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Bridge Builder

COVID-19 & Bridge Builder 2021

Travel associated with undergraduate, credit-bearing study abroad programs during the Summer 2021 quarter is canceled.

Students intending to study abroad during Fall 2021 should not make any non-refundable financial commitments related to study abroad until Northwestern has communicated a final decision regarding whether it will allow travel to your study abroad location. This includes airfare, visa processing payments, vaccinations, housing payments, and so forth.

For students attending programs that are approved for Fall 2021 and Full Year 2021-2022, only the flight-booking component of the Bridge Builder program will be available this year. While financial support for other pre-departure costs cannot be provided in advance, please be assured that these required costs will still be included in your study abroad financial aid award during the fall quarter. Contact Krista Bethel if you have any questions.

Pre-Departure Financial Support

Financial aid is typically available at the beginning of your study abroad term, but some costs related to study abroad can occur much earlier. Covering these up-front costs can present budgeting challenges, especially if you depend on financial aid to help with your expenses. In an effort to minimize the stress of pre-departure expenses, the Undergraduate Financial Aid and Global Learning Offices are pleased to offer the Bridge Builder program for students with high financial need.

Bridge Builder is designed to assist students who might not have funds immediately available to cover up-front study abroad costs before financial aid is available. Bridge Builder assistance is not in addition to your financial aid, but provides a way to use the aid you will already receive to either cover your pre-departure expenses when they occur or defer those costs to later.

"Bridge Builder made the process of booking a flight and handling other up-front travel expenses much smoother. As a student with high financial need, Bridge Builder alleviated my stress regarding financials for my first time traveling outside of the U.S."


  • You are enrolled as a degree-seeking undergraduate at Northwestern (not including SPS).
  • You have been approved for and accepted to a Northwestern program, Northwestern exchange program, or affiliated program.
  • You have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $10,000 or less for the current academic year and receive need-based financial aid from Northwestern.


  • Bridge Builder is not available for unaffiliated programs.
  • If you will attend a program that arranges international travel for all participants, you are not eligible to book your flight through Bridge Builder, regardless of whether you are required or plan to participate on your program's flight. This currently includes the following programs:
    • Northwestern GESI (all locations)
    • Northwestern Semester in Qatar
    • Carleton Buddhist Studies in India
    • CASA Cuba
    • Moscow Arts Theater Semester
    • Boston University: If you will attend a BU program that includes airfare in the program fee, but you do not plan to participate on the BU group flight, you may use Bridge Builder to book your own flight. If you opt out of the group flight, your BU program fee should ultimately be reduced by that amount; however, if your flight credit is delayed for any reason, you could end up double-billed for airfare until your credit is issued. These charges would be your responsibility.
  • Flight and fare are subject to University travel policy/restrictions and approval.
Some eligible pre-departure expenses may require documentation.

You may only apply to Bridge Builder for one program per term (e.g., one fall quarter program). You cannot be granted flight-booking or scholarship support for two different programs during the same academic term.

Application Instructions

  • Complete the Bridge Builder application online. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until the submission deadlines below.
  • Schedule an appointment with Krista Bethel in the financial aid office to discuss your study abroad aid, budgeting, and pre-departure costs, and to have your application certified.
  • If you are booking your flight through Bridge Builder, book by the appropriate deadline below.

Terms & Deadlines

Submit Application By

Book Flight By

Flight Billed through CAESAR


April 1

April 15

May 10

Fall, Fall-Winter, or Full Year

June 1

July 15

August 10

Winter or Winter-Spring

November 1

November 15

December 10


February 1

February 15

March 10

Students Say

"Bridge Builder is a fantastic program that really looks out for students who haven't thought about their up-front costs. For some students, they may not be able to afford their program without such aid."