The following are questions often asked by students (and their families) who are currently in college, or planning to attend college in the near future, and are applying for financial aid.
If you have a question not listed below and for which you have been unable to find an answer on this website, you can e-mail your inquiry to an ISAC Call Center Representative. Please be sure to include your name and phone number and/or e-mail address in your inquiry, so that we can contact you directly with a response to your question.
Based on feedback received from our visitors, the items listed below are updated periodically.
My sister applied for financial aid last year but didn't receive any aid. Is it worth it for me to apply for aid this year?
- Absolutely. Your sister should reapply for aid as well. With two family members in college, your family will incur greater educational costs. This will be taken into consideration when you apply for aid.
My brother is 27 years old and lives at home. Should he be included in the household size?
- Family members should be included in the household size only if your parents can verify that they provide more than half the support for the individual.
I don't live at home with my parents. Does this mean I am an independent student?
- Not necessarily. You will be considered a dependent student unless you meet the federal definition of an independent student, which is explained at the Dependency Status page. However, check with the financial aid administrator at the college you plan to attend if you feel you have a unique situation that does not meet one of the federal criteria.
My father refuses to complete an application for aid with his financial information. What should I do?
- If your parents support you, it is essential that they complete an application for aid with their financial information in order for you to be considered for aid. Explain this to your father. If all else fails, contact the financial aid administrator at the college you plan to attend. Many times the financial aid administrator can explain to parents that this information is necessary and will be kept strictly confidential.
My friend got more financial aid than I did, and I don't understand why. Her parents make more money than my parents.
- There are many reasons your friend could have received more aid. For example, the college she is attending may have more aid to offer. There may be more family members in the household that her parents are supporting. She may have earned less money from working than you did. Her family might have experienced unusually high medical expenses. These and other differences in family situations could cause two students to receive different amounts of financial aid.
Whatever the reason(s), keep in mind that each student's financial aid package is designed especially for that individual.
I live with my grandparents, who are my legal guardians. Should I use their income information on my financial aid application?
- No. A student who is currently in legal guardianship (as determined by a court in the student's state of legal residence) meets the federal definition of an independent student and will use only their own income information.
Where will I get a form to apply for federal and state programs? Which form should I complete? When should I complete the form?
- The form you need to complete is called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), and it can be completed online. Fill out your FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible. To apply online, you (and your parent, if you are a dependent) must obtain an FSA ID from the U.S. Department of Education (if you have not yet obtained an FSA ID, you can find more information in the FSA's "How to Create an FSA ID (Account Username and Password)" video).
If you are unable to apply online, visit the Filling Out the FAFSA Form page at Federal Student Aid’s StudentAid.gov for information on how to download a PDF version of the FAFSA. The FAFSA is available in both English and Spanish.
All students who wish to be considered for financial aid should complete the FAFSA*, but the college/university to which you are applying may require that you also complete a supplemental form. You must check with the financial aid office at the college you are planning to attend to make certain you have completed all the forms they require and that you meet whatever deadline they may have for submitting those forms.
Students (and parents, as necessary) report their 2020 income information on the 2022-23 FAFSA, while 2021 income information is reported on the 2023-24 FAFSA. Further details regarding how to obtain the tax information needed to complete the FAFSA are provided on the Financial Aid: Completing the FAFSA® page.
* If you are an Illinois student who is not eligible for federal financial aid (and do not file the FAFSA), you may apply for a State of Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant using the online Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid, which is patterned after the FAFSA. For more information, visit the Retention of Illinois Students & Equity (RISE) Act page of this website, and talk with your high school counselor or the financial aid office at your college or university.
How much time elapses before I am notified of the amount of financial aid that I may receive?
- The time between application and response varies depending upon your college's policies. Call your college financial aid office for more information.
What if my parents' taxes are not completed by the college's deadline to apply for aid?
- Most colleges will permit you to use an estimate to file the FAFSA; however, you will have to provide completed federal income tax information before actual awards will be made.
I don't know which college I'm going to attend. Should I request the that my information be sent to each college that I apply to?
- All colleges that you list on the FAFSA will receive an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). These colleges do not typically require a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR). The college you do attend may request a SAR from you if it was not listed by you on the FAFSA.
My parents are divorced. I live with my mother, but my father claims me on his tax return. How do I apply for aid?
- Complete an application for aid with your information and your mother's information. Only the custodial parent (parent with whom the child lives) is required to supply the necessary financial information.
My parents are divorced. My mother is remarried and my stepfather hasn't adopted me. Is my stepfather required to supply his financial information when I apply for aid?
- Yes. Your mother and stepfather must both supply financial information when you are applying for aid since all resources in the household must be considered.
Since I applied for aid my father got a new job. He isn't going to earn as much money from his new job as he did from his previous job. Can I receive more financial aid?
- Contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend. The financial aid administrator will want to review your situation and can then make a decision regarding your financial aid award.
How do I get an application for a student loan?
- The first step in applying for a student loan is the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some colleges may require additional forms and/or documentation, so be sure to check with the financial aid office at the college you attend for all the necessary forms needed to apply for a student loan. In addition, the financial aid office will be able to tell you how much money you will be eligible to borrow.
How do my parents apply for a Federal PLUS Loan?
- In order to apply for a PLUS loan, your parents need to contact the financial aid office at the college you attend to obtain the necessary forms.
Your parents should check with your college's financial aid office to find out whether they require additional documents. Many colleges will require the student to complete the FAFSA before their parents apply for a Federal PLUS Loan, as well as an institutional application.
Do I have to complete a financial aid application (FAFSA) before applying for an unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan?
- Yes. Even though eligibility for the unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan is not based on financial need, the financial aid administrator must first determine your eligibility for other financial aid, such as the subsidized Federal Stafford Loan, before certifying an unsubsidized loan. You may be eligible for grant and scholarship aid or a subsidized Federal Stafford Loan, so it is important to be considered for these other programs before applying for an unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan.
I received a Renewal Reminder from the U.S. Department of Education. What should I do next?
- If you receive a Renewal Reminder, it means you are eligible to reapply for financial aid in the new academic year by completing the FAFSA online, and you will have the option of "pre-filling" your application with data you provided for the previous year. Contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend if there are any questions.