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Bridge Builder

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 offices of Undergraduate Financial Aid and Undergraduate Learning Abroad are pleased to offer the Bridge Builder program for students with high financial need.

Inspired by similar programs from our partners at the University of Minnesota and the Institute for Study Abroad, Bridge Builder is designed to assist students who might not have funds immediately available to cover up-front study abroad costs. Bridge Builder can help cover eligible pre-departure expenses before your study abroad financial aid is available.


  • You are enrolled as a degree-seeking undergraduate at Northwestern (except the School of Professional Studies)
  • You have been approved for and accepted to a Northwestern-sponsored, Northwestern exchange, 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. Your EFC is published on your Northwestern financial aid award letter, which you can find in CAESAR > Financial Aid > View Financial Aid > [Year] > Print Award Letter


  • Bridge Builder is not available for unaffiliated programs.
  • If you will attend a program that arranges 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
    • Moscow Arts Theater Semester
    • If you will attend a Boston University 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.
  • 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 following deadlines:
    • May 1st for eligible summer programs
    • June 1st for fall quarter or full year programs
    • November 1st for winter quarter and winter-spring programs
    • February 1st for spring quarter programs
  • 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 a flight through Bridge Builder, book by the appropriate deadline:
    • April 15th for eligible summer programs
    • July 15th for fall quarter or full year programs
    • November 15th for winter quarter and winter-spring programs
    • February 15th for spring quarter programs

Terms & Deadlines

Submit Application By

Book Flight By

Flight Billed through CAESAR


April 1

April 15

June 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