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Finances & Funding FAQs

Study abroad will likely be one of the most exciting challenges of your life, and careful planning can help you have a successful and rewarding time abroad. The information on this page covers many of the money matters related to study abroad, including managing expenses and applying for financial aid and scholarships. Students and parents are encouraged to begin reviewing this information as early as possible in the study abroad process.

How much does study abroad cost?

Program costs vary widely; study abroad may be more or less expensive than studying at Northwestern.

Each study abroad program page includes an estimate of total costs, and you can usually find the most current cost information on your program sponsor's website.

How does financial aid work? How do I apply for financial aid?

If you study abroad on an affiliated or Northwestern program, your financial aid can be applied to study abroad. Study abroad does not change your expected family contribution, and your aid package will be adjusted based on the cost of your program.

For study abroad during the regular academic year, the financial aid application for study abroad is no different than that for regular on-campus study. However, financial aid awards are typically released much earlier than the study abroad confirmation deadline. Your award will be updated to include your study abroad program later in the year.

If you will be attending an Northwestern-sponsored summer program, you may apply separately for summer aid and scholarships.

Students attending unaffiliated programs are not eligible for any form of financial assistance through Northwestern.

I'm nervous about borrowing a loan for study abroad. What should I know?

Student loans aren't as scary as you might think. Loans offered for study abroad are usually subsidized, which means they don't accrue interest while you're enrolled at least half-time, and federal student loans tend to be manageable in repayment, especially if your loan for study abroad is the only one you'll borrow while at Northwestern. Education loans are also generally considered "good" debt and can help you get a jump start on building strong credit for after college.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don't borrow more than you need. You might be offered a loan to help make up for work-study you can't earn while abroad or to help cover living expenses or other costs you might be able to manage on your own. Many students find that they are able to live more inexpensively than expected while abroad, so you might discover that you don't need to borrow as much as you are offered.
  • Apply for study abroad scholarships! Outside scholarships will always reduce your subsidized loans first, not your Northwestern scholarship, so you might not need to borrow as much (or at all) to study abroad.
  • Know what you'll owe. Federal loans have a number of repayment options and timelines, including income-driven plans that base your payment due on a set percentage of your income. Use student loan calculators to figure out how much you might owe after leaving school.
  • You can make early payments. If you are able to make even small payments while you are still in school, you will save yourself money long-term and could even pay off your loan(s) before graduating.
  • Talk to a financial aid counselor. They can help you review your study abroad costs, financial aid, and scholarship options, and help you work out a budget of how much you might actually need to borrow for your program. Schedule an appointment.

If your study abroad financial aid award does not include a loan and you are considering borrowing, be sure to contact financial aid to ensure that you are exploring/exhausting your federal options first.

Are there scholarships for study abroad?

YES! Students are encouraged to pursue outside scholarships for study abroad through your program sponsor and/or from outside providers or organizations. Many of these opportunities have very early deadlines, so be sure to apply as soon as possible!

For most study abroad scholarships, you DO NOT need to wait until you are accepted to your program to apply for funding. You may be able to apply with tentative plans and update your application if your plans change. Check each scholarship's requirements for details.

I've been accepted to my program, and they require a confirmation deposit. Who pays that?

If your program requires a confirmation deposit, it is your responsibility to pay it directly to the program (not to Northwestern) by their deadline. Northwestern cannot waive required study abroad deposits, which are generally non-refundable if you withdraw from the program after confirming.

Note: Northwestern students attending Northwestern programs are not required to pay a deposit, but will be charged a cancellation fee for withdrawing from a program after confirming participation.

Students with high financial need may be eligible to apply for the Bridge Builder program for assistance with pre-departure costs, including required program deposits.

What else should I start budgeting for now/before my program?

Some pre-departure expenses related to study abroad – such as passports, student visas, health insurance, and airfare – may occur long before you leave for your program, so be sure to budget for these expenses.

If you receive financial aid, many of these costs will be included in your aid award for study abroad, but you may need to pay for some of them out of pocket before your aid is available.

Students with high financial need may be eligible to apply for the Bridge Builder program for assistance with many up-front study abroad costs.

What about my housing and belongings in Evanston?

Be sure to cancel your on-campus housing contract or sublet your off-campus apartment prior to your departure from Northwestern, and make arrangements to store any of your belongings that you will not bring with you or ship home.

Keep in mind that financial aid cannot cover the cost of your housing or storage in Evanston while you are abroad.

I'm applying for my student visa, and I need a financial certification. Where do I get that?

Many student visa applications require you to certify your finances as part of the application process. Common requirements include a notarized letter of financial support from your parents, accompanied by bank statements illustrating a minimum required balance over a period of time. Your study abroad program sponsor may also provide you with acceptable or supplemental documentation of enrollment or financial arrangements. Contact your program directly for details and instructions.

If you are a financial aid recipient, you may need to provide a copy of your Northwestern financial aid award letter. You can access an official copy of this letter, on University letterhead, in CAESAR > Financial Aid > View My Financial Aid > [Year] > Print Award Letter.

If you are attending an exchange program or other direct enrollment program and primarily fund your education through financial aid and/or loans, you may need a specific financial certification letter indicating support from Northwestern. Contact in the financial aid office for this letter, and be sure to provide the visa application instructions, including what specifically needs to be certified.

When/How will I get billed for everything else?

Your Northwestern invoice will be issued through CAESAR on the normal quarterly schedule.

For all affiliated and Northwestern programs, your Northwestern invoice will include at least your program's tuition. Some programs will also have room, board, and other charges billed through Northwestern, while other programs will bill you directly for these charges. Visit your program page for details.

For most programs, you will also be charged the Northwestern Study Abroad Administrative Fee (SAAF). Northwestern programs are exempt from the SAAF.

If you are attending an unaffiliated program, Northwestern will only bill you for the SAAF. All other charges should be paid directly to your program.

I pay my Northwestern invoices through the prepayment plan. Can I still use that for study abroad?

If you will attend a Northwestern or affiliated program during the regular academic year, you may continue to use the prepayment plan for your NU-billed study abroad expenses, but the amount you owe per month may be different based on your study abroad costs and billing arrangements. After you have submitted your study abroad program confirmation form and received your study abroad financial aid award (if applicable), you may request a study abroad prepay estimate for additional information and to have your plan set up appropriately.

The prepayment plan is not available for summer programs or unaffiliated programs.

I have more questions about study abroad finances. Who can help me?

If you can't find the answer to your question in Money Matters section or on your program page, please feel free to contact Financial Aid Office, Manager of Study Abroad Financial Services.