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Award Displacement at Northwestern

MarcoContrerasMarcoContreras 15 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
I am an upcoming freshman at Northwestern University and I received a Northwestern Scholarship that left me with a significant amount of remaining balance for my other expenses such as tuition and room & board. To help reduce my financial burden, I applied for and won outside scholarships that would lessen my net cost. However, Northwestern’s policy states that they cannot put these scholarships towards my other expenses and can only replace the money they already awarded me with the money I earned in scholarships, essentially making my scholarships worthless. Not many schools do this despite the fact that it’s a federal regulation, which is their primary reasoning. Other private schools don’t seem to follow this regulation. This stipulation caught me by surprise and makes me angry, as you may imagine. Has anyone else experienced this issue and does anyone have any advice as to how I can make Northwestern honor my scholarships so they go towards my remaining balance?
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Replies to: Award Displacement at Northwestern

  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston 14738 replies985 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 12
    Was the Northwestern Scholarship merit or need based. If it was need based then most colleges will reduce their need based grants if outside rants were received. It is by no means unique to Northwestern.
    edited June 12
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 22964 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    It is a federal regulation that your aid cannot exceed the COA. Other schools do restrict how outside scholarships are used, and some do allow those funds to be used for expenses that are the student's responsibility (books, computer, transportation) but they are not ignoring federal regulations. Northwestern is usually very generous in FA so may feel that any outside scholarships have to be used for tuition, etc., and the scholarships themselves may have restrictions to only be used for tuition or only for R&B.

    You can ask Northwestern if you can use the amounts for something specific like a computer rather than just saying "I need the money for my other expenses."
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  • suzy100suzy100 5695 replies58 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Northwestern is not alone on this. I believe this is true of the majority of schools that provide need-based financial aid. At my D’s school, outside scholarships first go toward replacing any loans or work study in the FA award. Did Northwestern do that?
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2236 replies30 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I received a Northwestern Scholarship that left me with a significant amount of remaining balance for my other expenses such as tuition and room & board.

    Northwestern is unlikely to change how they applied your outside scholarships. See here for their policy and examples: https://undergradaid.northwestern.edu/types-of-aid/scholarships-grants/outside-scholarships.html

    Are you able to pay the remaining balance for the upcoming year?
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  • MarcoContrerasMarcoContreras 15 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I did not have any loans or work study in my award. Northwestern seems to only award need based aid to their students aside from the few select outside scholarships that they award. Their policy essentially penalized a student like me who worked hard for outside scholarships by essentially making them disappear amongst their aid that they already offered. I have friends who go to other private institutions who have not had the same issue.
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  • MarcoContrerasMarcoContreras 15 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Also, it is worth noting that my family and I will be taking on a significant financial hardship by taking on the payments from NU, which we were hoping would be lessened by these outside scholarships, which is why it is a frustrating dilemma. I by no means have my full cost or even close to it already covered by the Northwestern Scholarship.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 22964 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    When adjusting a student’s need-based award, an outside scholarship will reduce or replace the self-help portion of the student’s award (Federal Work-Study or need-based loans) prior to reducing Northwestern Scholarship. Therefore outside scholarships benefit students by reducing the need to work or borrow to help finance their education.

    After all of the self-help portion of the award has been replaced, Northwestern Scholarship may be reduced, dollar for dollar, for any remaining amount. The examples below illustrate how outside scholarships may impact a financial aid award.

    Did you have no self help amounts? No loans, work study? Then there is nothing to cover with those outside scholarships.

    You don't know how other schools are using the outside scholarships your friends earned. They may be replacing student loans or work study. They may be at schools that don't meet full needs. If you don't like NU's offer, you can go to a different school or turn down the scholarships.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2236 replies30 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 12
    I have friends who go to other private institutions who have not had the same issue.

    As other posters have said many colleges apply any and all external scholarships to the financial aid package, generally starting out by eliminating federal direct student loan and federal work study. If those weren't part of the finaid package, schools will reduce their institutional grants/scholarships. Again, this is common policy across many colleges. I understand it's frustrating, but not knowing NU's policy isn't a good excuse.
    it is worth noting that my family and I will be taking on a significant financial hardship by taking on the payments from NU,

    Did you appeal NU's financial aid package? Regarding the hardship, did you have a less expensive alternative to NU?
    edited June 12
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 795 replies30 threadsRegistered User Member
    I'm not understanding why this is unreasonable. NU determined what your need is based on the financial information you provided. The outside scholarships reduced what "they" determine your need to be so they in turn will reduce the amount of your award. Makes perfect sense to me. NU is well within their rights to determine what your need is regardless of what you think it is.
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  • MarcoContrerasMarcoContreras 15 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I do not have any self help included on my aid package nor did I from the start. I understand that this is the policy they had in place but it is an unfortunate one regardless. As a student, I don’t understand why the outside scholarships can’t go towards the remaining cost of tuition or room & board if they’re receiving the money anyways. It’s just frustrating when you think you’re helping yourself by taking the time to fill out and ultimately win scholarships when they amount to nothing.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7259 replies56 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Most schools have similar policies that scholarships cannot be stacked. I’m sorry this took you by surprise. :(
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2236 replies30 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 12
    It’s just frustrating when you think you’re helping yourself by taking the time to fill out and ultimately win scholarships when they amount to nothing.

    Totally understandable. You might make sure your HS GC knows what happened, so they can pass this info along to their future students. Seeking outside scholarships is often very time consuming for relatively low sums. They are also competitive and most aren't renewable for four years.
    edited June 12
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 795 replies30 threadsRegistered User Member
    @marcoco23 NU very clearly spells out how outside scholarships are handled on their website. It was on you to check this out before spending time applying for these. If NU gave you a package that didn't require any self help then it sounds like they've been very generous already.
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  • MarcoContrerasMarcoContreras 15 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Yes they have been extremely generous. However, I had just hoped that the remaining cost, which is still a significant burden to myself and my family, could be lessened by the outside scholarships I earned. It seems to me that for the remainder of my time at NU there is no point in seeking out outside scholarships as they will serve no benefit in further decreasing my net price.
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  • katliamomkatliamom 12808 replies167 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I understand why you're disappointed and angry. Sadly, however, you misunderstood the school's scholarship policies. As others say, they're not at all unusual, in fact, they're similar to most schools'.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2236 replies30 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited June 12
    It seems to me that for the remainder of my time at NU there is no point in seeking out outside scholarships as they will serve no benefit in further decreasing my net price.

    I agree. Perhaps there will be departmental scholarships at NU you can earn. Good luck.
    edited June 12
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  • sybbie719sybbie719 20736 replies1998 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    it sounds like you want to use your outside scholarship to reduce the amount of money that your parents are responsible for paying.

    Where schools are meeting 100% demonstrated need (which Northwestern does), your outside scholarship is not going to reduce your EFC. Your financial aid package was based on what the school feels your family should be able to pay, When you get outside scholarships, your need is being met by another source, meaning that Northwestern now has to use less of their money to fund your education.

    have friends who go to other private institutions who have not had the same issue.

    This would be understandable considering the overwhelming majority of schools do not meet 100% demonstrated need. In your friends case, the outside scholarship, probably filled in the gap in the financial aid package (the part of need that was not met by the school) .
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  • MarcoContrerasMarcoContreras 15 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I guess my question is why does this rule even exist in the first place? I completely understand that it’s Northwestern’s policy but I want to know what’s wrong with lightening the financial burden of my parents through outside scholarships? It baffles me personally because I feel that every penny counts when it comes to paying for school, but maybe others have a different view?
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  • collegemom9collegemom9 795 replies30 threadsRegistered User Member
    @MarcoContreras It exists because the need the school has already determined is being reduced. They are giving you an award based on need so if you reduce that need then the package they are giving you gets reduced. If the school determines that your family can pay $10k then that number isn't going to change just because you got an outside scholarship.
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  • MarcoContrerasMarcoContreras 15 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    So essentially there’s no way to help out my family by earning outside scholarships?
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