Skip to main content
Northwestern University


Applying for Loans

Billing and Financial Aid

Loan Repayment

Applying for Loans

What loans are available to graduate students?

* not yet available

What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?

NOTE: As a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, Sec. 502, Federal Direct Subsidized (Stafford) Loans are available only for undergraduate students effective June 30, 2012.

The Federal Direct Subsidized (Stafford) Loan is awarded based on financial need using the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The government covers the interest while the student is enrolled at least half-time, during the grace period (for loans first disbursed before July 1, 2012 and after July 1, 2014) and during authorized periods of deferment.

Although the Federal Direct Unsubsidized (Stafford) Loan is not need-based, you must still complete a FAFSA to confirm your eligibility for this loan. You are responsible for the interest that accrues from the time the loan funds are disbursed to your Northwestern University Customer Account until the loan is paid in full. Payment of accrued interest is optional while you are in school. Unpaid interest will be capitalized (added to the loan principal) at the end of the grace period when you begin repayment, and after periods of deferment and forbearance. 

See the Federal Student Aid website for more information.

Why do I need to complete loan entrance counseling?

Federal regulations state that you must complete online entrance counseling before your Federal Direct Unsubsidized (Stafford) and/or GradPLUS Loan funds can be disbursed. Even if you completed entrance counseling at another school, you must do so again as a new borrower at Northwestern.

Your To Do List on CAESAR will list the entrance counseling sessions that you must complete and will provide the correct URL to copy and paste into your browser.

How often do I have to apply for loans?

You must apply for loans each academic year. 

  • For students enrolled in programs through The Graduate School (TGS) and the School of Communication (SoC), the academic year begins with the Fall quarter and ends with the Summer quarter.      
  • For students enrolled in programs through the McCormick School of Engineering (MEAS) and the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), the academic year begins with the Summer quarter and ends with the Spring term. 

See Priority Dates and Deadlines for more information.

How do I apply for federal loans?

  • Each year you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at and designate Northwestern University (school code 001739) as a recipient.
  • In addition to the FAFSA, all returning students and all PhD students (new and returning) must complete a Request for Student Loans form. You can complete the form online via the link in your To Do LIst in CAESAR or complete the pdf (select 2017-2018 or 2018-2019*).

* not yet available

When do I apply for federal loans?

  • We recommend that you file your FAFSA by May 1st. See dates and deadlines for more information.
  • The FAFSA is year specific, so it must be completed for each academic year for which you would like to be considered for federal aid. It is based on your prior, prior year's federal tax return.
    • For students enrolled in programs through The Graduate School (TGS) and the School of Communication (SoC), the academic year begins with the Fall quarter and ends with the Summer quarter.      
    • For students enrolled in programs through the McCormick School of Engineering (MEAS) and the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), the academic year begins with the Summer quarter and ends with the Spring term. 

What if I haven't completed my federal tax return yet?

If you have not completed your tax return, you can use your best estimates of your income and tax information to complete the FAFSA. Once you have filed your federal tax return, you should adjust the FAFSA data online as needed. If you have questions, there is online help, or you may call 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Note: Beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA uses your federal tax return from the prior, prior year. So the 2017-2018 will be based on your 2015 tax return.

What happens after I submit my FAFSA?

  • The U.S. Department of Education will confirm receipt of your FAFSA application by email (if you provided your email address) and provide a link to your online Student Aid Report (SAR). If you did not provide your email address, the SAR will be sent through the mail.
  • The Student Aid Report (SAR) is a summary of the information you reported on your FAFSA. Review your SAR to ensure accuracy. Note: If you forgot to sign your FAFSA, you will receive a rejected SAR. 
  • If you listed Northwestern University as a recipient of your FAFSA data, we will receive the information electronically from the U. S. Department of Education within a week. You can confirm that your FAFSA was received by Northwestern by checking your To Do List on CAESAR.
  • If your SAR does not list Northwestern University, you can correct this on the FAFSA website or contact the U.S. Dept. of Education's Central Processor at 1-800-4-FED-AID and provide the DRN (Data Release Number) listed on your SAR.

What if I forgot to sign the FAFSA or notice a mistake after I have sent the form to be processed?

  • Students who have created an FSA ID can electronically sign their FAFSA on the FAFSA website. (If you do not have an FSA ID, visit the Federal Student Aid website to create one. 
  • Alternatively, students can print the signature page, sign it, and mail it to the Central Processor.
  • Corrections and updates can also be submitted online or through the mail.

How is the amount I can borrow in student loans determined?

The amount you may borrow in student loans is based on your Cost of Attendance. The total of all federal and non-federal financial aid (from all sources) cannot exceed your Cost of Attendance. Use the Cost of Attendance Worksheet (select 2017-2018 2018-2019*) to estimate your loan eligibility.

* not yet available

When can I apply for a private student loan, and how is it different from federal loans?

  • You can apply for a private student loan at any time. Some private lenders even offer loans for students who have left the university and have a recent past due balance. Federal loans cannot be processed once the student no longer has in-school status.   
  • Private loan funds are borrowed through private lending institutions. Federal loans are funded through the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).
  • The terms and conditions for private loans are set by the individual lender. Federal loan terms are set by the U.S. Congress and offer more flexible repayment plans, deferments and loan forgiveness options.
  • Interest rates for private loans are usually variable and based on the creditworthiness of the applicant and/or cosigner. Interest rates for federal loans are fixed (set by Congress).
  • We recommend that you apply for federal loans (if eligible) prior to seeking a private loan. See the Federal Student Aid website for more information on federal vs. private loans.
  • For both private and federal loans, the amount borrowed (including all other sources of aid) cannot exceed the Cost of Attendance (select 2017-2018 2018-2019*) for the loan period.
  • See the private loan page for more information.

* not yet available

Who is my loan lender?

The lender is the institution from which the loan money is actually borrowed.

For federal student loans, you can find the name(s) of your current loanholder(s) and servicing agents on the National Student Loan Data System.

Private loans will be listed on your credit report. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report on the Annual Credit Report website.

How do I choose a lender?

  • Only private loans require lender selection.
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized (Stafford) & GradPLUS Loans are funded through the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) using funds obtained from the U.S. Treasury. Once your loan funds have disbursed, your loan(s) will be assigned to one of several federal loan servicers.

Billing and Financial Aid

When will I be billed?

The Office of Student Finance bills on the 10th of each month. Once you are registered, your tuition charges will post to your Northwestern University Customer Account and an invoice will generate with the next billing cycle. The new charges on the invoice are due on the first business day of the following month.

Note: Other offices at the university also post charges to your Northwestern University Customer Account such as campus housing, parking permits, and library fines. An invoice may generate as often as once a month if there has been any activity on your Northwestern University Customer Account since the prior billing cycle or if there is a balance (credit or debit) other than zero.

How do I access my bill?

  • You will receive an email notification (at your Northwestern email address) when a new invoice is ready for viewing on QuikPAY®.
  • To access QuikPAY®, log into CAESAR and select My Account > View or Pay Tuition Bill.
  • Although QuikPAY® is updated at most once a month (when the bills generate), you may always view the current balance on your Northwestern University Customer Account in CAESAR at My Account > View My Account.
  • In QuikPAY® you may print a copy of your bill or request an invoice through the mail by changing your User Preferences. The invoice will be mailed to the permanent address listed in CAESAR (Profile > Addresses) unless a separate billing address is created.

Will my financial aid appear on the invoice?

  • Tuition scholarships, fellowships, & grants, health insurance subsidies (if applicable) and student loan credits will all be listed as individual line items on your Northwestern University Customer Account and will appear on the first invoice that generates after the funds are entered in CAESAR. 
  • Your stipend (if applicable) will not be reflected on the invoice as these funds are paid directly to you through the Payroll Office.
  • Any financial aid that has not yet been received (student loans for example) may appear on your invoice as anticipated aid until the funds are disbursed. 
  • You do not need to pay any balance that is covered by anticipated credit; your Adjusted Balance Due is zero or less.

How do I pay my balance due?

  • If the total charges on your tuition invoice exceed the total credits (actual and anticipated), the balance due is your responsibility.
  • Payments can be made electronically (echeck), by check or money order through the mail, or in person at Depository Services (619 Clark). See Payment Methods for more information.
  • The easiest way to make your payment is online via QuikPAY®. This service allows you to make convenient and secure electronic payments using bank accounts and credit cards* from banks located in the United States.
  • To access QuikPAY®, log into CAESAR and select My Account > View or Pay Tuition Bill.

*Payments made by credit card are charged a convenience fee.

Can someone else view and/or pay my bill?

  • Due to federal law (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – FERPA), you must provide authorization for anyone who wants access to your information.
  • When you add an individual at Profile > Manage Guest Access in CAESAR, you are in complete control of the degree of access granted to that person.

How do I determine my loan status?

  • Once you have received your email award notice, you may view your loans on CAESAR at Financial Aid > View My Financial Aid. 
  • Your To Do List on CAESAR will provide instructions for completing any outstanding requirements in the loan process. Items on the To Do LIst are updated to "COMPLETED!" within a few days of completion.

When will my loan funds be available to me?

  • In order for the loan funds to disburse to your Northwestern University Customer Account, you must be registered at least half-time (2 credits) and have completed all your loan requirements. Any outstanding requirements will appear on your To Do List on CAESAR
  • If all requirements are completed, the loan funds should be available on the first day of class each quarter. To see if the funds have disbursed, you can check your Northwestern University Customer Account on CAESAR at My Account > View My Account
  • If your Northwestern University Customer Account still shows that the loan credit is anticipated, this means that your loan funds have not yet been disbursed. If your To Do List on CAESAR is complete and the quarter has begun, please contact Student Financial Services for further assistance.

How and when can I access my loan funds if I have a credit balance on my Student Account?

If the total credits on your tuition invoice exceed the total charges, you have excess credit on your Northwestern University Customer Account that you can use for your living expenses, books, supplies, transportation, and other personal items.

Starting on the first day of each quarter, you can obtain a refund of the actual credit on your Northwestern University Customer Account. To check whether you have a refundable balance, go to My Account > View My Account in CAESAR. If the Account Balance on the Grand Total line (at the top of the page) shows a negative amount, that means there is actual credit on your account. Your refund options are:   

  • Direct Deposit: If you have not already done so, enter your bank information in CAESAR at My Account > Setup Direct Deposit. (Note: Any direct deposit set up with the Payroll Office is a completely separate arrangement.) You can then initiate the transfer of funds from your Northwestern University Customer Account to your bank account at My Account > Request a Refund
  • Check through the mail: On CAESAR, go to My Account > Request a Refund and select the address to which you want the refund check mailed. If the address is not in CAESAR, you may enter it under Profile > Addresses and then request your refund. 
  • Cash: You may obtain a cash voucher for amounts of $300.00 or less from the Office of Student Finance (555 Clark St). The cash voucher must be redeemed the same day at Depository Services (619 Clark). A current Wildcard ID is required.

Can I cancel or reduce my loans if I decide later that I borrowed too much?

Yes, you can reduce or cancel your loans any time during the academic year by contacting Student Financial Services. You will accrue less interest and have lower monthly payments down the road if you borrow only what you need while you are in school. Please communicate your intentions clearly. For example:

  • You can specify an amount: "I want my loans reduced so that I have exactly $10,000 per quarter."
  • You can indicate what you want your loans to cover: "I want enough loan funds to cover my tuition each quarter and have a surplus credit of $500 for books."
  • You can cancel loans for individual quarters: "Cancel my loan disbursements for the Spring 2018 term only."

Student Financial Services will always reduce the highest interest rate loans first. If loan funds are returned to the U.S. Dept. of Education within 120 days (i.e. before the end of the quarter), all accrued interest and origination fees are reversed.

If your loan funds have already disbursed and you have received a refund of the surplus credit for that term, we can still process a loan reduction or cancelation. You will first need to make a payment via CAESAR at My Account > View or Pay Tuition Bill to restore the credit balance in your Northwestern University Customer Account. Once your Northwestern University  Customer Account reflects the credit at My Account > View My Account, send your adjustment request to Student Financial Services.

Finally, if your plans change, Student Financial Services can reinstate your canceled/reduced loans (with certain limitations) as long as you are currently enrolled at least half-time (2 credits). 

Loan Repayment

How do I defer payment on my prior student loans while I am in school?

  • In school deferment: The Northwestern University Registrar reports your enrollment status each month to the National Student Clearinghouse. Most lender/servicers access the National Student Loan Data System to obtain your current enrollment status. (You can find out who services your federal student loans on the National Student Loan Data System. For private student loans, check your credit report at Annual Credit
  • If you are registered at least half-time (2 credits per term), your lender/servicer should automatically place your loans into in-school deferment. 
  • If your lender/servicer requires paper documentation, you can request enrollment verification from the Registrar's Office via CAESAR at Academic Records > Enrollment Verification.
  • If you do not qualify for an in-school deferment, contact your lender/servicer(s) regarding other deferment or forbearance options.

Who do I pay?

You can find out who services your federal student loans on the National Student Loan Data System. For private student loans, check your credit report at Annual Credit

Contact your loan servicer(s) to discuss your repayment options, due dates, payment methods, deferments, forbearance, etc. Use the federal repayment estimator to compare your monthly payments under the various repayment plans.

When do I pay back my loans?

When you graduate, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment (2 credits per term), your in-school status ends and your grace period (if applicable) begins.

  • Federal Perkins Loans have a grace period of nine months before repayment begins. You will receive repayment amounts and schedules when you leave the university.
  • Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized (Stafford) Loans have a grace period of six months before repayment begins. Note: If you have loans from a prior enrollment that were in repayment before you returned to school at Northwestern, you will resume making payments for these loans as soon as your in-school deferment ends. Check with your loan servicer(s) to determine when your first payment is due.
  • Federal GradPLUS Loans issued after July 1st, 2008 have a six month post-enrollment deferment period. Contact your loan servicer(s) regarding GradPLUS Loans issued before July 1st, 2008 to request a deferment.
  • Federal Consolidation Loans have no grace period and will begin immediate repayment.
  • For private loans, contact your loan servicer(s) to determine when your first payment is due and for the specific repayment terms.
  • You can find out who services your federal student loans on the National Student Loan Data System. For private student loans, check your credit report at Annual Credit

Contact your loan servicer(s) to discuss your repayment options, due dates, payment methods, deferments, forbearance, etc. 

Can I pay off my loans early?

  • Federal loans can be prepaid without penalty. To ensure that your payment is correctly applied, contact your loan servicer(s) for instructions.
  • Most private student loans can also be pre-paid without penalty. Check with your lender regarding your specific loan terms.

You can find out who services your federal student loans on the National Student Loan Data System. For private student loans, check your credit report at Annual Credit

Back to top