Skip to main content

Need-Based Financial Aid

Northwestern financial aid can be applied to Northwestern and affiliated programs. If you receive need-based financial aid, it should not cost you any more or less out of pocket to study abroad than to study on campus.

Study Abroad Financial Aid

Financial aid can be applied to Northwestern programs, GESI, Northwestern exchanges, and affiliated programs during the regular academic year. Students who attend unaffiliated programs are not eligible for any form of assistance through Northwestern financial aid, including loans.

Your regular aid is based on the cost of living and studying in Evanston. Your study abroad financial aid will be based on the cost of the program you attend, including the exchange rate and a reasonable cost of living for the location in which you will be studying.

Each program page includes estimated total costs, including tuition, room and board, transportation, books, personal expenses, required international health insurance, student visa, and the Study Abroad Administrative Fee, if applicable.

The financial aid office calculates your expected family contribution (EFC) based on your financial aid application each year. Study abroad does not change your calculated EFC, and your aid will be adjusted for your quarter(s) abroad based on the total cost of your program; typically:

  • For programs that cost more than Northwestern, your Northwestern scholarship assistance will be increased to cover your higher financial need. Because you cannot participate in Federal Work-Study while abroad, your work-study allotment will be offered as a subsidized loan for your quarter(s) abroad.
  • For programs that cost less than Northwestern, your financial need will be lower, so your aid would be reduced. Work-study will be reduced or eliminated first, and Northwestern scholarship may be reduced if necessary.

Estimated living costs may be provided by each program or determined from cost of living calculators, or some combination thereof. To ensure access and equity for all students, Northwestern may adjust program-provided cost estimates that are higher or lower than average. Individual aid adjustments will not be made for expenses that differ from budgeted costs, including airfare.

You can compare the total cost on your program page to the cost of Northwestern to determine how your aid might be adjusted for your term abroad. In rare cases, some students who receive financial aid for on-campus study may not be financially eligible for need-based aid on programs that cost less than Northwestern.

Schedule an appointment with a study abroad financial aid counselor to discuss your specific program, aid, and budgeting.

Plan Your Budget

Pre-Departure Expenses: Financial aid is available at the beginning of your study abroad term, but some pre-departure costs will occur before your program actually starts. Be sure to budget for these expenses. Students with high financial need may be eligible to apply to the Bridge Builder program for assistance with many of these up-front costs.

Evanston Housing: Keep in mind that your financial aid cannot cover the cost of your housing in Evanston while you are abroad, so be sure to cancel your on-campus room and board contract or sublet your off-campus apartment for the quarter(s) you will be abroad. Students who are considering both studying abroad and living off campus in the same academic year are strongly encouraged to contact Undergraduate Financial Office to discuss financial aid and budgeting.

Financial aid also does not cover: study abroad application fees; bank fees, currency exchange fees, or international transaction fees; shipping or expediting fees related to obtaining a passport or student visa; travel or parking expenses related to obtaining a student visa; shipping or storage costs; flight change fees or other costs related to flight cancellations or missed connections; refundable security deposits or damage deposits; international cell phones or usage; luggage, bag fees, or lost luggage; plug or power adapters; personal travel (vacation/tourism) abroad; expenses related to optional internships, including work visas, clothing, or additional living expenses for extended time abroad; or supplementary fees from your program, such as additional course fees, housing upgrades, optional excursions, or optional orientations, pre-sessions, or pre-program language courses. Additional exclusions may apply.

Financial Aid Application & Timeline

If you currently receive need-based aid from Northwestern, the financial aid application is the same for study abroad as for regular on-campus study. Refer to your CAESAR > Financial Aid > To Do List for application materials and completion status.

If you will attend a fall or full-year program, you may receive a financial aid award in late winter or early spring that will assume your regular full-year attendance in Evanston. Your financial aid will be adjusted to include study abroad by late spring, after program costs have been finalized for the upcoming year.

If you will study abroad during winter and/or spring quarters, you will initially receive a financial aid award for a full year on campus. Your aid will be adjusted later in the year for winter/spring study abroad after the study abroad confirmation deadline for your term.

If you will attend a Northwestern or affiliated summer program, you may apply separately for summer aid and scholarships.

If you do not currently receive financial aid but are interested in applying for need-based assistance for the first time, contact Undergraduate Financial Office in the financial aid office.

Financial Aid Refunds

If your financial aid is greater than the amount billed to you by Northwestern, you may be eligible for a financial aid refund, which can be used toward your other study abroad costs. This may be particularly relevant if your program will bill you directly for your housing abroad or other charges. If eligible, you may request your aid refund through CAESAR on the first day of the Northwestern quarter in Evanston. If your program begins earlier than the regular Northwestern quarter, you may complete the Study Abroad Release of Funds form to request an earlier refund.

Financial aid refunds generally are not available early enough to help with pre-departure expenses, such as program deposits and airfare. Be sure to plan for these costs.

Financial aid refunds can only be released directly to students and cannot be sent as payment to any third party, including your study abroad program. If your program will bill you directly for your housing or other charges, it is your responsibility to request your aid refund and process payment on time to your program.

International Students on Financial Aid

International students (F-1 or J-1 visa) currently receiving need-based Northwestern financial aid may be eligible to use their aid for Northwestern programs, GESI, Northwestern exchanges, or affiliated study abroad programs. Your family contribution will remain the same, and your aid will be adjusted based on the cost of your program, as outlined above. International students who currently receive Northwestern aid should continue to follow the normal procedures and deadlines to reapply for Northwestern aid annually. International students not currently receiving Northwestern financial aid are not eligible to apply for aid.

International students are not eligible to use their Northwestern aid to "study abroad" in their country of citizenship or permanent residence. Exceptions to this policy will only be considered upon receipt of a written appeal, which must include:

  • A compelling academic reason for attending the program in your home country, including how your coursework will apply to your Northwestern degree program, and
  • A letter of support from an academic advisor detailing why this program or coursework cannot be completed in Evanston or elsewhere.

If approved, your financial aid to study in your home country will not cover non-applicable study abroad expenses, including but not limited to student visa fees, international health insurance, and airfare.

International students may be eligible to consider the home country exemption to enroll independently in courses at foreign institutions. Financial aid does not apply to the home country exemption.