Skip to main content

Student Spring Break and Spring Quarter Update

As the weather warms up and COVID-19 vaccines are administered at an increasing rate across the nation, it is understandably tempting for us to let our guard down. So it is with great pride that we report that Northwestern has maintained a low rate of positive COVID-19 tests throughout the Winter Quarter. Thank you for your diligent adherence to health guidelines as we continue to safely navigate the pandemic.

Many of you begin final exams next week, followed by spring break. We certainly send you our best as you prepare for your exams and final projects. As Northwestern looks forward to Spring Quarter and beyond, today we provide some important reminders and updates about the University’s evolving response to COVID-19. Some schools may provide more detailed information in follow-up emails, so please be sure to read those messages. 

Spring Break

Whether you stay in the area or choose to travel for spring break, it is imperative that you adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and Northwestern policies at all times. Please keep wearing your mask, maintain appropriate physical distancing, wash your hands and avoid large groups.

For residential students, there is no additional charge to remain in the residence halls during this period, and dining hall meal services will continue to operate out of Sargent Dining Center with all meals to-go. For all students, several campus organizations and departments will offer programming designed for the break to keep you engaged with friends and classmates. Like the beginning of Winter Quarter, check your Canvas account for daily and on-demand offerings. If you remain in campus housing or continue to visit campus during the break, you must continue your COVID-19 testing regimen. For students staying in fraternity or sorority houses, please check with your house director or advisor for details about housing and meals.

Spring Quarter and Wildcat Wellness 

To position Northwestern for a healthy quarter, the University will again require students to participate in Wildcat Wellness. All Northwestern students who intend to interact with the community in person or be on campus—including those living in on-campus residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses, and off-campus residences—will move through the seven-day Wildcat Wellness protocol before in-person activity begins. Wildcat Wellness will be March 29-April 5 for most programs, including Kellogg. Any students traveling for spring break or coming to campus for the first time are expected to arrive on campus or at their off-campus residence by March 30. Anyone arriving later must follow a seven-day wellness period starting upon arrival following the stages and requirements outlined online

All students participating in Wildcat Wellness are required to receive two negative COVID-19 tests during the wellness period. Students living in residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses, or needing access to on-campus dining must receive an initial rapid (Abbott) test as soon as possible upon returning to campus or the area. Details on testing are available online. Limited exceptions will be made for graduate students in active research labs who have not left Evanston and student-athletes who are following a Big 10-prescribed testing protocol.

For most programs, Spring Quarter begins on Tuesday, March 30, with a “Northwestern Monday,” in which classes will follow their typical Monday schedule, on Tuesday, March 30, and return to the standard schedule on Wednesday, March 31. Kellogg graduate classes and all classes taught by the School of Professional Studies operate on a slightly different schedule the first week of the quarter. Schools have shared that schedule directly with their students, faculty and staff. Again, all Spring Quarter classes will meet remotely until April 6, after Wildcat Wellness concludes.

Testing Expectations for Spring; Contact Tracing and Quarantine 

Northwestern’s current testing requirements will carry forward into Spring Quarter. All students are required to comply with COVID-19 testing expectations throughout the quarter.

Undergraduate students are required to test twice weekly—one Color and one rapid test.

Testing requirements for graduate and professional students vary based on your program and the amount of time you spend interacting with the Northwestern community. Graduate students who match any of the following categories are required to complete one Color and one rapid test each week:

  • Living in campus housing
  • Regularly on campus for research or enrolled in in-person classes
  • Indicated via CAESAR status that they are interacting daily or frequently with the campus community 

Graduate and professional students who interact infrequently or rarely with the campus community will continue completing a Color test once every other week.

Some professional programs and those operating over evenings and weekends may have different testing protocols that will be communicated by your program staff.

Northwestern will continue to adjust its contact tracing and quarantine/isolation procedures based on guidance from public health partners. Specifically, due to evidence of students testing negative on day seven of quarantine, only to test positive a few days later, we will extend quarantine periods to best protect the health of the community. If you are required to quarantine due to a close contact with someone who is positive, the COVID Response Team will share detailed expectations with you about your quarantine period.

Impact of Vaccinations

You probably saw the interim guidance from the CDC issued this week regarding recommendations for those who have been fully vaccinated. This is an encouraging development in our eventual return to pre-pandemic conditions.

While we expect increasing numbers of our Northwestern community to be vaccinated in the coming weeks and months, it’s important to remember that most of our community will not be vaccinated in the immediate future. Therefore, we plan to continue all of our current public health measures, including masking and social distancing while on campus. Certain adjustments will be made to contact tracing and quarantine protocols in alignment with public health recommendations for those who have been vaccinated, but it is important that our entire community continues the practices that have allowed us to have a healthy Winter Quarter. 

Students who have received a COVID-19 vaccination must abide by the Wildcat Wellness period and all testing expectations. 

More information will continue to come in the coming weeks about vaccine availability and any changes resulting from increased vaccination of the campus community.

Looking Ahead to Fall

As mentioned above, the new CDC guidance gives us encouraging signs about how we plan for the Fall Quarter, though many details about the environment in the fall remain unknown. Public health guidance—particularly requirements for social distancing and classroom capacity—and the degree to which our community is vaccinated will have a significant impact on programming and how research and teaching are performed.

Within this context, the University aims to have as many in-person classes, co-curricular and social experiences as possible. To allow planning to take place with as much information as possible about the anticipated environment in the fall, most decisions about course modalities and Fall registration will take place over the summer. We will communicate teaching expectations to faculty, including classroom guidelines for social distancing, in July, and returning students will register for classes this summer. More information about these processes will be provided during Spring Quarter.

We wish each of you the best as you complete Winter Quarter and hope you have a restful and safe spring break. 


Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier
Vice President for Student Affairs