Frequently Asked Questions

What does it cost to attend Northwestern?

Tuition for the 2013-14 academic year is $45,120. Total expenses (including fees, books, room and board, and personal expenses but not transportation) are estimated at $63,228. For a full breakdown, please visit our Tuition, Fees, and Expenses page.

How do I apply for financial aid?

To apply for financial aid, you should indicate on the application for admission that you are applying for aid; then submit the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and federal tax returns or non-filing statements for both the parents and the student. For detailed instructions and deadlines, visit our Financial Aid Application Instructions page.

How does Northwestern determine my financial aid?

The difference between the estimated cost of attendance and the expected family contribution (EFC) is the amount of need-based financial aid you will receive at Northwestern.

Expected Family Contribution

The expected family contribution is the amount that parents and students are asked to contribute toward the cost of attendance. Actual expected family contributions and financial aid packages may vary based on individual family circumstances.

To determine your expected family contribution, Northwestern uses both the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Financial Aid Profile and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Information provided on these forms allow the University, using both institutional and federal guidelines, to consider your eligibility for Northwestern grant assistance as well as for federal loans, college work-study, and federal and state grants. The FAFSA is also required to disburse any federal aid for which you are eligible.

Some of the factors used to determine eligibility for federal aid are:

  • Taxable and nontaxable income
  • Federal and state taxes
  • Assets
  • Asset protection/educational savings allowance
  • Family size
  • Income protection allowance
  • Number of family members in college
  • Expenses related to the employment of both parents

Some of the factors that determine eligibility for aid from Northwestern are:
  • Home equity
  • Private elementary and secondary school costs
  • Nondiscretionary expenses (such as nonreimbursed medical expenses)
  • Business losses
  • Depreciation expenses
  • Special circumstances reported by your family

The expected family contribution toward freshman-year expenses includes a portion of the student's summer earnings as well as 25% of his or her savings. The balance of any savings and assets will be applied to the cost of your remaining undergraduate years.

You can estimate your family contribution for college using the College Board's expected family contribution worksheet. Your actual expected family contribution may vary based on the results of the CSS Financial Aid Profile and institutional analysis.

What components make up a financial aid package? Are merit scholarships available?

The average financial aid award consists of a student loan, part-time employment through Federal Work-Study Program, need-based Northwestern Scholarship, and/or Federal or state grants. Grants from federal or state sources are included in the aid package for all eligible students. Northwestern scholarship assistance is generally the final component of an aid package, bridging the gap between what Northwestern has determined your family can afford and the other aid for which you have qualified. The University does not award its scholarships based on academic merit; it reserves this assistance for students who otherwise would not be able to afford to attend.

Am I eligible for student loans?

You are not required to accept a loan or a job, but each is considered a part of the financial aid required to meet your need. Loans are available through University and government sources. Students loans are available to all who apply for federal assistance. Students who do not qualify for need-based federal student loans may be eligible for other federal loans.

Can I earn money through work-study and/or part-time employment?

The Office of Financial Aid offers about 2,200 undergraduates work on campus in libraries, departmental offices, or in community service offices. Through such programs students may earn between $500 and $4,000 per academic year. Most students work between eight and 12 hours per week and do not find that this commitment adversely affects academic performance.

Students in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science are eligible to participate in the Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Program. Alternating quarters of off-campus employment with their academic work, students can earn substantial income during the five-year program.

Will applying for financial aid impact my admissions decision?

Northwestern has a need-blind admissions policy for U.S. citizens and permanent residents; this means that financial aid is not a factor in determining admission. Applicants are encouraged to apply for financial aid; Northwestern's generous need-based aid program can assist in defraying the costs of your college education.

Given limited funding for non-citizens, international applicants requesting financial aid may apply for Regular Decision only and are evaluated as a separate group. Financial need is a consideration in the admission decision for international students. For more information, visit our International Student Aid page.

Does Northwestern offer ROTC?

Yes. The Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship program is a source of financial aid for students interested in careers in the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, or Air Force. Aid can cover all or some portion of tuition, books, fees, and a stipend for four years. NROTC is available at Northwestern for the Naval Reserve or Marine Corps Reserve. Northwestern students can also participate in Army ROTC through the University of Illinois at Chicago, or Air Force ROTC through the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.

Where can I find additional information on financial aid?

The Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid offers a comprehensive website that includes printable forms, online resources, scholarship services, answers to commonly asked questions, and links to other useful websites.