Need to Know: A guide to financial support and saving at NU


Daily file photo by Jeffrey Wang

The Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid and the Work-Study Office, both located at 1801 Hinman Ave.

Angeli Mittal, Senior Staffer

There’s no doubt college is expensive. Aside from tuition, housing and meal plans, you might find yourself with additional expenses associated with extracurriculars, study abroad, research and internship accommodations, summer classes and entertainment expenses — it quickly adds up. Luckily, you don’t have to feel like you can’t partake in these opportunities: here are some of the ways Northwestern students can receive financial support for these endeavors.

Summer Internship Grant Program
Students who demonstrate financial need and are seeking unpaid internships or other summer experiences are eligible to apply for this program. SIGP provides funding — in the form of $3,000 grants — to students that can be used for living, travel or other accrued expenses. In addition to financial support, SIGP hosts a number of career development activities such as networking and LinkedIn professionalism.

Undergraduate research grants
The Office of Undergraduate Research offers multiple grants to fund research endeavors. The Summer Undergraduate Research Grant is a $3,500 grant, similar to SIGP, that awards students partaking in eight weeks of full-time independent research. The Academic Year Undergraduate Research Grant provides up to $1,000 for students enrolled in an independent study or honors thesis course. There’s also an advanced grant program for both the SURG and AYURG that allows students to receive additional fundings in subsequent terms. Both URGs require students to submit a grant proposal for their application. The Office of Undergraduate Research hosts two workshops in Winter Quarter to help students find a lab, prepare for research and learn how to write a grant proposal.

Study abroad aid awards
Besides receiving need-based aid from the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid, students can apply for numerous scholarships both through the University and externally to fund academic year and summer study abroad ventures. The Global Learning Office offers several study abroad scholarships for students intending to participate in an NU or University-affiliated study abroad program. GLO also provides links on its website to a multitude of external study abroad scholarships that students can apply for. The Office of Undergraduate Research also offers the Undergraduate Language Grant, a $5,000 grant for students looking to attend language-intensive programs in the U.S. or abroad that provide students an immersive experience to learn and practice a chosen language.

Career Development Fund
Northwestern Career Advancement supports undergraduate students with funding for internship, career- and school-related interview travel and clothing as well as graduate school applications and preparation. Applications for the fund are reviewed weekly during the academic year, and awards are given based on a student’s financial need. Students can receive one-time funding up to $300 for interview attire and up to $600 for graduate school-related expenses. When NCA resumes travel funding, students are eligible to apply for funding for up to two trips.

Student Activities Assistance Fund
SAAF covers up to $600 per year for students to participate in NU student organizations. This grant covers membership fees, travel costs for conferences and trips, conference sports and athletic equipment, as well as other expenses.

Books for Cats
This Student Enrichment Services program allows students receiving financial aid to borrow course materials (like textbooks) and chemistry lab materials for selected courses. Eligible students are invited prior to every quarter to partake in Books for Cats. The University’s Financial Wellness website lists other options to get books for free or at reduced costs, including finding a free PDF version of the course material online, using other book-loaning services, such as the interlibrary loan service UBorrow, NU Facebook groups and renting or buying books from secondhand retailers.

University Library Loaner Program
NU students can request loaner Dell laptops and iPads from the University Library on a first-come, first-served basis. Undergraduate students can request a 14-day or quarter loan for laptops and 14-day loans for the iPad Air 3 and Apple Pencils, with laptops and iPads available to students one at a time. The University Library Loaner Program also provides an option to borrow a laptop for four years. Aside from these borrowing options, there are also several computer labs located across campus as well as wireless copy, fax and free printing options.

Laptops and software discounts
NU students have access to discounted hardware options and software options. With your Wildcard, you’re able to get desktop, laptop and other electronic discounts from major University-preferred vendors like Dell, as well as discounted electronic accessories — including headphones, earbuds and webcams — from CDW-G. Students can also get access to free and discounted software for use on personal devices. A comprehensive list can be found on NU Information Technology’s website. Some of the available free access software options include Microsoft 365 ProPlus, MATLAB and CrowdStrike Falcon antivirus software, as well as a student discount on the Adobe Creative Cloud.

NU Student Health Insurance Plan
NU-SHIP is a university program that provides students with health insurance under Aetna that satisfies the University’s health coverage requirements. All degree-seeking students are eligible for the program, though the University also provides financial support — through loans or grants — to help qualifying students pay for the program.

Winter Gear program
To combat the chilly Chicago winters, low-income NU students can receive winter gear through SES’s Winter Gear program. Students can apply by emailing the SES office and receive gear on a first-come, first-served basis.

Cats Closet
Though currently suspended due to the pandemic, NCA provides students with professional and business casual attire to wear for career-related activities such as interviews and internships. ’Cats Closet allows students to keep up to three free, gently used items, such as blazers, blouses, dresses, shoes and ties, or one suit per academic year by appointment.

Purple Pantry
SES provides students experiencing food insecurity with free snacks and groceries, accommodating dietary restrictions. Typically, Purple Pantry operates once a week for students to pick up food throughout the year. Students can schedule appointments using the Purple Pantry form online.

Wildcard Advantage
From North Shore restaurants to fitness centers and hotels, NU students can get discounts at over 300 participating businesses simply by presenting a valid Wildcard. Some popular Evanston favorites are Kilwins and Tealicious Bubble, though you can also find discounts at chain restaurants like Subway and Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. Discounts on Dell electronics and accessories and the Sam’s Club Collegiate Membership offer and are also available with your Wildcard. You can find the complete list of participating businesses online.

Emergency aid funds
The University also provides emergency funding to support students who may be experiencing unexpected financial circumstances. The Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid has a form for students to request emergency financial aid online as well as short-term, interest-free University loans up to $500 in a quarter.

The University provides several options to save money on transportation throughout campus and from Evanston to Chicago. Using your Wildcard, you can ride on any of the University-provided shuttles, including the Intercampus, which brings you between the Evanston and Chicago campuses; the Evanston Loop, which operates around Evanston and campus; and the Frostbite service, operating during inclement weather conditions to help you get to classes in the winter. With a University-issued Ventra card (which students can request online), students can ride free on the Chicago Transit Authority’s #201 bus, which operates from the Howard CTA station to stops around campus and in Evanston.

You can also bike around Evanston on the bike lanes. If you register your bike with the Evanston Police Department, and present your bike registration and Wildcard to the University Parking Office, you can receive a free bicycle helmet and light. Moreover, through the Wildcard Advantage program, NU students can receive a discounted membership with Divvy bike sharing.

If you prefer, you can also get around campus pretty easily by foot — and for free!

Academic support and library resources
The Office of Academic Support and Learning Advancement offers a plethora of free resources to help you succeed academically at NU, from peer-guided study groups and workshops to drop-in peer tutoring and academic coaching. There’s also The Writing Place, composed of peers who help students with both academic papers and application essays.

Aside from ASLA’s resources, NU Libraries have online research tools and reference materials to support students with all sorts of academic pursuits. With free access to a variety of databases, research journals and electronic newspaper publications such as The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, you will no longer have to use incognito mode to bypass free article limits for your research and academic papers.

Financial literacy resources
The University’s Financial Wellness website provides several modules and resources to help students learn financial literacy and manage finances. From credit scores and loans to budgeting and saving, the website helps you understand all the financial jargon you’ve seen floating around to help you navigate finances in college and beyond.