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Message to undergraduate students on winter quarter

Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for student affairs, and Sarah Church, vice provost for undergraduate education, address the impact of the latest local public health policies and Provost Drell’s message about winter quarter plans.

Hello students and families,

We trust by now all of you have received this update on winter quarter from Provost Drell. We are writing to follow up with detailed information for undergraduates, especially those planning to live on campus.

But first, we would like to invite all undergraduates and their families to a town hall webinar to be held 9-10 am. PST Friday, Dec. 11. Here’s more information, including how to call in and submit questions in advance.

Let’s start with a quick recap of the provost’s message: 

  • We are proceeding with plans to allow Stanford frosh, sophomores and first-year transfers to live on campus in the winter quarter, but are adopting a phased undergraduate arrival process and an enhanced COVID-19 testing protocol for their arrival.

  • This means that we will welcome most frosh and sophomores to campus two weeks later than we originally planned. This arrival follows students who have been approved to live on campus through the special circumstances process; these students will arrive in early January.

  • Our academic calendar has not changed, and the timing of winter quarter instruction will remain the same, beginning Jan. 11 for undergraduates. Instruction for the first two weeks will be fully remote for all students and mostly remote thereafter.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this message:

  • Your residence
  • Campus life
  • COVID testing
  • Your enrollment choices

We want to assure our frosh, sophomores and first-year transfers that the choice to come to campus is yours. In preparation for your arrival, we are doing everything we can to keep campus as safe as possible. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of common areas and our CleanDining program will continue, as will required COVID-19 testing for students. In addition, beginning Jan. 4, the university will require testing for faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars who come to campus for in-person work.

Many offices are working hard so we can welcome undergraduates to campus in January. These offices include Academic Advising, Bechtel International Center, Environmental Health & Safety, Financial Aid, Residential Education, Residential & Dining Enterprises, Student & Academic Services, the University Registrar, Vaden Health Services, and more. We’re looking forward to seeing you.

You’ll find updated information below our signatures, we’ll continue to email you with any news, and we’ll summarize this information on our Re-Approaching Stanford website.


Susie & Sarah

Susie Brubaker-Cole
Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Sarah Church
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Your residence

Residential & Dining Enterprises will email all undergraduates with winter quarter housing contracts this week. Here’s what will be covered.

  • Scheduling your move-in date. Each student will select their own arrival date and time from a list of available appointments within these time frames: (1) Jan. 4 week for undergraduates from all class years with approved special circumstances, new transfer students, and international frosh, and (2) Jan. 21-24 for other frosh and all sophomores who do not have approved special circumstances. RAs will have the option of arriving Jan. 2-3 to prepare for their residents’ arrival the week of January 4.
  • What to do if you would like to cancel your housing assignment. No student is required to return to Stanford for an in-person quarter and there is no financial penalty for canceling your housing assignment. If you wish to cancel your winter quarter housing assignment, please do so as soon as possible by logging onto Axess, selecting Housing and Dining from the Student drop down menu and then selecting Cancel Future Assignment.

  • Please update your Quarterly Check-In if you decide to cancel your housing assignment. Let us know your location for the winter quarter. If you have questions, please submit a ServiceNow ticket.

Remember: Plan to bring only what you can carry. This means up to two suitcases and a backpack. To reduce the risk of infection, we cannot allow family members and other move-in helpers into our residences, except for those students with disabilities registered through our Office of Accessible Education.

Under what circumstances would we send undergraduates home mid-quarter? Our hope and expectation is that our health and safety measures — including our expanded testing program, the private sleeping spaces we are providing in residences, the meal service system we have in place, and the availability of isolation and quarantine space on campus — will make this unnecessary. We of course will be monitoring public health conditions closely, along with state and county public health rules.

In the unlikely event that we need to dramatically change course mid-quarter, we’ll work to support you in making adjustments in a way that minimizes disruption to your Stanford education. We welcome input and continued dialogue with students about our planning for such a situation, even though we hope and expect to avoid such an outcome. In all scenarios, we plan to continue accommodating students with approved special circumstances on campus.

Campus life

We know many of you want to know more about what life will be like on campus during winter quarter. We’re going to do our best to describe our plans in practical terms below. Keep in mind that throughout our time together, your resident assistants, resident fellows and residence deans will all be here to support you. Here’s how it’ll work.

There will be no in-person gatherings of any size for all undergraduates during your first two weeks in your winter quarter housing, whether you are new to campus, returning to campus, never left campus, or quarantined off campus for two weeks. The goal here is to give everyone time to complete their initial COVID-19 testing and settle into the campus environment safely, and to allow our medical experts to assess the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus in our community.

As Provost Drell noted, it is possible that local conditions will require a formal travel quarantine during these first two weeks. If this occurs, students will complete this formal travel quarantine on campus. We will update you closer to the start of the quarter.

When your two weeks of restricted activity begins and ends:

  • For students in group #1 (resident assistants, special circumstances students, new transfer students, international frosh), your two weeks will begin on your move-in date and end Jan. 25th.

  • For students in group #2 (frosh and sophomores who do not have approved special circumstances), your two weeks will begin on your move-in date and end Feb. 8th.

What you CAN do during the first two weeks (if no formal travel quarantine is required)

  • Start each day by completing Stanford Health Check
  • Attend classes remotely
  • Pick up to-go meals in the dining hall assigned to your residence (for example, Stern residents would get meals at the Stern Dining Hall)
  • Take your COVID tests with Verily
  • Get care from Vaden Medical Services
  • Join remote events and activities like hall and student organization meetings
  • Go outdoors to get some fresh air
  • Shop for essentials in Palo Alto

What you CAN do after the first two weeks, depending on campus conditions*

Everything above plus:

*As COVID-19 conditions improve, and we hope they will, we expect to gradually offer additional opportunities for safely designed gatherings, in-person interactions, and other features that begin to approach the “normal” campus experience, in accordance with state, county and university guidance.

COVID testing

You’ll be taking two tests upon arrival. Why two? Because we want to do all we can to keep the virus from spreading.

Both tests will take place within your first 24 hours on campus, and they’re required. Test #1 will be a rapid test, and you’ll take it at check-in before you pick up your room key (except special circumstances students who lived on campus during the entire winter break). Test #2 will be the first of your twice weekly tests with our vendor, Verily Life Sciences.

Both tests involve a mid-turbinate nasal swab that is performed by the student, while being observed by a healthcare professional. Entrance to exit, the test procedure for most students should take less than five minutes. Analysis is by RT-PCR, performed at a local laboratory operated by Stanford Health Care for the rapid test, and Verily for the twice weekly tests.

For test #2, you’ll need to register with Verily. If you are new to campus, the university will alert you when it’s time to register. If you’re returning to campus or never left, there’s no need to re-register. The Verily test sites will be Tresidder Memorial Union and McCaw Hall. We recommend Tresidder for undergraduate students.

Important! Make just one appointment at a time with Verily. If you make a second one, your first appointment will be canceled. And if you can’t go to your appointment, cancel it with Verily. This way, we can offer the spot to other students.

Here’s what to expect if you test positive: Students who test positive after they arrive will be provided on-campus isolation housing, meal delivery and medical care. The isolation housing will be closely monitored and overseen by medical and professional Student Affairs staff members.

Stay tuned for information about an option for at-home pre-travel testing.

Our plans for all aspects of campus life including testing will be conducted in alignment with the Campus Compact.

The compact both summarizes all relevant state, county and university COVID laws and guidance, and signifies our collective commitment to protecting our own health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of our fellow students, faculty, and staff.

Your enrollment choices

This has not changed since fall quarter. Here’s a quick reminder:

  • You can enroll in classes. You’ll have access, as normal, to the resources that we provide on campus and/or remotely.

  • You can take your Flex Term, if you have not already used it. Important! You can only take one Flex Term this academic year. You can take up to five free units during your Flex Term. Students interested in full-time Stanford-funded opportunities such as research or Cardinal Quarter must enroll in classes for two quarters before they are eligible to participate. Therefore, these types of opportunities, with rare exceptions, will only be available in spring and summer quarters. It follows that most students on a Flex Term are not eligible for on-campus winter quarter housing. Please reach out to your academic advisor with any questions or concerns.

  • You can take a Leave of Absence. While on a Leave of Absence, you will also not have access to on-campus winter quarter housing and many of the university’s programs and services. International students should consult with Bechtel International Center before taking a leave.

Here are two excellent enrollment resources:


You can reach us here with your general suggestions, comments and concerns about this unique year. If you have a personal question from now until Dec. 11, please submit a ServiceNow ticket. During the university’s Winter Closure from Dec. 14 to Jan. 3, our Residence Deans will be available for emergencies that may arise. Here’s how to contact our RD on call.