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FAQs for Families

Parent and Family Orientation

As a parent or family member, when should I leave?

Families decide to leave at a variety of times during Parent and Family Orientation (PFO): at the conclusion of move-in day, after March through the Arch, during the new student wellness break on 9/18, or at the end of all PFO programming.

Students will be busy with Wildcat Welcome programming on 9/17 & 9/18 while family members participate in Parent & Family Orientation. This year, there will not be time to say goodbye to your student after March through the Arch; students will leave with their Peer Adviser group for lunch once the event concludes.  However, there is a new student wellness break scheduled for 3 pm – 6 pm on 9/18 when the students will have free time. Please take this into consideration when you are planning travel and times to see your student as they set off to begin their college career.

Do I participate in Orientation events with my student?

The student and parent schedules are concurrent; there are no joint sessions that occur. Though parents attend March Through the Arch, students are with their Peer Adviser groups while the parents stand to the sides to cheer on the new students. Family Ambassadors (current students) will be available to guide parents and family members through their orientation programming.

We are traveling a long distance. How do we get our items to campus for the residence hall room?

If families are not driving or flying out their items, they may decide to ship items to campus in advance. Please visit the Ship to School page on Residential Services’ website for more information regarding shipping items.

During March Through the Arch, are parents supposed to follow along with their student as they pass? Or are they supposed to wait until everyone comes through and then follow the students?

During March through the Arch, families line campus pathways to cheer on and welcome the newest members of the Northwestern community. After the students all pass under the arch, parents and families will follow and join the students on Deering Meadow for a University Welcome.

Afterward, students are required to eat lunch with their Peer Adviser groups while parents and families are invited to participate in Parent and Family Orientation.

Family Weekend

Where do we park for Family Weekend?

The closest parking lots to Norris University Center (1999 Campus Drive) where Family Weekend Check-In takes place are the Lakeside Parking Structure and the South Parking Garage. Please see the interactive Campus Map for further parking options.  You can park for free all-day Friday and during the weekend in any campus parking space that does not have a Reserved or Facilities sign.

Any families coming to town on Thursday who want to park on campus before 4 pm can purchase a visitor permit from the Transportation and Parking Office or park in the North or South garage at the daily rate of $9.  Parking is free in any general parking space or Northwestern garage after 4 pm.

Have you reached out to the professors to let them know not to schedule any classes, tests, or projects that conflict with Family Weekend?

Academic scheduling is determined by each professor; therefore, your student may have class, homework, or exams around the time of Family Weekend. Friday is the least scheduled class day, but they may still have academic conflicts. Make sure to speak with your student about their schedule before registering for Family Weekend.

What is the cost to participate in Family Weekend?

Most Family Weekend programming is free. This includes faculty lectures, academic events and informational sessions and some entertainment. Some student performances and other special events may require you to purchase tickets online. See the Family Weekend page for more information. 

Can I eat with my student in the dining hall?

Yes! You can either use your credit card at the dining hall to gain entrance or ask your student to save you a guest meal which they can access using their Wildcard at the dining hall. Meal prices can be found here.

Do families of returning students come for Family Weekend?

Yes, families of returning students do attend Family Weekend. Use the following link to learn more about Family Weekend.

Is there programming for younger siblings?

While there is not programming specifically for younger siblings, they may participate in all the Family Weekend activities. Activities that may be more interesting for younger children include The Second City at Northwestern University (rated PG-13), Northwestern Volleyball vs. Michigan, A Capella Fest, the campus tour and the Family Weekend Brunch.

If I can't get to Norris Center on Friday to check in for Family Weekend, can my student check in for me?

Yes! Your student can come to check in your family for Family Weekend.


How do I learn more about academic advising for my student?

Each school within Northwestern handles academic advising in its own way. To learn more about the advisors in your student’s school, click on the following links:

Does Northwestern offer summer programming for returning students (students who are not in their first year)?

  • Students may take courses over the summer.
  • Students may apply for a $3,500 stipend to do research for eight weeks over the summer through Summer Undergraduate Research Grants.
  • Students may serve as an undergraduate research assistant.
  • Students who need language training for their specific academic or professional goals can apply for up to $5,000 towards the cost of an intensive summer language study either in the US or abroad.
  • Juniors Only: One winner is chosen each year to receive the $9,500 Circumnavigators Travel-Study Grant to spend the summer traveling the world and researching a topic of their choice.
  • Northwestern Career Advancement offers Career Treks in August and September which allows students to learn more about a particular industry such as Law, Marketing, or Film & Television.
  • All students are eligible to apply to Hillel’s NU Perspectives trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
  • Students can apply for Hillel’s Birthright trip.

How do students get internships and jobs?

Can students switch schools at Northwestern? i.e. from Weinberg to Communications or Weinberg to Medill?

What are the advantages/disadvantages of the Quarter System?

  • Northwestern operates on a Quarter System which means that student terms last 10 weeks during Fall, Winter, and Spring, and 6-8 weeks during the Summer. In comparison, semesters at other institutions typically last 16 weeks.
advantages and disadvantages
  • Allows students to take more classes and explore their interests
  • More classes allow students to pursue a double major, minor, and/or certificate
  • Dropping a class has a smaller impact on overall credits earned
  • The workload is condensed into a ten-week quarter (as opposed to a sixteen-week semester)
  • Students may feel pressured to pursue a double major, minor, and/or certificate because their schedule allows it

What on-campus resources are available to my student for ensuring they have met all requirements for graduation/grad school/job needs?

What on-campus resources are available to my student for study abroad?

  • The Global Learning Office has compiled a set of steps to help students learn about and participate in study abroad.

Student Living/Safety

When can my student leave for Thanksgiving break? Do classes get cancelled on that Wednesday?

  • Most undergraduate university students leave for Thanksgiving break the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving; however, that does not mean class is officially canceled. It depends completely on the student and their class schedule. Some professors will cancel class on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, however, there is no university policy that states that all classes will be canceled. Please note that students also do not have to leave for Thanksgiving Break. On campus housing remains open but with limited services.

Are the residence halls, fraternities and sororities checked on a regular basis for mold?

  • Yes, the rooms are evaluated for mildew substance upon opening and closing of the building and when residents check out.

How does Northwestern help keep my student safe?

  • University Police- Northwestern has its own campus police system: NU Police Website.
  • Safe Ride- Safe Ride drivers provide free rides to and from campus within Evanston boundaries from 7pm - 3am, seven days a week when classes are in session: Safe Ride Website.
  • Safety Escorts- Upon request, University Police personnel will escort community members to an on-campus destination by foot or bike. Sometimes individuals may also be escorted by squad car if on the Chicago campus.
  • Blue Light Phones- University Blue Light emergency phones are located throughout both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Northwestern offers an interactive campus map, which indicates the location of all Blue Light phones with a symbol of the letter "P" inside a circle.
  • To learn more about Campus Safety, check out the website: NU Campus Safety.

Do residence halls have storage for students after they move in for the beginning of the year? (suitcases, etc.) What options are there for students to store their belongings over the summer?

  • There are no storage areas available for students outside of their assigned rooms. Students are encouraged to place luggage under their beds or in their closets.
  • Over the summer, the university does not provide storage of any personal belongings in any space on campus and within the residence halls. However, there are official service providers that students can use for summer storage, as well as local Evanston-based storage providers.

Does Northwestern have campus Wi-Fi and is it secure?

  • Yes, Northwestern University provides free campus Wi-Fi for students. Students can log into campus wireless networks using their NetID and NetID password when prompted. The Northwestern wireless network uses WPA2-Enterprise authentication to provide a high level of data security. This type of authentication is compatible with most computers, tablets, and smartphones.
  • Additionally, there is a separate Northwestern wireless network compatible with devices, including wireless printers, game systems, and TVs. Students can click here to register devices.

What options are there for transportation between campus and the local airports during breaks?

  • The University does not operate transportation services to or from O’Hare (ORD) or Midway (MDW), the two major airports serving the Chicago area.
  • However, a few companies offer the University community discounts through the Wildcat Advantage See the list of participating businesses using the previous link and use the filter by category menu, “Travel Supplies & Services.”
  • Other options are taxies, Uber, and Lyft, and public transportation. See the list below for several options:
Transit Options from O’Hare and Midway
transportation options from O'Hare and Midway Airport
Approximate Timing
Cost Estimate
Public Transportation

O’Hare Airport: Take Blue Line at O’Hare > @Jackson transfer to Red Line towards Howard > @Howard (last stop) transfer to Purple Line towards Linden > Get off at Davis (south campus), Foster (mid campus), or Noyes (north campus)

Midway Airport: Take Orange Line at Midway > @Roosevelt transfer to Red Line towards Howard > @Howard (last stop) transfer to Purple Line towards Linden > Get off at Davis (south campus), Foster (mid campus), or Noyes (north campus)
90-120 minutes                  
(varies based on time of day, shorter wait time during rush hour due to
express trains)


  • Use the taxi stands to ensure you have a licensed taxi driver.
  • If requesting a taxi, ask for a flat rate taxi.
  • If requesting an Uber or Lyft, both airports offer 30 minutes of free Wifi that you can use to order a ride
  • TIP: Your student may be arriving to an airport at the same time as a classmate, encourage your student to ask their peers if anyone is flying in at/around the same time so they can share a ride! The class Facebook page is often used for finding ride shares before and after breaks.
60-90 minutes (varies based on traffic and airport) $40-$60

CTA/Pace Bus (from O’Hare Only)

  • Follow the signs in the airport to the central bus area (Kiss-n-Fly) via the Airport Transit Systems (ATS)
  • Board the 250 Pace Bus (use this link for bus schedule and information) and ride bus all the way to Davis Street train station in Evanston (south campus)
  • Take the purple line to either Foster (mid campus) or Noyes (north campus) if necessary


60-90 minutes                     (varies based on traffic and airport) 

Train after bus
5-20 minutes                         (varies based on time of day, shorter wait time during
rush hour)             

$2.25 (driver will not make change)





Airport Express Shuttle


60-120 minutes                    (varies based on traffic and destination of fellow passengers)



 DISCLAIMER: Student Transition Experience (STE) does not endorse any of the aforementioned companies. This guide is simply meant to be a resource for travel options. STE is not held liable for any delays or travel issues due to these modes of transportation.

How can I support my student while they are looking at off-campus housing? What resources are available for them/me?

  • Northwestern University has an office specifically dedicated to Off-Campus Life that helps students navigate finding housing off-campus and living on their own in Evanston. Check out the Office of Off-Campus Life for information about off-campus housing.
  • Additionally, the university has partnered with to help students find off-campus housing.

My student is moving off campus. What options are there for partial meal plans?

Third- and fourth-year students do have the opportunity to purchase meal plans.  Options are briefly described below

  • Open Access allows for unlimited meal swipes at any all-you-care-to-eat dining halls + $125 Dining Dollars + 3 Guests Passes + 2 Meal Exchanges per week.- $2176 per quarter
  • Base 14 allows for 14 meal swipes per week at any all-you-care-to-eat dining halls + $225 Dining Dollars + 3 Guests Passes + 2 Meal Exchanges per week.- $2142 per quarter
  • Flex Pack 330 allows for 110 meal swipes per quarter at any all-you-care-to-eat dining halls + $275 Dining Dollars.- $2004 per quarter
  • Purple 50/50 allows for 50 meal swipes at any all-you-care-to-eat dining halls + $50 Dining Dollars per quarter. - $596 per quarter
  • Access this link to learn more about the meal plans here for upperclassmen.

Where are the grocery stores? How does my student get to the grocery stores?

  • There are multiple grocery store options for students within walking distance of campus (< 0.5 miles from campus):
    • D&D Finer Foods (825 Noyes Street, 847-475-4344)
    • Whole Foods (1640 Chicago Ave, 847-733-1600)
    • Target (1616 Sherman Ave, 847-448-1816)
  • There are other grocery store options that students may prefer to access via public transit (both are a 4-minute walk from the Dempster Purple Line stop) or car (Uber/Lyft). Walking is also an option (~1.3 miles):
    • Jewel-Osco (1128 Chicago Ave, 847-869-3520)
    • Trader Joe’s (1211 Chicago Ave, 847-733-0690)
  • Several convenience stores close to campus offer basic groceries as well:
    • CVS (1711 Sherman Ave, 847-328-3105)
    • 7-Eleven (817 Davis St, 847-328-7195)

If my student wants to bring a car to campus, where can they park?

  • Students living off-campus and outside the walking zone are eligible for
    a parking permit. Senior students living on campus are eligible to purchase an "R" permit.
  • Students must be registered for classes prior to purchasing a parking permit. Visit the Parking Services Office at 1841 Sheridan Road (on the first floor of the Visitor’s Center). The office is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Bring the following items:
    • WildCARD
    • Driver’s license
    • Vehicle registration
    • Proof of residence (item such as a lease or utility bill to prove you live outside the Walking Zone)
  • A student permit valid for the duration of the academic year will cost about $477.00. The rate decreases by $53.00 each month after October. Charges are billed to your student account.
  • Learn more about parking with this link: NU Parking Permits.

How does the Northwestern mail system work if I want to send my student a letter or package?

  • If you send your student a letter or package, you must include the following information: Student name, Student’s building & room number, Building address, Evanston, IL 60201 (zip code for 560 Lincoln, Allison, Kemper, & West Fairchild is 60208).
  • The letter or package then arrives at the Foster-Walker package center where it is organized and distributed to one of the two package centers on campus (Foster-Walker Package Center and Kemper Package Center).
  • Students will receive an email notification to pick up any items that do not fit in mailboxes. When retrieving their package, students must present their Wildcard to the mailroom staff.
  • If a letter is sent, students will not receive an email when the mail is placed in their mailbox. To open their mailbox, students will use the code given to them when they receive their key during move-in, or in an email from Residential Services.
  • For more information, including hours and package center addresses, please visit Northwestern Residential Services Website, under the tab “Mail Services”.

Student Mental and Physical Health

If my student needs to see a medical professional at Health Services, how do they schedule an appointment?

  • To make an appointment at Health Services, students can call 847.491.2204 during regular business hours. Your student:
    • Will need to provide the Northwestern University 7 digit identification number
    • Should leave a voicemail message and please include their identification number and a callback telephone number. Calls are returned the same business day, generally within 2 hours.
  • Urgent medical problems like breathing difficulties, head injuries, and abdominal pain, for example, are scheduled after consultation with the on-call nurse at 847.491.8100, option "0". Outside of normal business hours, see Emergency After Hours Care.
  • Please see the Health Services website for more information: Northwestern Medicine Student Health Service Evanston.

What’s the typical wait time at Health Services, and are there walk-in appointments available?

  • Because Health Services is appointment-based, students are seen at the time of appointment. Students are expected to arrive for check-in 15 minutes prior to their appointment time.
  • Health Services is appointment-based; however, walk-in appointments are available for urgent concerns. Physicians would take patients in the order of urgency which may impact wait time.

My student does not have the University’s health insurance plan. If needed, can basic medical attention be received on campus?

  • There are no charges to eligible students for visiting Health Services for basic medical appointments. Eligibility to use NMSH services is not based on your health insurance plan. Students are eligible who are actively enrolled in a degree seeking program at Northwestern in a school other than the School of Professional Studies (SPS).
  • Many lab tests done on site are also provided at no charge. The exceptions are the pregnancy test, chlamydia, HIV, and rapid strep. Any test sent to the reference lab incurs a charge. This price has been negotiated and is substantially lower in comparison to the local community and the Chicago area.

What services does the university provide for students who are struggling emotionally, socially, or academically?

  • There are a variety of services on campus that provide for students who are struggling emotionally, socially, or academically. Northwestern University Health Services offers Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the primary mental health service at Northwestern University. Academically, both the overall university and each individual school has support programs for students.

What should I do if my student seems down, overwhelmed, anxious, or not themselves?

  • A good first point of contact is to have your student reach out to their Resident Assistant (RA) if they live in the residence halls. Students could also visit the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) website which offers many valuable resources and lets students schedule appointments online.

Families - General FAQ

What communications resources are available to families?

  • To register for Emergency Communications System, please follow the instructions below:
    • Go to
    • Click "Sign Me Up"
    • Enter your information - use your personal email (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)
    • Input your security questions/answers
    • Add your email/phone to emergency alerts for NU's Evanston and/or Chicago campus
  • Your student should also update your email address in CAESAR for their emergency contact in order to make sure that everything from Northwestern goes to your correct email address. Here's a link to the CAESAR How To Guides:
  • Subscribe to the Parent & Family Email List to receive emails updating you on the campus community and various events that are pertinent to you – and your student. Subscribing you to the list will give you access to the Wildcat Family Focus monthly e-mail digest. Subscribe to the Parent and Family email list here!
  • Follow Northwestern University Parents and Families on Facebook to connect with other families and stay current with campus happenings.

If I visit my student outside of Family Weekend, what campus facilities can I access with my student? (for example, tennis courts, dining hall, etc)

  • NU Recreation facilities- Family members are able to use NU Recreation facilities (i.e. the gym) if they purchase a one-day pass for $18. (Note: During Family Weekend, the facilities are FREE to all families).
  • Dining Hall- Students have 3 Guest Meals per quarter which a student could use for their family to join them in the dining hall.

When will the Commencement weekend schedule be posted? What options are available for lodging during the weekend?

  • The Commencement weekend dates for all current classes are posted on the Northwestern Student Affairs website, however these dates are subject to change. Specifics about the weekend are posted between three and four months before Commencement.
  • In terms of lodging, there are eight hotels within walking distance from campus, though these book up early due to their close proximity to campus. You may also book a hotel in Chicago’s loop, though it’ll be about a 45-minute commute to and from campus via Chicago’s elevated subway system, known as the El. Finally, if you have a car you might consider staying at a hotel in Skokie, IL or Northbrook, IL, about a 15-30-minute drive from Evanston.
  • Use this link to view a list of nearby hotels including distance from campus. Please note, this link is not associated with Northwestern University. For more information, please visit the Commencement website, for information on  Travel & Hotels.