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I've got more questions than you can shake a stick at.

Let's start with a basic one. Is there any reasonable way of telling in advance what kind of money Northwestern is likely to expect me to come up with as "family contribution" before you're well into the decision process?

We aren't rich or anything, just comfortably in that middle class income range where you know you'll have to pay for everything at a state school sooner or later. We can get loans, of course, but I don't imagine we'll qualify for any actual grants/free money. I'm not remotely willing to make plans on the hope of a football scholarship. If it happens that'd be neat, of course, and then we'd have more money than otherwise. But I've prepared myself to get very little in terms of gov't free money.

So my wife and I have been projecting all along for us to pay about $17,000/year out of our collective pockets for an Illinois state school. I would like to have some notion of what Northwestern would expect us to come up with. Do you have to go all the way to obtaining an offer of admission and filling out the FAFSA to have much of a picture, or is there any sort of online calculator into which I could input my personal info and get a rough picture of my situation.
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