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COVID-19 Testing Information for Northwestern Undergraduate Students

Dear undergraduate students,

We write to share two critical announcements regarding COVID-19 testing:

  • An overview of the testing process we will implement; and
  • Details of the at-home testing kit required for your return to campus that you will need to complete by Aug. 27.

Your health and well-being are our highest priority this Fall Quarter. Each and every one of us plays a role, through our daily actions and behaviors, in making our campus a healthy environment to live, learn and discover. Comprehensive COVID-19 testing is an integral part of our strategy to help us start the new academic year as safely as possible and to continue monitoring the health of our community, but is only one piece of a broader set of efforts underway to encourage a healthy campus this fall.  

Testing Process

Northwestern University, in partnership with Northwestern Medicine, will implement a three-step COVID-19 testing process for undergraduate students returning to campus. The three steps are:

  • Pre-arrival: An at-home mail-in test that you must take prior to your arrival on campus (instructions below).
  • Arrival: Testing at our on-campus facility upon your arrival to Evanston to kick off Wildcat Wellness (more information will follow soon).
  • Ongoing: Both on- and off-campus students will be tested regularly throughout the duration of your time in the Evanston area (more information will follow soon).

This testing process will be conducted at no cost to you.

At-Home Testing Due Aug. 27

You must complete the at-home test before returning to campus in any capacity. Wildcards, which will be needed to gain entry to campus buildings this fall, will not be activated until you complete the at-home testing procedure and test negative for COVID-19.

Please follow these steps to receive and submit your at-home test:

  1. Sign consent and release forms. Follow this link to sign consent and release forms for taking the test. This includes the use and disclosure of the results for our COVID-19-testing processes. By granting your consent, the test results will be shared with Northwestern and with you. Neither we, nor the testing companies, will disclose the testing information or your results to third parties other than the University, service providers helping run the COVID-19-testing program, and possibly governmental authorities and third parties to the extent required or permitted (including for contact tracing purposes) by law. Your parents and guardians will also not receive the testing information or results.

    Note: in order to complete the consent forms, you will need your NetID. If you have not registered and activated your NetID as instructed in previous emails, please do that now.

  2. Provide your mailing address to receive the test. If you have completed the consent forms noted above, you will receive an email from Picture Genetics from beginning Aug. 20. Given the importance and time sensitivity of this process, please consider adding this email address to your contacts so that it does not end up in your spam folder.

    This email will contain a link directing you to the Picture Genetics website where you will be prompted to: (a) create an account and order a test kit with your University email address, and (b) verify your Picture Genetics account via email from There is no charge to you for this test. You will need to provide the mailing address where you plan to be two days later in order to receive the test at the correct address. 

    Please note these tests cannot be sent to international locations or to students under the age of 18 due to certain restrictions. Given that, this at-home testing effort is available to all students 18 years old and older and to all international students currently living in the United States. Students not eligible for these tests will be exempted from this requirement.   

    If you complete the first steps as instructed, you should receive your test no later than Aug. 25.

  3. Take the test. Within 2-3 days of ordering your test, you will receive a test kit in the mail. Upon receiving the kit, you will need to follow the directions to collect your specimen via a nasal swab. To view a two-minute video from Picture Genetics on how to navigate these steps, please click here.
  4. Ship back the test. Drop off the prepaid package at a FedEx location within 24 hours of collecting your sample. Ship early in the day (morning preferred) to ensure your sample is received at the lab within the required window of time from collecting your specimen.

You should complete your process and drop off the sample with FedEx no later than Thursday, Aug. 27. If you are not able to complete the process by Aug. 27, you should wait until the following Monday (Aug. 31) to collect your sample and send it through FedEx. Do not ship the return package on the weekend.

You will receive the results 2-4 days after you ship the package. Northwestern will also receive your results through the company, and you do not need to take additional action to send us your results, and we will only share that information as outlined in the consent and release forms noted above.

If the test result is positive, you will be contacted by a medical provider associated with Picture Genetics to provide you with medical guidance, should you need it. You will need to self-isolate at home for 10-14 days before being cleared by Northwestern’s student Health Services to return to campus, and arrangements will be made to prevent this from impacting your ability to attend classes. 

Even with pre-arrival testing, we encourage all students who plan to come to campus this fall — international and domestic — to self-isolate at home for two weeks before returning to campus to improve your chances of staying healthy, slowing the spread of COVID-19 and returning to campus on schedule.

As we get closer to your return to campus, we will provide more details regarding the on-campus arrival testing efforts and ongoing testing protocols.

New Symptom Tracker App Coming Soon

The Northwestern community also will have access to our Symptom Tracker application. Students, faculty, staff and guests visiting either the Evanston or Chicago campuses must use the app’s “Symptom Check” survey each day before physically arriving on campus, and be ready to show a virtual “green badge” (for students, faculty and staff) or a virtual “purple badge” (for visitors) when prompted on Northwestern’s campuses. Users who are identified as having symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19 will be issued a virtual “red badge” and given instructions on how to proceed. A link to the app will be provided prior to your arrival on campus.

If you have any questions about returning to campus, please reach out to us at For questions about the at-home test kit, please contact Picture Genetics at

Please continue to visit the COVID-19 website for the most current set of policies and guidelines. Thank you for playing an active role in the health and well-being of our broader Northwestern community.


Luke Figora
Senior Associate Vice President
Chief Risk and Compliance Officer

Dr. Robert Palinkas
Executive Director
Northwestern University Health Service