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Important Fall updates for students

Dear students,

We hope your summer is going well, and that you are finding some final moments of rest and reflection as you prepare for this upcoming Fall Term. We are excited to welcome you to campus for the academic year, when Northwestern will join universities across the country in resuming in-person classes, research and extracurricular activities.

Today, we provide a number of important updates about our preparations for Fall. Whether you are returning to campus or coming to Northwestern for the first time, please review this information carefully. Then take the necessary actions to ensure you can enroll in classes, move into campus housing and otherwise participate in campus life. As always, please visit Northwestern’s COVID-19 website for the most up-to-date information about the campus environment.

Northwestern continues to actively monitor the global and local trajectory of the pandemic, particularly developments related to the delta variant. We regularly consult with our medical and public health partners, who reiterate that vaccines remain the essential tool for overcoming the pandemic. The Northwestern community is demonstrating very strong compliance with the vaccine requirement, far exceeding the general vaccination rates in the Chicago area. As of Aug. 18:

  • More than 93% of undergraduate students and 88% of graduate and professional students have provided proof of vaccination.
  • Only about 3% of students have requested an exception to the vaccination requirement, and the majority of those are international students who have trouble accessing the vaccine. These students will be vaccinated upon arrival to campus.
  • 94% of required faculty and 88% of required staff have reported their vaccination.

We continue to push as close to 100% vaccination as we can, and we are confident that campus will remain a healthy environment given the precautions we have in place. We will closely watch for any broad changes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as recommendations about vaccination boosters, and will communicate those to the campus community as appropriate.

This email outlines important information about health and safety measures for this academic year.

Student Vaccination Requirements

All students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited exceptions related to personal health, sincerely held religious beliefs or access issues. Students who have not yet complied with this requirement have received multiple reminders. If you have not done so already, upload your vaccination record or request an exception by Aug. 24.

Please note, students who wish to seek an exception to the vaccine requirement due to emergency-use authorization status may do so. However, students who receive an exception related to emergency-use authorization status must be vaccinated once full FDA approval is received for any COVID-19 vaccine, unless they apply for and receive another exception at the time of full FDA approval.

Students who have not submitted proof of full vaccination or submitted an exception request by Aug. 24 will not be able access campus systems, buildings (including housing) or services and will not be able to enroll for the Fall. Moreover, students who are not compliant with the requirement cannot come to campus or participate in any activities (including student organizations) or events intended for enrolled students.

We will strictly enforce the University’s vaccination and testing requirements for students. If you have questions about documenting your vaccination status, please contact As a reminder, Northwestern also requires all faculty and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Details on those requirements are posted online.

Testing Requirements

Due to the changing dynamics related to the delta variant of the virus, all students, regardless of vaccination status, are required to complete entry testing as they return to campus for the Fall. This applies to students who are in Evanston and Chicago over the summer for research or other purposes.

Rapid testing is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Jacobs Center at 2001 Sheridan Road in Evanston or 345 E. Superior St. in Chicago. Students should complete their initial test on the same day as their arrival or on the next day the testing site is open if they arrive in the evening or on a weekend. Students must then complete a second test three to four days later.

Students should familiarize themselves with Northwestern’s current COVID-19 testing resources and complete their registration for Northwestern’s NAVICA testing application in advance to make testing on-campus easy.

Students receiving a temporary or permanent exception to the vaccination requirement are required to test at least twice weekly, continue masking in all shared indoor settings and complete the Symptom Tracker daily. These students will receive an email from the University with the conditions of their exception and the implications for non-compliance, which will involve sanctions up to and including suspension or expulsion.

After the initial arrival testing, Northwestern does not require ongoing testing at this time for vaccinated students, based on continued guidance from medical experts and the local public health department. However, we strongly encourage vaccinated students to take advantage of the free testing resources on campus as frequently as possible. Students voluntarily completing a test during each week of the Fall Term will be entered into an end-of-the-term drawing for a number of prizes, including travel vouchers, Northwestern memorabilia and gift certificates for local businesses.

We will closely monitor campus positivity rates and guidance from our medical partners and will adjust quickly if we determine that broader or increased COVID-19 surveillance testing is necessary.

Symptom Tracker

Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to use Symptom Tracker any day they visit campus. Most other members of the University community are not required to use Symptom Tracker regularly. However, you may be required to show a green badge in order to enter certain buildings or participate in certain classes and activities. Please download the application before arriving on campus and be prepared to show your badge when asked. 

Northwestern has updated the Symptom Tracker application to show:

  • A green badge for anyone who is vaccinated, or who is unvaccinated and has received a negative test at Northwestern in the past 72 hours
  • A yellow badge for anyone who is unvaccinated and has not received a negative test at Northwestern in the past 72 hours
  • A red badge for individuals who are currently experiencing symptoms or who are in quarantine or isolation status

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms—even if you are vaccinated—it remains essential to report them using the Symptom Tracker by “badging red.” Northwestern’s COVID Response Team will coordinate a symptomatic test for you and provide guidance on your next steps. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, do not get tested at the Jacobs Center (Evanston) or 345 E. Superior St. (Chicago).

Students should not plan to access campus unless they have a “green” Symptom Tracker status.

Contact Tracing Protocols

Northwestern has updated its protocols for contact tracing and quarantine and self-isolation to align with recent changes from the CDC. If you are vaccinated and identified as a close contact, the CDC now recommends testing. 

Vaccinated close contacts need to email Case Management will determine next steps, including arranging for a PCR test three-to-five days after the exposure. Additionally, vaccinated exposures will need to mask indoors for 14 days after their initial exposure, regardless of current masking guidance.

Unvaccinated close contacts need to email and quarantine for 14 days. Case Management will determine next steps, including arranging for a PCR test three-to-five days after the exposure

Anyone who tests positive, regardless of vaccination status, must self-isolate for 10 days.

As was the case last year, Northwestern will provide quarantine and isolation housing for students living in the residence halls and in fraternity and sorority houses. Students living off-campus must identify their own housing options if they are required to quarantine or isolate due to a COVID-19 exposure.


Northwestern will continue following CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health guidance regarding indoor masking. Until those recommendations change, masks are required indoors, with exceptions for:

  • Residence hall rooms, private offices or study rooms
  • Actively eating or drinking
  • Actively teaching or lecturing, if vaccinated and able to maintain social distance

In the future, there may be situations deemed acceptable to remove masks in indoor settings, and the masking section of the website will be updated with this information. Even if the mask mandate is lifted for vaccinated individuals, the combination of masking and vaccination leaves very little risk of transmission.

For more information about any of these expectations, please visit the website and join us for the upcoming Return to Campus Discussion Series event on Aug. 24. Please remember, while many eagerly anticipate this academic year, others continue to navigate challenging situations. The past 18 months have been difficult for many. Please show compassion, understanding and respect for your fellow students, Northwestern faculty and staff, and our broader Northwestern, Evanston and Chicago communities.

Thank you for all you continue to do to keep Northwestern a safe and healthy place.


Luke Figora
Vice President for Operations

Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier
Vice President for Student Affairs