and you’ll receive your ID card when you arrive at SMSC.

Parking and Vehicle Registration

Students are welcome to bring a vehicle and park on-site during their semester. If you bring your own vehicle, you will be required to register it with SCBI in order to receive a parking decal. Guests’ vehicles should be registered when they sign in at the Residence Hall front desk.


The first few days of the semester include mandatory orientation sessions. You’ll learn about the institute’s resources and procedures, and advise staff regarding medical conditions, allergies, dietary restrictions, or other concerns.