Week 2: FAFSA & Financial Aid

  • Financing a college education is becoming more and more challenging for parents and students. This week will focus on understanding financial aid, awareness of private grants and scholarships, and other options. Specific focus will be placed on completion of the FAFSA and the Harper’s Promise Scholarship.

The 4 Primary Sources of Financial Aid

  • The Federal Government: based on the results of your FAFSA application which determines your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) you may be awarded the Pell Grant ($5,920), the Stafford Loan ($5,500) or Work Study opportunities.

    The State Government: based on your FAFSA application, you may be offered the MAP Grant ($4,869). However, it is important to note that you must attend college in the state of Illinois (public or private) to receive the MAP grant.  Funding for the MAP Grant runs out in early November ... you must complete the FAFSA to "get in line" for this grant.  If you wait too long, no matter what your financial need is, you will not receive this gift of nearly $5,000.

    Colleges/Universities: almost always your application for admission serves as that particular institutions scholarship application as well.  Often when you are accepted, that college/university Financial Aid Office will also notify you of any scholarships that you have qualified for.  However, each college/university also has their own scholarship database that all students should explore.  There may be additional opportunities based on intended major.

    Private Scholarships: there are many, many, many national and local scholarships available to college bound students.  Examples of national scholarships are QuestBridge and the Gates Millennium.  Examples of local scholarships are the D211 Teacher's Union Scholarship and the Hanover Park Youth of the Year Scholarship.

Pell Grant vs. MAP Grant

  • Similarities:  both of these grants are need-based. In other words, they are not awarded based on your GPA, SAT or any other specific talent that you may have. They are distributed based on financial need.  The cost of the school that you plan on attending is also NOT a consideration. Another similarity is that neither needs to be paid back; these are gifts/scholarships to attend school. You must complete the FAFSA every year and the amount you receive can vary from year to year based on any changes in household income or the number of students that are in college that reside in the household.

    Differences:  there are two extremely important differences that we all need to be aware of. The Pell Grant is funded by the US Department of Education and no matter how late a student completes their FAFSA, if they are Pell Grant eligible, they will receive this money. They can use their Pell Grant funds to attend ANY college in the United States and even some institutions in Canada. The MAP Grant is funded by the State of Illinois and this money does run out. The cutoff date to potentially receive MAP Grant money is the middle of November. In other words, if you wait until December to complete your FAFSA, no matter how desperate your financial situation is, you will NOT receive this money.  File your FAFSA in October!!! The other major difference is that if you wish to receive and use the MAP Grant, you must attend college in the State of Illinois; there are no exceptions to this stipulation.  However, you can attend public or private colleges or universities.