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Undergraduate Winter Quarter Preparation

Dear Undergraduate Students,

As the end of the calendar year draws near, we are looking ahead to welcoming more of you back to campus 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:

  • The January Wildcat Wellness modified quarantine period;
  • Details on testing and student experiences during Winter Quarter;
  • 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.

While we are confident in our preparations for winter, returning is a choice you must make considering your health and that of your family. Students who elect to study remotely will continue to be able to make academic progress and can engage with campus services and programming.

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.

Wildcat Wellness

The quarter again will begin with a two-stage modified quarantine, Jan. 3-17. All students—including those living in on-campus residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses, and off-campus residences—will move through the Wildcat Wellness stages before in-person activity begins.

During the first stage, undergraduate students will primarily remain in their rooms and residences until they receive two negative COVID-19 tests. In the second stage, students can leave their rooms or residences for a narrow set of allowed activities within a prescribed time period. Undergraduate classes, which begin Jan. 11, will be remote during Wildcat Wellness; a robust set of synchronous and asynchronous programming will be offered; and for students on University meal plans, meals will be delivered to residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses.

Plan to arrive in Evanston no later than Jan. 8. If you arrive after Jan. 8, you must complete a 14-day Wellness period starting upon arrival.

Throughout the stages students will enjoy multiple virtual opportunities to connect with each other and campus resources. We will be posting a robust calendar of programming for all students, including students studying remotely. More details will be shared with students through the emailed student newsletter, The Paw Print.

As we move through Wildcat Wellness, we will assess our community’s adherence to safety standards and our campus positivity rates in hopes of beginning 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 Quarter

All undergraduate students who plan to be on-campus or interact with members of the Northwestern community regularly must be tested weekly, as they were in the Fall Quarter. Information about undergraduate testing can be found here. Testing will be supported by a new partner, Color, during the winter.

As part of Wildcat Wellness, students must complete a first test the day of arrival in Evanston, whether living on or off campus. Students also must complete a second test during Wildcat Wellness, after which continuing with weekly testing. The initial testing schedule is based on arrival and can be found here.

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

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 have changed and you no longer plan to interact with the Northwestern community in person.

Campus Experience

Given the restrictions in place, during Winter Quarter most classes and services for students will be remote. Restrictions on gathering sizes mean a significant amount of programming and activities will also be remote. As we will have many students on campus, but some still living and studying remotely, student experiences will look different. Here is what you can expect:

  • Health and safety measures will continue, including the wearing of masks in all campus public and shared environments with daily completion of the Symptom Tracker.
  • Students who test positive or suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19 must quarantine or isolate. Those living on campus will quarantine or isolate on campus. Those living off campus should plan to do so in their residences.
  • Violations of health and safety measures will be addressed through the student conduct process, which could result in removal from campus.
  • Access to buildings will continue to be monitored. Students must be ready to show their Symptom Tracker badge. Building monitors will actively monitor certain campus spaces and conduct random compliance checks to ensure the safety of our community.
  • There will also be changes to how students participate in student organizations, use facilities such as Norris and the University Library, and engage in fitness and recreation activities.
  • Dining halls are slated to open after the conclusion of Wildcat Wellness. Depending on campus positivity rates, they may be open for in-person dining, grab-and-go only dining, or if needed, meal delivery to residence hall lobbies will continue.

Preparing for Winter Quarter

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

Please note the due dates for each task below and reach out to our Return to Campus team with questions.

  1. Create a profile with our new partner, Color, before arriving on-campus, then book your first and second testing appointments using the “January – Evanston Undergraduate” slots as soon as you know what day you plan to arrive in Evanston. 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 please update this page 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 Winter Quarter local address, an emergency notification phone number, and an emergency contact, like a parent or guardian. 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 Winter Quarter, 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 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. We look forward to the start of Winter Quarter, and whether you will study from afar, return to campus, or come to campus as students for the first time, know that you are cherished members of our Northwestern community.


Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor

Julie Payne Kirchmeier
Vice President for Student Affairs

Luke Figora
Senior Associate Vice President 
Chief Risk and Compliance Officer