Need more help? Our Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) rep, Alyiah White is here to help.ISAC can help with:
Would you like to set up an individual appointment with an ISAC rep?You can also contact Alyiah directly:
- Submitting the FAFSA
- College Applications
- Scholarship Applications
- Personal Statements
- Financial Aid
- College Searches
- Choosing Majors
Need quick answers to a FAFSA or Financial Aid question? ISAC now has help available via text. Text the experts directly at: 630-216-4910.
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- Phone = 847-544-9053
Financial Aid Overview
The following is a summary of general information about Financial Aid for college.The CostA college education is a big investment. Thinking about paying for college can be a fearful thing for many students and their parents. Because of this, and many other factors, families may feel unprepared financially for college, even though a student might be academically ready. However, the good news is that the federal government, state government, colleges & universities, and many other community and private organizations provide additional assistance to students to help pay for their education.
Financial Aid Overview Video
What is Financial Aid?
Financial aid refers to specific borrowed, given, or earned money that can be obtained from various sources to help pay for college. The different sources of financial aid include the federal government, the state government, the college/ university, and other private sources. There are different types of financial aid:
1.) Gift aid= Grants or scholarships. Grants are typically need based, whereas scholarships are typically merit based (athletics/ academics/ extracurricular activities, etc.) It is assistance that typically does not have to be repaid.
2.) Federal Work Study= Opportunity to work on a college campus, with the money earned ideally to be used to help fund education. This money must be earned.3) Loans= Money that is borrowed and must be repaid with interest. Only borrow what is needed.
Types of Aid
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There is a significant difference between "Scholarships" and "Financial Aid"
Scholarships are usually merit-based. That means that because of some outstanding talent, skill or achievement, someone (a community or trade organization, or the college itself) decides that they will pay for all or part of the cost for that outstanding student to go to college (usually because there is some benefit to the college or other "payer").
Financial aid is generally need-based. That means that a student who qualifies academically to go to college is able to show that without some financial help, it might not be possible for him or her to attend. Someone (a community organization, the college, or the State or Federal Government) decides that it would be a shame for a qualified student to miss out on an opportunity to go to college, and provides some help to make it doable for that student.
What is FAFSA?
In order to be eligible for the federal and state grants, as well as federal work study, a student must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is an application that each student files with the US Department of Education, which asks for information about the student and his or her family, and their income information for the previous calendar year. Based on the FAFSA, the federal government determines how much this student and his or her family should be able to afford to pay for college the next year. This amount is called the Expected Family Contribution, and is based on the student's and family's ability to pay (not necessarily on their willingness to pay). This information is sent to the student and any colleges that the student has designated in the FAFSA (up to ten schools). The FAFSA becomes available October 1st, and students will file the FAFSA starting their senior year of high school and every year they are enrolled in college after that. The following three videos explain what a FAFSA is, how you file a FAFSA, and what to expect once you have completed the FAFSA.
**Please note, you may file the FAFSA in Spanish, BUT be aware that once you start it in Spanish, you can't switch it to the English version. Also, some of the terminology in the Spanish version can be tricky. If you feel confident in being able to complete the FAFSA in Spanish, please file here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/es/fafsa
**Hay una versión de la FAFSA en español PERO, no se puede cambiar a la versión de inglés después de empezar la aplicación en español. También, hay algunos vocabularios difíciles en la versión en español. Si se siente confidente en completar la versión en español, haga clic aquí: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/es/fafsa
How to File FAFSA
After the FAFSA
What if the FAFSA doesn't cover it all?
Many students and parents get frustrated filling out the FAFSA form because they feel that the numbers-in-boxes and yes-or-no questions don’t give an accurate picture of the student or the financial situation. While there is no specific spot on the FAFSA form to explain all that, there is something called the "Letter of Special Circumstance." After you have submitted the FAFSA, and have received your Student Aid Report (telling you what your EFC is), you can write a letter of explanation detailing your special circumstances. This letter must be sent to each college’s financial aid office that the student has applied to and wishes to receive a financial aid award letter. After you have submitted the FAFSA, you do not deal with the government anymore in this year's process. You deal directly with the Financial Aid Office of each college that you are considering.
Each college independently considers your "Special Circumstances Letter" and uses their own "Professional Judgment" to adjust (or not adjust) your Financial Aid Package. Listed below are some situations which might be appropriate to explain as Special Circumstances:
- job change or loss of job by either parent;
- seasonal nature of parent's job;
- unusual medical expenses anticipated;
- receipt of a Bonus, inheritance or other non-guaranteed income last year;
- payment of private school tuition for sibling in elementary through high school;
- anticipated birth or other "addition" to family (elderly grandparents);
- divorce situation of parent;
- court-order or existing agreement concerning which parent pays college costs;
- delinquent or non-payment of court-ordered child support by one parent;
- re-marriage of one or both parents, affecting "family income" (which family?);
- extreme or unusual family debt;
- student is also a parent (although may not qualify as an independent student);
- your special circumstance.