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Early Decision Application Instructions

Follow the steps below to apply for financial aid. Once all materials are received, the Financial Aid Office will review your application to determine aid eligibility. You will be notified of your aid package shortly after your admission decision.

For more information on how we determine aid eligibility, see the Aid Basics & Eligibility section.

If you wish only to apply for federal aid, you just need to complete and submit the FAFSA.

Task Submit as early as Submit no later than Instructions
Complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)* October 1 December 1
  • The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal student aid.
  • Visit the FAFSA website and complete the application. Northwestern’s federal school code is 001739.
  • If eligible, we strongly recommend that you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import your tax information.
  • Once processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Correct any inaccurate or missing information on the FAFSA website.
  • Illinois residents should file the FAFSA by October 15 to be considered for eligibility for the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant.
Complete College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS) October 1 December 1
  • The CSS Profile helps determine your eligibility for institutional aid.
  • Visit the College Board website, register and complete the Profile. Northwestern’s CSS code is 1565.
  • Once processed, you will receive a Data Confirmation Report. Any corrections must be submitted directly to our office.
  • If your biological/adoptive parents are divorced or separated, your custodial and your noncustodial parent will each need to complete a separate Profile application. If you have no contact with your noncustodial parent, contact our office.
Submit Tax Materials  November 1 December 5
  • After completing the CSS Profile, the College Board will provide instructions for submitting the custodial parents’ and the student’s federal tax returns and W-2s.
  • These signed forms must be sent to the College Board’s Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC), not the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid.
  • Those not required to file federal tax returns should complete the appropriate Non-Tax Filer's Statement and send a written explanation of your circumstances to our office.

Your Award Package

*If you only wish to apply for federal aid, you only need to complete and submit the FAFSA.

You will receive your financial aid decision shortly after your admission decision. If you have demonstrated institutional financial need, your financial aid package may include a combination of scholarship or grant assistance, student loans, and student employment.

  • If you have been offered a loan, you will receive loan information in June with instructions on how to apply for it.
  • If you would like to submit information regarding a change in your financial situation, please refer to our Special Circumstances Review webpage for instructions.

Upon being admitted to the Early Decision program, the expectation is that students will withdraw any other admission applications and deposit at Northwestern by February 1. While this is considered a binding contract, there is an exception in place for cases of financial hardship. If a family completes the financial aid application by the December 1 deadline and believes that the resulting financial aid award would make it impossible for the student to attend, our office first asks that they file a Special Circumstances Review request outlining any possible special circumstances and correcting any mistakes on the application. Though this review may or may not result in a change to the financial aid award, the student can petition the director of financial aid requesting to be released from the Early Decision contract if the family still feels that it would be financially impossible for the student to accept the offer of admission.