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Resources for Families, Parents, & Guardians

Student Assistance and Support Services are here to partner with you! We are members of the Dean of Students Office staff here to provide students with assistance and support throughout their time at Northwestern University. Students can connect with SASS at the very start of their time at NU, during their last quarter, or anytime in between. SASS brings a wide and diverse range of experience and expertise to help address the needs and challenges faced by our students. The SASS team members are committed to supporting students through any aspect of their life here at Northwestern that may impact a student’s ability to fully engage academically, socially or personally. SASS works closely with Counseling and Psychological Services, University Health Service, Residential Services, Financial Aid, the Office of Interntional Student and Scholar Services, and academic deans  to provide comprehensive support for students. 
College is a time of immense change that can bring about both exciting challenges as well as unexpected difficulties. Life events can interfere with a student’s ability to be successful at Northwestern. When a challenging situation arises, a student or family may find it difficult to navigate the many resources and services that are available at NU. 
The SASS team understands that there will be times when you are the first to become aware of your student’s struggles. Please know that students can be directed to Student Assistance and Support Services for help and support. If at any time a student could also benefit from connecting to other offices on campus, SASS will help them navigate the vast Northwestern resources to get all of the help that they need while they are here. 

Things you can do to help 

Encourage the student to schedule an appointment with a SASS team member as you notice they are struggling. Early connection is best. Many students wait until a problem becomes a crisis. Students should feel free to schedule an appointment with us even if they think their concern is “too small.”   
SASS welcomes communication from parents regarding concerns about a student at any time, and certainly when a student is managing a complex circumstance, either of a medical or personal nature. If there is a concern about a student's health or behavior, please call:

  • Dean of Students Office at 847-491-8430.
  • In case of an emergency, call the Northwestern Police Department at 847-491-3456. 
Signs a Student Might Be in Distress 

Families, parents, and guardians are encouraged to check in with students on a regular basis to see how they are doing.  Those closest to a student may be the first to notice changes in their behavior. For more information about support and services, please visit the CAPS website to learn more about the services provided.  
If there are concerns and a student is unwilling to call Counseling and Psychological Services, the Health Service, and /or Student Assistance and Support Services themselves for an appointment, anyone may reach out to CAPS, the Health Service or SASS directly for guidance on this matter.  

In an Emergency 

Please call 911 or the Northwestern University Police Department at 847-491-3456.  


For more resources and information please see the Campus and Community Resources page.  


Northwestern University complies with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which protects the privacy of a student’s education record. Once a student reaches 18 years of age or enrolls in a post-secondary school, FERPA permits parental notification without a student’s prior consent under certain circumstances, such as a health or safety emergency. Absent such circumstances, Student Assistance and Support Services (SASS) will make every effort to coordinate/communicate an intervention and resolution directly with our students. 
With this framework in mind, SASS is committed to partnering with our students, providing guidance and considering options as a situation unfolds. On a case-by-case basis, a student may be encouraged to contact a parent/guardian or family member; and together, we will review concerns and options about this communication. For instance, sometimes students have found it helpful to initiate the parent/guardian/family member conversation and then offer our office as a point of contact: to discuss resources and possible next steps; or to provide encouragement and to identify potential avenues for university support.    
SASS approaches these conversations with the goal of being collaborative and transparent. Thus, in the case that a student prefers a parent/guardian/family member not be contacted, SASS will endeavor to honor this decision. However, as discussed above, there may still be situations in which the University will notify a parent/guardian.

Families, parents, and guardians often wonder if a medical leave of absence (MLOA) is the right option for a student to pursue. A medical leave of absence (MLOA) provides students time away from campus for treatment of a physical or mental health condition that impairs a student’s ability to function safely and successfully as a member of our community.  The authority to grant a MLOA and permission to return from a MLOA resides with the Dean of Students Office.  

For more information about MLOA, please see the MLOA site.