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Exit Counseling

By federal regulation, any student with an outstanding federal student loan balance is required to complete exit counseling upon:

  • Graduating
  • Withdrawing from the university (even if you plan to transfer to another school)
  • Dropping below half-time student status (whether or not you plan to continue attending Northwestern).
    Half-time student status for quarter programs is defined as enrollment in 1.5 credits per term. Students in other programs should check with their departments to determine their definition of half-time status.

If you do not meet any of the above criteria, please send an email to:

Exit counseling explains your rights and responsibilities as a student loan borrower and provides:

  • Your outstanding loan balance
  • An estimated monthly payment amount
  • An explanation of the various repayment plans
  • Pros and cons of loan consolidation
  • Information regarding loan forgiveness, deferments, and forbearance

The type(s) of loan exit counseling you are required to complete depends upon which federal educational loan(s) you have borrowed.

Students who have borrowed from the Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized (Stafford) and/or Graduate PLUS Loan programs complete their exit counseling session online on the Federal Student Aid website. The process will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Please note that you must complete the entire session once you begin. If you close your browser before receiving confirmation of successful completion of the session and then return later, you will need to start over from the beginning. Once you have successfully completed the session, your "To Do List" in CAESAR will be updated to “Completed!” within 5 business days.

Students with Federal Perkins Loans will receive an email from Heartland ECSI  to complete the exit counseling requirement online. (If the online exit counseling is not completed within 30 days, an exit packet will be mailed).

Individual exit counseling is also available upon request. To make an appointment, send an email to Please complete the online exit counseling before scheduling an individual session.

IMPORTANT: Federal Direct Loans vs. Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL)

Students who borrowed loans prior to 2010 may have both Federal Direct and Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans. Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized & GradPLUS loans were borrowed directly from the U.S. Department of Education. FFEL Stafford & GradPLUS loans were borrowed through private lenders, such as Discover and Wells Fargo.

Although most FFEL loans have been sold to the U.S. Department of Education, they remain FFEL loans unless consolidated into the Direct Loan Program. This is important because only Direct loans are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and certain Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans.

You can view all your federal student loans (those borrowed while attending Northwestern and any prior institutions) on the Federal Student Aid website; identify each loan type and find the contact information for the current loan holder/servicer.

Contact your loan servicer to select/change repayment plans, apply for deferments, forbearance, cancellation/forgiveness or with any questions regarding your Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized (Stafford) or GradPLUS loans.