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Living Off Campus

Living off campus does not affect your financial aid eligibility. Financial aid is based on the standard cost of attendance at Northwestern, which includes the same estimated room and board costs for all students living either in University housing, panhellenic housing, or an off-campus apartment in Evanston or the immediately surrounding area.

Students who are living at home or with family or outside of the Evanston area have a different cost of attendance.

Changes to Your Northwestern Invoice

When you are living off campus, Northwestern will invoice you for tuition and fees, but 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 necessarily not mean that you will pay less overall: while you will pay less directly to Northwestern, you will have other non-University living 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 at the beginning of each quarter 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 internet, utilities, security deposit, and start-up costs. 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 a full meal plan. Additional financial assistance will not be granted for off-campus costs that exceed this budget.

It is also important to remember that you will not be able to access your financial aid until beginning of each quarter, and financial aid for the current year cannot be increased to cover additional expenses related to living off campus next year, such as:

Security deposit, move-in fee, & first month's rent: In addition to the first month's rent, many landlords and rental agencies require a move-in fee and/or security deposit (equal to at least one month's rent) at time of lease signing. You may need to pay these expenses before the end of the current school year for the upcoming year's lease.

Length of lease: Financial aid is based on a 9-month academic year, but most leases require a 12-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.

Start-up costs: Make sure you plan for basic starting expenses, such as setting up internet, cable, and utilities, as well as furniture, kitchen supplies, etc.

Off-campus study: If you will participate in any off-campus academic program, such as a practicum, journalism residency, internship, or study abroad program, keep in mind that your financial aid cannot be increased to cover the cost of your housing in both your program location and Evanston for the same quarter. It is your responsibility to sublet or cover your apartment for any quarters that you will be away.


  • Direct deposit: If you will be eligible for a financial aid refund, 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.