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Admitted Student FAQs

Welcome to Northwestern!  Our office is here to help guide you through the financial aid process.  We have prepared a list of questions that we are frequently asked by parents of our incoming first-year students.  If your question is not addressed here, please feel free to visit our general FAQ page, refer to the information provided throughout our website, or contact us to speak with a counselor.

Click a link below to jump to a category:

General Eligibility

Do we need to reapply for financial aid for sophomore year?

Yes, you must reapply for financial aid each year.  The required base forms are the FAFSA, parent W-2s, and an additional Northwestern Aid Application. Renewal application information is sent in the winter quarter and the materials are typically due May 1st.

Will the financial aid award change between freshman and sophomore year or in subsequent years?

Northwestern uses the freshman year aid decision as the basis for subsequent years.  Because educational costs do rise each year, families who have not experienced a significant change in their financial situation can expect an annual increase in both the family contribution and financial aid.  Families who have had substantial changes in eligibility (increase or decrease) from one year to the next have usually experienced the following:  a change in the number of dependents enrolled in undergraduate education, a change in the number of family members in the household, or a change in income.  If any of these changes are foreseen, we encourage you to contact a counselor in the our office for more information. 

Do you offer merit scholarships?

Northwestern offers only need-based scholarship assistance, with the exception of a very limited number of talent competition scholarships in music and some assistance to offset debate expenses for our competitive national debate team.  Recipients of such awards are notified at the time of admission. 

What if I have not yet applied for financial aid?

You should immediately complete the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and send in federal tax information via IDOC. Depending on the timing of your late application, it may not be possible for you to receive an aid decision prior to the May 1 deposit deadline. Northwestern will consider you for any resources that are available, including scholarship assistance. Additional application information is available on our website.

What if I need to submit a special circumstances review?

If you are submitting a special circumstances review request, you must submit your review materials no later than April 17. We cannot guarantee a response before May 1 for materials submitted after this date, and we are unable to extend the deposit deadline for pending reviews.

If I don’t qualify for financial aid this year, can I apply next year?

Yes, if your circumstances change, such as the loss of a job or income, you should apply.  Families who will have a second child enrolled in undergraduate education may also wish to apply for that academic year.  

Student Employment  

How does a student find a work-study position?

The Work-Study Office will send information over the summer instructing work-study eligible students how to use the work-study website to find a job. There are usually more positions available than there are students to fill them; finding a job should not be a problem.  Review the online student work-study orientation for additional information.

Can a student work a part-time job and still succeed academically at Northwestern? 

Yes, as long as they do not work more than 15 hours a week.  Students typically work an average of about 6-10 hours a week to earn the work-study allotment on the financial aid award.

Can a student participate in work-study even if it is not offered in my financial aid package? 

Students who do not qualify for the need-based work-study program can seek non-work-study jobs.  Students who wish to work are usually able to find employment either on or off campus. Students might considering exploring Quadjobs and Northwestern Sitters and Tutors Network


How will we be billed?

In August, students will receive an email at their official Northwestern email address notifying them when their fall quarter bill is available for viewing online. 

Can I give account access to my parent/guardian?

Students may provide guest access to parents via CAESAR, the online student portal.

When will we be billed?

The Office of Student Finance bills students on a term-by-term basis. OSF will also send invoices on a monthly basis for any new account activity.  The initial billing for each quarter is sent as follows:

  • Fall Quarter
    Billing Date: August 10
    Due Date: September 1
  • Winter Quarter
    Billing Date: December 10
    Due Date: January 1
  • Spring Quarter
    Billing Date: March 10
    Due Date: April 1

Is a payment plan available?

The Office of Student Finance offers a monthly pre-payment installment option called 9PAY.  It provides the ability to pay for educational expenses on a monthly basis instead of through larger quarterly payments. Students can apply online via CAESAR; the application deadline is June 1. Payments are made July 1 through March 1.

What charges will the invoice include?

Students will be charged by term for tuition and mandatory enrollment fees.  Students who live in University Housing will be assessed room and board charges for the term as well. For students who are required to enroll in Northwestern's student health plan, the plan premium will be billed in full on the fall quarter invoice. Other components of the cost of attendance (i.e., books and supplies, personal expenses, etc.) will not appear on the invoice for each term. 

How will my aid appear on the invoice?

Financial aid may be listed on your student account as “anticipated aid” until the funds are actually received. Your adjusted balance (i.e., amount due) includes your anticipated financial aid funds.  

Scholarships & Loans

How does an outside scholarship impact the financial aid award?   What does the student do with a check they received directly from a scholarship donor?

Merit-based outside scholarships are applied to the self-help (subsidized loan or work-study) portion of the student’s financial aid package before reducing Northwestern Scholarship.  For example, if a student receives a $1,000 scholarship from the local PTA and that student has a $3,000 Federal Work-Study award, that work-study award will be reduced by $1,000.

Outside scholarship checks that students receive directly should be forwarded to our office, Undergraduate Financial Aid, Attention: Scholarship Coordinator.

How does a student apply for a federal student loan?

Students are eligible to receive up to $5,500 in a Federal Direct Stafford Loan for their first year. Application information is on our website in June and should be completed by August 1.  This will allow plenty of time for the family to complete loan applications and for Northwestern to process the loans prior to the start of classes in September.

What other financing options are available?

In addition to the information included on your award letter, there are a number of credit-based options, including the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan, the NU Loan for Parents, and a variety of private loans.  Please explore Parent Financing Options for details.

How do we accept the loan or federal work-study included on the award letter?

You will need to accept/decline your award through your CAESAR account: Main Menu > Financial Aid > Accept/Decline Financial Aid.