A Howard University student was shot in the head early Saturday outside a party near campus, D.C. police said.

The student was identified by authorities as Deandra Williams, 20, a junior from Boston. She was taken to a hospital where she was listed in critical condition, according to one police account.

The attack occurred about 1:45 a.m. in the 100 block of U Street NW. Police Sgt. Thomas Fontz said it appeared that Williams had been struck or grazed in the right temple. When found, she was drifting in and out of consciousness, he said.

The motive was not immediately known, Fontz said, but it did not appear to be a robbery attempt. Also uncertain, he said, was whether Williams's assailant had attended the party. Police said the party was held in a rowhouse on U Street and attended by as many as 40 people, many of them believed to be students.

According to a separate police account, while Williams was at the party, she complained of feeling overheated and went outside. A student who lives nearby said she understood that Williams was standing on a porch, a few feet from the door of the house, when she was wounded.

People at the party heard the gunshot and rushed outside to find Williams on the ground.

When police arrived, she was on the U Street sidewalk near the intersection with Second Street, at the west end of the block.

According to one account, a man in a black jacket and white shirt was seen running from the scene.

The site is about a half-mile south and east of the main Howard campus.

Residents of the neighborhood described it as having imposing single-family houses and as having experienced an influx of newcomers while remaining home to many retired people.

Residents reached by telephone last night said they had no knowledge of the shooting.

"It's been pretty quiet here lately," said a woman who lives on the other end of the block. There "used to be a lot of stuff happening," she said, but no more.

A man said that he saw evidence of parties in the 100 block of U and on adjoining streets last weekend, with revelers coming and going.

It was not known where Williams has been living while attending Howard, and her family could not be reached immediately. Representatives of the Howard student government referred inquiries to university officials.

J.J. Pryor, a spokeswoman for Howard, said the campus was closed today in observance of Columbus Day, a federal holiday. She said the university would determine today how to respond to the news of the shooting.

Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.