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FAQs | Pre-Orientation Program

CATalyst POP Frequently Asked Questions

Below are questions you may have as you think about registering for CATalyst Pre-Orientation Program. Once you learn of your CATalyst POP placement in June you will then receive more specific details related to the program.

Who is eligible to participate in CATalyst POP?

All first year Northwestern students (that means first-year college and transfer students) are eligible to participate. Regardless of socioeconomic status, we are committed to ensuring program fees do not inhibit your ability to participate; fee waivers are available for many of those who receive need-based aid from the University.

How many students participate in CAtalyst POP?

Approximately 100 students participate in CATalyst POP.

Is there financial assistance available for CATalyst POP?

Yes, we're committed to ensuring financial standing does not impact your experiences while at Northwestern! Financial assistance is offered in the form of fee waivers for many of those receiving need-based aid from Northwestern; you will find information on the Registration and Fee Waiver page which goes live on May 5. There is a place within the CATalyst POP application to mark if you wish to be considered for a fee waiver. When you receive your CATalyst POP assignment email on June 22, you will also learn of your fee waiver status.

What does it mean to register for CATalyst POP?

Your registration for CATalyst POP is where you will provide your information by June 14; payment is not required until after you learn your placement and is due on July 6. By registering, you are agreeing that you will participate in the program.

I've completed my registration or application. Now what?

You will submit your application by June 14 at 11:59 p.m. CDT; you should receive a confirmation email noting your submission. On June 22 you will receive your CATalyst POP assignment notification and information on how to pay (payment due by July 6).

Upon payment, you'll receive a welcome email and a guide of what your next steps will be for the summer. You may be asked to complete additional forms during the summer to help the CATalyst POP organizers plan for your participation. You should expect to receive monthly updates via email over the summer.

How are students assigned to CATalyst POP?

Though applications are not entirely time-sensitive (i.e. first-come, first-served), the time at which you submit your application may be considered, so we encourage you to submit as early as possible. It is possible you may not be placed into the program depending on capacity.

What if I am not assigned to CATalyst POP?

On June 22, applicants will receive their placement notification. Due to the trip capacity, it is possible an applicant may not be placed into the program. Students who are not originally placed will have the opportunity to sign up for the POP Waitlist. The completion of the Waitlist form is time sensitive. 

Students initially placed into CATalyst POP who do not complete their trip payment by the July 6 deadline, or must cancel their participation for another reason, will have their spot forfeited to a student on the POP Waitlist. Students on the CATalyst POP Waitlist could receive a placement notification between July 6 - August 1.

When do I pay for my CATalyst POP?

You will first submit your registration by June 14. You will receive your CATalyst POP placement notification by June 22 and will be asked to submit your payment for that program by July 6 online (only online payments can be accepted, no cash or check). Those who do not submit their payment by July 6 at 11:59 p.m. CDT will lose their spot which will be filled by any student on the POP waitlist.

What does the CATalyst POP fee include??

The fee associated with the CATalyst POP experience is all encompassing, meaning there are no other costs associated while on the trip. It covers all programming costs, participant housing, meals, transportation during the program, and a program shirt!

How do I get to campus to check-in for CATalyst POP?

If you plan to fly to Chicago, there is no transportation provided by the University to get from the airport to campus.  You will be responsible for coordinating your own transportation to campus. 

In July or August, CATalyst POP may connect you with other participants who are flying in around the same time as you if you wish to share transportation to campus. 

Both Midway and O'Hare airports are accessible to campus. 

  • Midway: Driving is 75 minutes to campus, CTA "L" is 90 minutes ($2.50)
  • O'Hare: Driving is 45 minutes, CTA "L" is 90 minutes ($2.50)

Can I move into my residence hall if participate in CATalyst POP?

No, students are not able to move in prior to new student move-in day. CATalyst POP will be finished the morning of move-in. CATalyst POP participants are encouraged not to select on a move-in time for any earlier than 10 a.m.

If needed, we have limited storage space for CATalyst POP participants and can hold one piece of luggage per student while you are on your POP.  All bags will be marked, stored, and locked up before you start your program and will be accessible the morning of move-in day. We suggest not to leave any valuables in this bag, to be safe.

Where can I store my luggage while on CATalyst POP?

You'll learn more about this once you have completed your CATalyst POP payment. Due to limited space, participants are not able to bring all items that they hope to move into their residence on September 14 at the time they arrive for CATalyst POP. Participants will need to coordinate with family members or friends to have move-in day items brought to campus on move-in day. Or, you can utilize the vendor Northwestern partners with to have items shipped directly to your room so it is waiting there on move-in day; find more information on the University and Student Services Website.

Where will I be sleeping during CATalyst POP?

CATalyst POP participants sleep in enclosed sleeping cabins at Camp Hickory in Ingleside, Illinois.

What do I pack for CATalyst POP?

After you receive your CATalyst POP placement notification, you will have access to the participant website that will provide robust information on anything and everything you need to know. This page will also include a list of items to pack for CATalyst POP.

Can I get a refund if I can no longer attend CATalyst POP?

Your payment is non-refundable, unless in times of emergency. Contact New Student and Family Programs at

Parents/Families: Is CATalyst POP something I should let my student do?

Students have participated in CATalyst POP and feel as if they have a network of peers before they even start Wildcat Welcome (which is the time when the entire class comes together and they begin to form a network). Their CATalyst POP network is something that persists throughout their first year, along with the network they build in Wildcat Welcome and then in their Residence Hall. From a social standpoint, it is an additional way to build connections.

You may be thinking about safety. We've got you covered. The leaders of CATalyst POP are thoroughly trained to hand a myriad of situations and we have protocols in place so we can be prepared for anything. New Student & Family Programs and the Campus Life office work closely with all CATalyst POP leaders to ensure students are safe on these experiences while building a comprehensive communication infrastructure so offices stay well informed throughout the trips. 

If you (the family member) need to get in contact with your student during the trip in case of emergency, you will have the direct contact information for the Campus Life office and New Student and Family Programs to ensure we can connect you quickly. 

Are there accommodations for gender non-conforming students on CATalyst POP?

There are accommodation options on CATalyst POP in order to ensure all participants feel comfortable and safe, regardless of their gender identity. There will be an opportunity to elaborate on specific accommodation preferences on your application form. If you have any questions about specific programs please contact our office at so that we can provide you with all of the details you need.

What if I have dietary restrictions or allergies?

Participants with dietary restrictions, including those who are vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, and allergic to certain food products, will have food provided for them. There will be an opportunity to elaborate on specific dietary restrictions on your application form.