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Frequently Asked Questions

Aid Basics

  • Northwestern awards aid on the basis of financial need.
  • You must reapply for financial aid every year. You can check the status of your aid application materials on CAESAR > Tasks > To Do List.
  • The priority application deadlines are listed on our website, but it is almost never too late to apply for financial aid within the academic year. Completed applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • If your family’s financial circumstances remain similar from year to year, you can generally expect a similar aid package. Changes to income, assets, and/or the number of siblings enrolled in college may affect your aid eligibility.
  • You must be enrolled at least half-time (2 or more units) to be eligible for most forms of aid.
  • Financial aid is typically renewable for up to 4 years of enrollment.

General FAQs

I thought financial aid doesn’t include loans. Why do I see loans on my financial aid award?

Northwestern is required to inform students of their eligibility to borrow optional federal subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. While loans are not offered on an initial award to meet your institutional need, most students are eligible to borrow federal loans as a financing option. Students can accept or decline their optional loans in CAESAR > Financial Aid > Accept/Decline Financial Aid. Accepting or declining loans will not have any impact on other financial aid.

Can students borrow less than the amount that was offered?

Yes!  Students can reduce loan amounts when they accept their loan(s) in CAESAR. Students who later decide they would prefer borrow less after already accepting the loan(s) online should email us a request from their Northwestern email address. Visit our Budgeting & Borrowing page for additional considerations.

What does “Family Contribution” mean? Is this the amount we will pay Northwestern?

The family contribution is an estimate of the amount a family will be expected to contribute for annual college expenses. The family contribution is not the amount a family will owe to Northwestern, but an estimate of total “out-of-pocket” costs. The family contribution is calculated based on a family’s unique financial circumstances, as reported on the financial aid application, including the FAFSA, College Board CSS Profile, and other documents.

Can I request more financial aid?

Financial aid eligibility is determined by the information provided in the financial aid application materials. If your family has experienced a change in financial circumstances not reflected in those materials, you are welcome to submit a Special Circumstances application to request to have your aid eligibility re-reviewed. Supporting documentation is required.

My parents do not wish to provide financial support for my education. Can I be considered an independent student?

A student is considered to be independent for federal funding purposes if they are at least 24 years of age, a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, an orphan or ward of the court, has legal dependents other than a spouse, is married, or is a graduate student. However, a student entering Northwestern as a dependent student will remain dependent for institutional funding purposes unless they can provide documentation of extreme mitigating circumstances. Unwillingness to pay on the part of a parent is not considered a sufficient reason for a student to be considered independent.

I'm an international student. Can I apply for financial aid?

Need-based aid is awarded to a small group of first-year international students each year. These students must indicate on their admissions application that they wish to be considered for this limited assistance program. Only those admitted to this program when applying to the University are eligible for this financial assistance; current international students who do not receive financial aid are ineligible to apply.

Prospective & Admitted Students

Does Northwestern offer fee waivers?

For the CSS Profile application, the College Board will automatically offer fee waivers to first-time applicants that meet their requirements, based on the financial information entered into the Profile. Northwestern does not offer fee waivers or fund codes for submitting the CSS Profile.

For information about admission application fee waivers, visit the Undergraduate Admission website.

I need to send my FAFSA to more than 10 schools. Can I remove Northwestern and add other schools?

Yes. If you already submitted your FAFSA with Northwestern listed, that copy of your FAFSA will be sent to Northwestern. After submitting your FAFSA online, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) via email within 3-5 business days, after it has been processed and sent to your first 10 schools. Once you receive your SAR, log back in to your FAFSA and click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” Remove one or more of the colleges listed, add the additional school codes, and resubmit. Beginning with the 2024-25 FAFSA, students will be able to add up to 20 schools.

I applied for financial aid after the posted deadlines. When will I receive my financial aid award?

Financial aid awards are typically released about one week after admission decisions. If you have been admitted but have not yet received your financial aid award, check your financial aid checklist (CAESAR > Tasks > To Do List) for missing items. If you completed your application late or very recently, please note that applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received. Our office is typically unable to extend the tuition deposit deadline for admitted students who apply late for financial aid.

My biological/adoptive parents are divorced or separated, or were never married. Whose information is required on my financial aid applications?

Northwestern expects that both biological/adoptive parents will contribute to your educational expenses to the extent that they are able. Your custodial parent must complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile with information on the custodial household (including stepparent, if applicable). Your noncustodial parent must complete a separate Noncustodial CSS Profile. If you have no contact with your noncustodial parent, you may complete the Noncustodial Parent Waiver request form.

My aid seems fine for my freshman year, but what will my aid be like for the next three years?

If your family's financial circumstances remain relatively similar from year to year, you can expect a similar aid package in future years. Fluctuations in income, assets, family size, and number of children in college may affect your aid eligibility.

If I receive an athletic scholarship from Northwestern, will it affect my need-based aid eligibility?

Students receiving athletic scholarships may receive need-based aid for which they qualify. Any athletic scholarship will counts as a resource to meet a student's financial need. For more information regarding athletic scholarships, please speak with your coaching staff or the athletic compliance office.

Current & Returning Students

Why did my family contribution change?

Your family contribution is calculated each year based on information reported in the financial aid application. If your family’s financial circumstances change from one year to the next, your family contribution may also change; the most common reasons are significant changes to your family’s income, assets, and/or the number of siblings enrolled in college. Feel free to contact our office if you have specific questions related to your family contribution or aid eligibility.

I do not currently receive aid, but my family’s financial circumstances have changed. Can I apply after the deadline?

Yes, you may apply for aid and/or submit special circumstances to our office for consideration at any time.

I am graduating early. What will happen to my remaining quarter(s) of aid?

Your aid for your term(s) of non-enrollment will simply be cancelled. It is not possible to reallocate this aid to other terms.


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