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TGS-Specific COVID-19 FAQs

Below is a set of TGS-specific COVID-19 FAQs. University-wide updates and information can be found on the University's COVID-19 website.

International students: Please refer to the International Students and Scholars FAQs on the University's COVID-19 website for additional information.

Postdoctoral trainees: Please refer to the Postdoc-Specific COVID-19 FAQs on the Postdoctoral Affairs website.


Will there be any changes to the grading policies for the Winter and/or Spring 2021 Quarters?

July 28, 2020 (Updated November 4, 2020)

Northwestern returned to standard grading practices as of the Summer 2020 Quarter, with the option for Pass/No Pass (P/N) grading determined at the individual course level. Please note, the temporary undergraduate Credit/No Credit grading option for the 2020–21 academic year does not apply to graduate students.

How do I find the mode of instruction for specific courses?

July 28, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

Class schedules identify the mode of instruction, outlining which courses have in-person component— either entirely face-to-face or a hybrid with some face-to-face meetings—and which courses will be entirely remote. Remote courses may be synchronous with meetings at scheduled times or they may be asynchronous.

Whom should I contact with questions about whether my graduate program/classes/research can or will be conducted remotely?

July 28, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

Please contact your graduate program's director of graduate studies (DGS) with questions about your program's classes. International students on a visa should consult the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS) with questions about any immigration-related restrictions to be aware of with respect to course planning.

I am an international student who cannot make it to campus by next quarter (due to issues related to visa delays or travel restrictions). Am I permitted to attend Northwestern remotely, and if so, how will my visa status be affected?

July 28, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student who is unable to enter the United States by the start of the quarter, you will be able to attend your classes remotely from outside of the U.S., provided it is an option with your academic program. Please contact your graduate program to determine if attending remotely would create challenges for required courses that may have a face-to-face mode of instruction and your Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS) adviser to discuss specifics of your situation. Additional information and answers to frequently asked questions may be found on the OISS website. 

How do I file an accommodation request in a remote learning environment?

April 15, 2020 (Updated June 2, 2020)

Please contact AccessibleNU for assistance and complete the online student application.

Degree Progress

What should I do if I have concerns about returning to campus as the phased return proceeds and laboratory-based research resumes?

June 2, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

If you have concerns about returning to campus to resume research/coursework, please contact your program’s director of graduate studies (DGS) or department chair. You may also email The Graduate School at or call the Evanston campus hotline (847.467.8840) or Chicago campus hotline (312.503.3437) to report concerns.

I am a graduate student who must travel in order to conduct research and/or make degree progress (e.g., visit an archive, acquire a language, or conduct fieldwork). What if I cannot travel, as planned, because of pandemic-related travel restrictions?

March 12, 2020 (Updated November 4, 2020)

Please review the University’s Travel Guidelines to determine whether travel is permitted. In the event that travel is not possible, you should have a conversation with your adviser(s) about your project and ways in which you can advance your research in the immediate future. This may entail altering timelines, exploring the possibility of local language acquisition or remote learning options, or reconfiguring your research project.

I am currently completing an internship, a clinical rotation, or other activity related to my degree progress while off campus. May I continue?

March 12, 2020 (Updated June 2, 2020)

During the period of remote instruction, you may continue to participate in off-site activities (internship, practicum, capstone, fieldwork) as long as the activities are consistent with other Northwestern policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic (on traveling, convening groups, etc.)  and the off-campus site continues to remain open and provide services. If your off-campus site is outside of the United States, be aware of current University travel restrictions and how they could impact you. Please consult with your director of graduate studies (DGS) and adviser to discuss your plans.

I have an upcoming dissertation defense, prospectus, or qualifying exam. Can this be held remotely?

March 12, 2020

The Graduate School requires that PhD students complete a qualifying exam, prospectus, and dissertation defense. It does not prescribe the exact form of these milestones. Individual programs determine the character of these milestone requirements. Consult your program’s handbook for the policy on how these milestones are completed. Contact your program’s director of graduate studies (DGS) to determine what options are available. Your program may choose to make modifications in light of the current situation.

I have an upcoming milestone deadline (qualifying exam, prospectus, or degree), and I am worried I will not be able to meet it. Will my program and/or The Graduate School provide flexibility?

March 12, 2020 (Updated November 4, 2020)

For all TGS students who were current and active as of the Summer 2020 Quarter, The Graduate School provided an automatic, four-quarter (one-year) extension of outstanding qualifying exam, prospectus, and/or doctoral and master’s degree deadlines (i.e., time to degree) that fell on or after March 30, 2020. This extension was applied to TGS’s maximum milestone and degree deadlines, specifically the qualifying exam (candidacy), prospectus, PhD degree, and master’s degree deadlines.

Will graduate students who are not taking classes but are doing research in labs or libraries be asked to leave campus at Thanksgiving break?

July 28, 2020

The University does not plan to close campus completely. At this time, we anticipate that most non-classroom facilities will remain open and accessible after November 24, provided that public health conditions and university, local, and state policies and guidelines allow it. Buildings and services may abridge their hours as they would during other break periods on campus.

Are the University Libraries providing resources and services?

March 27, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

Library staff is available for assistance via email ( and chat. For those permitted on campus according to the Return to Campus Policy, book pickup and study space is available by appointment. Please note, an active Wildcard is required to enter the building. If you are not permitted on campus per University policy, your Wildcard will not admit you. For those studying remotely, the Libraries provide off-campus delivery and virtual resources. 

Please visit the Libraries website to learn more. 

Financial Considerations

If I cannot make progress toward my PhD or MFA as originally planned, will the University support additional quarters of funding in the event I need additional time to complete my degree?

March 12, 2020 (Updated April 8, 2020)

The Graduate School recognizes that time to degree will be impacted in various ways for some of our students as a result of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. We appreciate this concern and are actively engaged in conversations with University leadership regarding PhD and MFA student funding. We do not have a definitive answer at this time, and we will keep you informed as more information becomes available.

I am completing my degree soon. When will my stipend end?

April 1, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

Once you complete all degree requirements and are no longer making progress toward your degree, you will receive a stipend payout through the last day of the month during which you submit your final graduation materials. (This process has not changed.)

I am a graduate assistant (GA) with questions about carrying out my graduate assistant-related responsibilities. What should I do?

March 16, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

Please reach out to your graduate assistantship supervisor with any questions pertaining to your responsibilities and to determine whether it is possible to remotely complete the projects to which you have been assigned. If continuing as a GA is not feasible, work with your adviser or program to explore other options.

I received an award from The Graduate School (e.g., Graduate Research Grant, Summer Language Grant, Conference Travel Grant, etc.) to conduct research or for research-related travel. Will the grant’s end date be extended in the event I need to delay my plans?

March 12, 2020

The Graduate School will provide as much flexibility as possible around these awards. If you have questions about either canceling the award or extending the award period, email The Graduate School’s Academic Student Services team.

Is there any financial assistance to help me offset unexpected costs related to remote learning?

March 18, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

Short-term emergency loans or student loans are options for TGS students who need additional financial assistance.

Will I be charged a TGS activity fee and can I use my U-Pass for Winter Quarter?

November 2, 2020

The Graduate School will not charge a Winter Quarter activity fee for full-time students and will not activate any U-Passes for the Winter Quarter unless you choose to opt in using this form by Thursday, February 18, 2021.

If you are a full-time student and plan to use your U-Pass transit card during the Winter Quarter, please complete this opt-in form. We will activate your U-Pass, and a Winter Quarter activity fee of $125 will be applied to your student account. Please note, the Winter Quarter begins on Monday, January 11, 2021 and ends on Monday, March 29, 2021. 

  • If you already have a U-Pass, your Winter Quarter U-Pass benefits will be activated on Monday, January 11, 2021 (or on the next business day after you opt in). 
  • If you do not already have a U-Pass, one will need to be issued. Please ensure that your photo has been submitted to the Wildcard Office and that your current address is up to date in CAESAR, then fill in the opt-in formYou then will be provided the option to have your U-Pass card mailed to you or to pick up your card by appointment at The Graduate School's Evanston office located in the Rebecca Crown Center. If you choose to pick up your card, appointments will be available after the Winter Quarter Wildcat Wellness period ends on Monday, January 17, 2021.

Students enrolled in the Online Master of Arts in Counseling Program through The Family Institute, TGS 512 (continuous registration), TGS 514, or a co-op internship are not charged an activity fee and are not eligible for the services it provides.

All TGS eligible students will retain access to TGS Legal Services, which is also covered by the quarterly activity fee. Please see our November 2 announcement for more information. 

I am an international graduate student who cannot yet make it to campus due to issues related to visa delays or travel restrictions. Will I still be able to receive my stipend?

July 28, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

If your admission letter offered a stipend, you will receive a stipend once you register for classes—even if you must remain outside the United States—as long as you are registered full-time at Northwestern and making progress toward your degree.

Graduate Student Life

I’m on the job market and am preparing for interviews and job talks. What are my options?

March 12, 2020

It is recommended that you hold practice job talks or other interview preparation remotely. Northwestern Career Advancement remains ready to help you prepare for your job search through virtual appointments. Login to Handshake Career Center > Appointments to request an appointment with NCA career advisers.

Whom should I contact with questions about graduate housing (Engelhart Hall, the Garrett Place Apartments, or McManus Center)?

March 12, 2020 (Updated June 2, 2020)

Please contact the Residential Services office at, call 847-467-4663, or visit the Graduate Housing FAQ page.

Is Purple Pantry available for students who are experiencing difficulty accessing food?

March 24, 2020 (Updated June 2, 2020)

Yes, however to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Purple Pantry is currently operating by individual appointment only. Students can schedule an individual appointment by completing this form. The Purple Pantry is intended to be as barrier-free as possible and accommodates individuals with vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and halal dietary needs.

What mental health resources are available to me?

April 23, 2020

Support is available from a variety of resources; for more information, please see the Counseling and Mental Health webpage on our TGS website.

Bias and Discrimination

I have been the target of bias or a hate-related incident during the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic. What should I do?

April 15, 2020

You are encouraged to submit any bias or hate-related incidents that you observe through the University’s Hate and Bias Report Form.

If I witness or hear acts of discrimination or sexual misconduct, whom do I contact?

April 15, 2020

Please contact the Office of Equity for assistance.

Admissions and Incoming Students

I am unable to complete my GRE, TOEFL, IETLS, or other test for my application or for admission. What should I do?

March 12, 2020 (Updated October 5, 2020)

The GRE test and other standardized tests are not required by The Graduate School, although some of our degree programs do require them. Please reach out to the academic program to which you have applied, or are interested in applying, with any questions about their testing requirements. You may note that ETS now has the availability of at home tests for the GRE general test.

The Graduate School requires that students demonstrate a certain level of English language proficiency prior to an admission offer. TGS will accept the submission of TOEFL test scores through their at home testing service to meet this requirement. This option is only available while testing centers are closed due to the impact of COVID-19. If you are unable to complete a TOEFL or IELTS exam, please inform the program to which you have applied. TGS’s Office of Admission and Recruitment will work directly with programs/departments to offer guidance to individual applicants.

Do I need to complete any payroll paperwork?

August 20, 2020

All PhD and MFA students who will receive graduate student stipends, which are paid through the Human Resources payroll system (myHR), must complete the appropriate payroll paperwork. Please visit the Payroll website for important deadlines and details regarding direct deposit, W-4 tax forms, FNIS (Foreign National Information System), and Form I-9.

Last Updated: November 4, 2020