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Graduate Winter Quarter Preparation

Dear Graduate Students,

As the end of the calendar year draws near, we are looking ahead to resuming classes in January. We write with information on what you can expect when Winter Quarter begins, as well as steps you should take to prepare.

Please carefully read this message, which includes information on:

  • Details on the January Wildcat Wellness modified quarantine period;
  • Updates on testing;
  • Actions you must complete in the next two weeks, including sharing your plans for winter, and steps you can take to support a healthy start to the term.

Through the hard work of all of our community members, we were able to keep our positivity rate substantially below that of our surrounding communities. But with COVID-19 surging locally and nationally, it remains important to continue our testing program and adhere strongly to our standards for face coverings, social distancing and limiting gatherings. To ensure a smooth transition to the next quarter, we ask that you remain diligent throughout Winter Break.

Looking Ahead to Winter

Classes will resume at different times and in different modalities across various programs. Below are general details on the January Wildcat Wellness period as well as testing expectations. Please consult with your program if you have specific questions about how these measures apply to you.

Wildcat Wellness

The quarter again will begin with a two-week modified quarantine, which will be Jan. 3-17 for most programs. Graduate students must receive a negative COVID-19 test before engaging in any in-person activity and are asked to engage only in essential activities during this time. Limited exceptions will be made for graduate students in active research labs and are outlined here. Classes will begin remotely during this period.

We will monitor adherence to Wildcat Wellness and campus positivity rates, hoping to begin expanded in-person activity on Jan. 18. Additional details on Wildcat Wellness are outlined here. We will track the numbers of positive cases and students in quarantine and isolation throughout the quarter, and may reinstate this modified quarantine at any point.

Testing for Winter Term

Most graduate and professional students must be tested weekly or every other week, beginning in the Winter Quarter, depending on the amount of time they plan to spend on campus or interact with the campus community in person. Northwestern altered its approach towards testing for graduate and professional students due to the increased community prevalence and density on campus. Testing will be supported by a new vendor, Color, and detailed information on testing can be found on the testing website. If after several reminders of their obligation to be tested, students still do not comply, they will be referred to the Office of Community Standards for disciplinary action. Please see the “Preparing for Winter Quarter” section below to learn how you can notify the University if your plans change and you no longer plan to interact with the Northwestern community in person.

Students are required to have a negative COVID test during the Wildcat Wellness period, before coming to campus for in-person classes or other activities. Most graduate and professional students should plan to complete their initial testing during the week of Jan. 11. Please note, we suggest booking your initial test on a day of the week that you generally plan to be on campus. You will receive reminders when your next test is due, which will likely be the same day of the week as your initial test. 

See the “Preparing for Winter Quarter” section below for a time sensitive list of tasks you must complete, including creating your Color profile and booking your first appointment.

Please note, certain evening and weekend or out-of-state professional programs may also have adjusted testing protocols, which will be communicated by your program staff.

Preparing for Winter Quarter

We ask that you take several steps to prepare for Winter Quarter. First, we expect you will follow CDC guidance on travel and holiday gatherings. We also encourage students returning to campus to quarantine for two weeks prior to arriving to increase the chances of your being healthy.

Additionally, there are a number of tasks you must complete. Please note the due dates for each and reach out to our Return to Campus team with questions

  1. Create a Color profile before arriving on campus, then book your first appointment using the “Evanston or Chicago Graduate Student” slots as soon as you know what day you plan to arrive in Evanston, choosing a day of the week when you typically plan to be on campus. You can create your Color profile starting Thursday, Dec. 10. Please do this as soon as possible.
  2. Log into CAESAR to report how frequently you plan to interact with members of the Northwestern community in person or come to campus. There is a new tile on your CAESAR homepage, called “Community Interaction Plans” where you can choose the frequency that matches your plans. Your response will form the foundation of your campus-based asymptomatic COVID-19 testing requirements, so keep this page up to date if your plans change. Submit your initial Winter Quarter plans by Dec. 18.
  3. Follow these instructions to review and update your emergency information in CAESAR.  This includes confirming or updating your current/local address during the term, an emergency notification phone number (a number where we can reach you in the event of a campus emergency), and an emergency contact, like a partner or parent. If you live in university housing, your local address will be updated for you. Submit your emergency information by Dec. 18 to avoid a registration hold.
  4. If you do not plan to be in the Evanston/Chicago area for the upcoming term, log in to Canvas and confirm that your time zone accurately reflects the local time where you plan to study. This will ensure that your assignment due dates and times in Canvas reflect your local time. Please keep this information up to date if your plans change.

Nine months have now elapsed since the pandemic first disrupted each of our lives, and it continues to take a toll on us all. We hope this holiday season will be a time of rest and renewal as you prepare for the new year and look forward to the start of Winter Quarter.


Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor

Julie Payne Kirchmeier
Vice President for Student Affairs

Luke Figora
Senior Associate Vice President 
Chief Risk and Compliance Officer