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Undergraduate Students: Updated Plans for the Fall Quarter

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

This is not a letter we wanted to write, but we are compelled to make several adjustments to our plans for undergraduate students this fall after consulting with Northwestern Medicine experts as well as state and local public health officials. We also have studied COVID-19’s increasing spread through suburban Chicago, listened to your feedback, and learned from our peer institutions’ experiences during the early stages of reopening their campuses.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to provide the best academic experience possible. Our number one priority remains the health and well-being of our community — and the larger communities of which we are a part. 

These changes are designed to reduce the density of our Evanston campus residential housing; preserve the on-campus experience for as many third- and fourth-year undergraduates, graduate students and professional students as possible; allow for more quarantine and isolation spaces on campus; and respond to the pandemic’s spread:

  • With limited exceptions, first- and second-year undergraduate students will not be allowed on campus, including in residence halls, and will begin the academic year on a remote-only basis. If all goes as planned, these students will come to campus for Winter Quarter, which begins on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.
  • Third- and fourth-year undergraduates, graduate students and professional students will be allowed on campus for Fall Quarter as previously scheduled.
  • We will close sorority and fraternity houses until Winter Quarter. Student Affairs staff will work with third- and fourth-year undergraduate students who planned to live in sorority or fraternity housing to find other options, including University housing.
  • We discourage first- and second-year undergraduate students from moving to the Evanston area during the Fall Quarter.
  • Undergraduate move-in dates will be delayed for those coming to on-campus housing and will now begin Sept. 12, 2020. Undergraduate classes will begin Sept. 16 as planned.
  • Wildcat Wellness will still apply to students living both on campus and off campus. Some details have changed for that two-week period based on feedback from medical experts and the experiences of other universities that have reopened. Please review the new conditions of Wildcat Wellness.

We realize this will create real inconvenience and disappointment for many of you, but the lower density of our campus and housing facilities will help us in our efforts to contain the virus and provide more space to accommodate the isolation and testing that we now anticipate will be needed.

We fully expect that any student who returns to campus will exhibit responsible behaviors in line with the expectations set forth in the training they received and the COVID-19 code of conduct document you signed prior to registration. We also expect everyone to abide by the established testing and tracking requirements.

We will offer a top-quality educational experience this fall to all students — whether they are on campus or not and whether they receive instruction through remote, hybrid or face-to-face teaching.

We recognize that having a portion of our undergraduate student body adjust their plans — and modifying who can live in on-campus housing — impacts our undergraduates in different ways. As a result of the evolving nature of that decision as well as its economic impact, the University will reduce undergraduate tuition by 10% for Fall Quarter. Those who receive need-based aid will not be impacted, as their aid will be reduced commensurate to tuition, and their expected family contribution will remain the same.

The University also will provide assistance to undergraduate students who need support or resources for remote classes.

No changes are being made to the way in which graduate or professional students can choose to return to campus or live in on-campus housing. Therefore, we have determined their tuition will not change.

First- and Second-Year Students

To reiterate, we ask that our first- and second-year undergraduate students begin the academic year at home, taking all courses remotely, and should plan to move into their residence halls for Winter Quarter. We advise them not to make alternative arrangements through off-campus housing.

Because our goal is to reduce the number of people on the Evanston campus, our first- and second-year students will not have access to campus facilities until Winter Quarter, unless they have pre-approved reasons for being on campus.

We will establish an exception process, allowing first- and second-year undergraduate students facing hardships, safety issues or specific academic needs to apply to live in on-campus housing for the Fall Quarter. More information about this process will be sent via email early next week. Students should plan to request an exception within 48 hours of receiving that message. 

Third- and Fourth-Year Students

Our third- and fourth-year undergraduate students, living either on- or off-campus, have the option of taking their coursework in any combination of all-remote, hybrid or in-person teaching. 

Move-in Timing

Due to the need to make necessary changes around assignments, undergraduate move-in for on-campus housing will not begin until Sept. 12, a change from the originally announced Sept. 6 date. Residential Services will send more information about move-in and room placement to students by early next week.

We recognize the impact COVID-19 has had on all members of our community, and we know that students may need to make different decisions. We will allow third- and fourth-year undergraduates, graduate students and professional students living in on-campus residence halls or residential colleges to cancel their housing contracts for the Fall Quarter until 11:59 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

In addition, incoming undergraduate students can now request a one-quarter deferral to begin their studies in Winter Quarter 2021. Such requests must be made by Sept. 3.

We are confident that these adjustments will give us the ability to steadily and safely build the best environment for teaching, research and everything else that makes our University so special. But please know that our plans could change again, depending on the prevalence of the virus. 

Finally, we encourage you to join our next installment of the Return to Campus Discussion Series, scheduled for noon on Tuesday, Sept. 1, during which many of these issues will be discussed.

We thank you for your resilience and flexibility during these most challenging times. And we look forward to working with you as the Fall Quarter commences.



Morton Schapiro
President and Professor 

Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor 

Craig Johnson
Senior Vice President for Business and Finance 

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier
Vice President for Student Affairs