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Pre-Orientation Program: CATalyst


What's CATalyst?

CATalyst is a Pre-Orientation Program that occurs immediately preceding Wildcat Welcome, Northwestern's weeklong intensive orientation program. For those who want an additional opportunity to meet other new students aside from Wildcat Welcome, CATalyst provides a unique experience rooted in leadership development.

Approximately 100 incoming students choose to participate in CATalyst. This is a 4-night program that introduces new students to different leadership practices as they set goals and expectations for their transition to Northwestern. Students will develop reflective and interpersonal skills through various activities and dialogues. They will also be introduced to available campus resources and involvement opportunities.

Note: CATalyst is the only pre-orientation program offered for 2020, aside from academic-based programs.  Programs offered in past years, such as hiking, Chicago excursion, or service-learning, are not available for 2020. 

Updates for 2020

Due to the Wildcat Wellness Weeks period upon students arrival, CATalyst will not be held as a program before classes for 2020. CATalyst student leaders will provide information to those who registered about any alternative academic year programming in October 2020. If you have any questions, contact


A note about health and safety: The safety of our students is our priority. The CATalyst pre-orientation program is subject to change as Northwestern follows local, state, and federal health directives and guidelines. If the trip must be cancelled due to COVID-19 regulations, all participants will receive a full refund. 

CATalyst POP Registration, Fees, and Fee Waivers

CATalyst POP registration is now closed. Though CATalyst registration is NOT first-come, first-served, the time of your registration's final submission will be taken into consideration; due to trip capacities, placement is not guaranteed. 

CATalyst has a $375 fee. We are dedicated to making experiences accessible to all incoming students. The CATalyst application form includes a section for applicants to designate if they wish to be considered for a CATalyst fee waiver; requesting a Fee Waiver in no way impacts your placement (placement is need-blind). Fee waivers are determined by Undergraduate Financial Aid based on financial need. You will learn of your fee waiver status along with your placement notification. If you do not receive a fee waiver and are not able to financially support your placement, please contact New Student & Family Programs at or at 847-467-3988 to discuss possible next steps.

Questions about CATalyst ?

Wondering about getting to campus for CATalyst, what the registration process is all about, what move-in looks like, or just have questions about CATalyst in general? Be sure to review the CATalyst Frequently Asked Questions page!

Additional Summer Experiences


Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB)

If you participated in your high school band, joining the Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB) is a really great way to continue playing (you do not even need to be a music major to participate). Big Ten football, lifelong friends, and an opportunity to become an important part of Northwestern are just a few benefits of joining NUMB. Join NUMB by visiting their website or calling 847.491.3412.

By joining NUMB, you would report to campus in late August. Your first few weeks on campus will provide you with an incredible ability to not just participate in band practice, but begin making bonds that will last a lifetime!