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Illinois Scholarships and Financial Aid

Grants, Student Loans, & Fellowships

Illinois has many universities and colleges. Whether you decide to pursue your post-secondary degree at Northwestern University on the shores of Lake Michigan, at the University of Illinois in Chicago, or at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, you may have financial assistance doing it. Illinois students may be eligible to receive federal grants and loans, state scholarships and grants, and many other financial assistance programs.

Finding Illinois Financial Aid and Scholarships

When you are looking for scholarship and financial aid opportunities in Illinois, there are four general places to look:

  • U.S. Government
  • Illinois state government
  • Individual Illinois universities and colleges
  • Illinois organizations, corporations, and individuals

Federal Financial Aid for Illinois Students

Illinois students are eligible to receive federal financial aid. The U.S. Government offers financial assistance to students with financial need. To see if you qualify, submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The national deadline for FAFSA applications is typically June 30 the year in which you will need the aid. Illinois students who are submitting a FAFSA for the first time are required to submit their applications by September 30 the year before. Continuing applicants should submit their FAFSAs by August 15 the year before. Students are recommended to apply as early as possible since federal programs are offered on a first-come, first-come basis. FAFSA applications open January 1 the year before.

Your school’s financial aid/scholarship office will decide how much assistance you need depending on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is calculated using your family’s savings and income taxes. Depending on your EFC, your Illinois financial aid package may include federal grants and federal loans. Federal grants do not have to paid back, but federal loans do need to be paid back. If you receive federal loans, you may choose to borrow as much as you want. Federal loans are low-interest and may offer deferment options.

If you are not eligible to receive a federal financial aid package, you might still be eligible to borrow loans from banks or private lenders. Your school may have a list of recommended lenders.

For more information on federal grants and student loans, see our Guide to Federal Grants and Guide to Student Loans.

Illinois State Financial Aid

Illinois students may be eligible for any of the 17 Illinois financial aid programs. Here is a list of them:

  • Merit Recognition Scholarship Program
    This scholarship is offered to students who are in the top 5% of their class or scored in the top 5% of the SAT, ACT, or Prairie State Achievement Exam.
  • State Scholar Program
    This program selects high school senors in the state who have high grades and college entrance exam scores (SAT/ACT).
  • Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Program
    The Golden Apple Foundation is a non-profit organization in Chicago that supports excellent teaching in primary and secondary school. High school students are eligible to be nominated as Golden Apple Scholars by their counselors, teachers, principals, or any adult that is not part of their family. Golden Apple applications are announced every spring.
  • Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship
    This scholarship program offers $1,500 a year to a student who demonstrates high academic achievement. It is renewable up to three times.
  • Monetary Award Program
    This grant is available to Illinois residents attending an approved post-secondary institution. Submit a FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 to be considered.
  • Bonus Incentive Grant Program
    Students who are beneficiaries of Illinois Collge Savings Bonds may be eligible to receive this grant. Award amount is $40 to $440 for every $5,000 in bonds.
  • Student to Student Grant
    Undergraduates at participating colleges may be eligible for this program. The state matches student contributions with grants. Click here for participating schools.
  • Higher Education License Plate Program
    Students who attend Illinois institutions where the special collegiate license plate is available may be eligible to receive this grant. The license plates are issued by the Secretary of State, and a percentage of the profits go to student grants.

Illinois University and College Scholarships

Universities and colleges in Illinois offer scholarships to students admitted into their programs. Illinois university and college scholarships may be offered based on merit, need, ethnic background, academic interests, special ability, and any combination of these and more. For example, Illinois State University offers the Presidential Scholarship to students who have an average 4.0 GPA or higher, and Western Illinois University offers the Bessie Myers Music Scholarship to music students who excel in their program of study. Check with your school’s financial aid and/or scholarship office to see what scholarships you qualify for.

Application requirements and procedures may differ depending on the university or college. Some scholarships are offered through the admissions offices and usually do not require students to submit additional applications, similar to the application procedure of most scholarships at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . As long as you submit your application for admissions on time, you should be considered for most scholarships. Most department-sponsored scholarships require students to submit additional applications, like at Illinois State University. Check with your financial aid/scholarship office for application procedures.

Other Scholarships Offered to Illinois Students

Other scholarships are offered by individuals and organizations in the state of Illinois. Here is a list of some of the scholarships they offer:

Illinois State Historical Society (ISHS) Scholarships
ISHS offers the Verna Ross Orndoff Scholarship ($1,000) to high school seniors to promote the study of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War. This scholarship requires an essay. The King V. Hostick Scholarship (up to $3,000) is offered to a graduate whose dissertation pertains to the state of Illinois. Please refer to the website for current applications and deadlines.

Illinois Society of Professional Engineers
ISPE offers three $500 scholarships to students and children of ISPE members pursuing a post-secondary degree in engineering. For more information on the scholarships and a current application, please refer to the website.

Illinois Foster & Adoptive Parent Association
Any children IFAPA members are eligible to apply for an annual scholarship. Qualified children must be between 17 and 23 years old and enrolled in a post-secondary institution. Click here for an application. For more information, please refer to the website.

Illinois Education Foundation Scholarships
The foundation has a number of scholarships available to students and post the most current scholarships on their website.

Illinois Federation of Teachers Scholarships
The IFT offers several scholarships to Illinois students. Please see the website for more information on each scholarship.

Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) Scholarships
Illinois students majoring in mathematics may be eligible to apply for a one-time award of $1,500. Students must be a junior or senior enrolled at an accredited Illinois post-secondary institution with a cumulative GPA of 3.0. An essay is required. Click here to download an application.

Community Foundation of Central Illinois Scholarships
The foundation has a large number of scholarships available to students who are pursuing a degree at an accredited public or private post-secondary institution. Please refer to the website for more information on individual scholarships.

Three Things to Keep in Mind About Illinois Scholarships and Financial Aid

  • In Illinois, first-time FAFSA applicants and continuing FAFSA applicants have different state deadlines. First-time applicants must submit their FAFSA by September 30 and continuing applicants must submit their FAFSA by August 15. Be sure you know which deadline is yours.
  • The state of Illinois is extremely generous when it comes to assisting students with college funds. There are 19 Illinois financial aid programs. Check to see if you qualify for any.
  • There are many organizations in Illinois offering scholarships to students who are pursuing post-secondary education degrees. Some of them may require searching, and some of them may be announced through your high school counseling office or your university/college financial aid/scholarship office.

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