Living off-campus will not change your financial aid. Financial aid is based on the standard cost of attendance at Northwestern, and all students will have room and board costs, whether living in University housing or an off-campus apartment (with the exception of commuter students who are living at home with a family member).
Changes to Your Northwestern Invoice
When you are living off-campus, Northwestern will only invoice you for tuition and fees. There will be no room and board charges on your student account, so the amount you pay to the University will be less than if you lived on-campus. This does not mean that you will pay less overall: while you will pay less directly to the University, you will have other non-University expenses, such as rent, utilities, and groceries.
Your financial aid will continue to credit to your account each quarter. If the amount of aid you receive is greater than tuition and fees, you will have a credit balance, and you may request a refund as early as the first day of classes to use toward your non-billed expenses.
Living Expenses & Budgeting
Living off-campus may be more or less expensive than living on-campus, depending on your spending habits and budgeting. While there is more flexibility on how much you will spend on items such as rent and groceries, you will also need to plan for other expenses, such as cable, internet, and utilities. The standard room and board budget we use to calculate your financial aid is based on the average cost of a double-occupancy room and the equivalent of a 19-meal per week board plan. Additional financial assistance will not be granted for costs that exceed this budget.
It is also important to remember that you will not be able to access your financial aid until the first day of classes, and financial aid for the current year cannot be increased to cover additional expenses related to living off-campus, such as:
Length of lease: Financial aid is based on a nine-month schedule, but most leases require a twelve-month commitment, so you may have to pay for a few months of rent without financial aid. It is your responsibility to budget for this expense or to sublet for the months you will not live in the apartment.
Security deposit, move-in fee, & first month’s rent: In addition to the first month’s rent, many rental agencies require a move-in fee and/or security deposit (equal to at least one month's rent) at lease signing. You may need to pay these expenses before the end of the current school year for the upcoming year’s lease.
Start-up costs: Make sure you plan for basic starting expenses, such as setting up cable, internet, and utilities, as well as buying furniture, kitchen supplies, etc.
- Direct deposit: Enrolling in direct deposit through CAESAR > Student Financial Services (separate from payroll/work-study direct deposit) will enable your refund to be processed more quickly.
- Develop a cost plan of reasonable off-campus expenses and compare it to on-campus room and board rates. Our Living Off-Campus Checklist may help you begin to develop a budget.
- Reliable roommates: If you plan to live with others, make sure everyone's name is on the lease and utilities. If everything is listed under your name only, you could get "stuck" with too much responsibility (and liability). Also, make sure your roommates understand how they will be able to pay their share of the expenses.
- Off-Campus Life Information Services provides listings of available residences, transportation information, newspaper ads, and counseling assistance.