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Northwestern University

Graduate Financial Aid

Before considering loans
Applying for student loans
Disbursement of loan funds
Loan repayment

Before considering loans

Before you consider student loans, be sure to explore the possibility of other financial aid, such as grants, scholarships and fellowships which, unlike student loans, do not need to be repaid. Check with your program to determine if they offer any assistance. Visit the Office of Fellowships for other opportunities within and outside the university. Please note that application deadlines usually expire several months prior to the start of the academic year, so advance planning is imperative in order to take advantage of these offers.

Northwestern University adheres to the Code of Conduct as established by the Higher Education Opportunity Act as well as the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators' (NASFAA) Statement of Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct for Institutional Financial Aid Professionals.

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Applying for student loans

Student loans are available to help finance the cost of education. The amount borrowed must be for educational expenses and cannot exceed (including all other sources of aid) the Cost of Attendance (select 2017-2018) for the loan period. The loan period is the term for which the funds are being borrowed. The minimum loan period is (1) quarter. The maximum loan period is (4) quarters.

The student must (a) be currently enrolled, (b) intend to enroll, or (c) have been enrolled during the entire loan period.  In other words, you cannot receive student loan assistance for any term(s) during which you will not be enrolled.

See dates and deadlines for the timeline to apply.

Student loans may be federal or private. See the Federal Loans page for eligibility requirements for federal loans. Eligible students are strongly encouraged to review the federal loan programs before applying for a private educational loan. Federal loans have fixed interest rates, flexible repayment options, and offer deferment and loan forgiveness benefits.

To apply for federal student loans, please follow the steps on the Student Loan Application Checklist (select 2017-2018)

Students who are not eligible for federal loans may apply for a private student loan directly on a lender website. When your loan is approved, your lender will contact Student Financial Services to confirm your student status and your eligibility for the loan amount.

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Disbursement of loan funds

All loan proceeds (federal and private) are disbursed directly to your Northwestern University Customer Account. Because student registration is completed on a quarterly basis, tuition is also billed quarterly, and your loan funds are disbursed just prior to the start of each quarter (assuming you are registered appropriately* and have completed all loan requirements).

If you borrowed loan funds in excess of the total charges on your Northwestern Customer Account, the surplus loan credit can be accessed for your other expenses. You can request a refund of the credit balance via CAESAR on the first day of each quarter. IMPORTANT: Interest on unsubsidized loan funds accrues from the date the funds are disbursed to your Northwestern Customer Account whether or not a refund is requested. If you do not need the surplus loan funds for your living expenses, etc., please contact Student Financial Services to request a loan reduction.

If the amount you borrowed in student loan funds is less than the total charges on your Northwestern Customer Account, you will be responsible for the balance due. For additional information regarding tuition billing and payment options, see Payment Methods.

*To maintain in-school status and eligibility for federal student loans, you must be enrolled at least half-time (2 credits/units). Otherwise, federal loan funds will not be disbursed.

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Loan repayment

When a student graduates, withdraws or drops below half-time enrollment (as defined by their program), in-school status ends, student loan grace periods (if any) begin and loan repayment may start or resume. Borrowers of federal student loans will be contacted regarding completing the required exit counseling within 30 days after in-school status ends. Exit counseling reviews your loan terms & conditions and your rights & responsibilities. See your loan promissory notes for additional details. See the Federal Student Aid website for loan repayment information. For private loans, contact your lender/servicer.

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