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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 freshmen.  If your question is not addressed here, please feel free to visit our general FAQ page, ask a counselor or refer to the information provided on our website.

Click a link below to jump to a category:

General Eligibility

Student Employment


Scholarships and Loans

General Eligibility

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

Yes, a student 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.


How will the award change between freshman and sophomore year?

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 and eligibility (increase or decrease) from one year to the next have usually experienced the following:  a change in the number of family members 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 Financial Aid Office for more information. 


Do you offer merit scholarship?

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; however it will 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.  We also host a work-study job fair in the fall. There are usually more positions available than there are students to fill them; finding a job should not be a problem.  


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

Yes, as long as they do not work more than 15 hours a week.  The work-study offer included in the financial aid award letter typically requires a student to work between 10 to 12 hours a week.


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

Students not qualifying for the need-based work-study program can seek non-work-study jobs.  Students who wish to work are usually able to find employment. Non work-study positions are available on campus and in Evanston.  Students interested in pursuing this type of employment should contact Northwestern Career Advancement.


How will we be billed?

In August, the student will receive an email at their official NU email address notifying them when their bill is available for viewing online. 


Can I give account access to my mom or dad?

Students may provide guest access to parents via CAESAR.


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 account showing 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 tuition and fee installment payment option called 9PAY.  It provides the ability to pay for educational expenses on a convenient monthly basis instead of through larger quarterly payments. The application deadline is June 1. Students can apply online via CAESAR. Payments are made July 1 through March 1.


What charges will the invoice include?

Students will be charged by term for tuition and mandatory fees.  Students who live in University Housing will be assessed room and board for the term as well. Other components of the budget (i.e. books and personal expenses) 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 the 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 if that student has a $2,700 Federal Work-Study award, that work-study award is reduced by $1,000.                                      

Outside scholarship checks that the student receives directly should be forwarded to the Financial Aid Office, Attention: Scholarship Coordinator.


How does a student apply for a federal student loan?

Freshmen 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 our website 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 online.  Please sign-in to your CAESAR account to respond to your award (Main Menu > Financial Aid > Accept/Decline Financial Aid).