JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid FAQs

(last updated September 24, 2020)

Click on a question (below) to access the corresponding answer.

Q. Who should complete the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid?

A. This application is only for students who are not eligible for federal student financial aid, including for qualified undocumented students and for transgender students who are not eligible for federal financial aid because they did not register for selective service. Most students will still complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to apply for financial aid. If you are an undocumented student or a transgender student and you are not sure whether you should complete this Alternative Application or the FAFSA, the pre-screening questions at the beginning of the Alternative Application will help you to determine which application you should file. We also encourage you to talk with your school counselor or the financial aid office at your college or university to learn which application to file.

Q. What kinds of financial aid can I receive by completing the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid?

A. The Alternative Application is an application only for Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants and is only for qualified undocumented students and for transgender students who are not eligible for federal financial aid because they did not register for selective service. It is possible that some Illinois colleges or universities will use the information from the application to award institutional aid. The Alternative Application is not an application for federal student aid. Most students will still complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) in order to apply for both federal and state student financial aid, including MAP grants.

Q. If I am eligible to complete and submit the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid, does that mean I am guaranteed to get a MAP grant?

A. No. Being eligible to submit the Alternative Application makes it possible for you to apply for MAP grants, but like all students completing either the Alternative Application or the FAFSA, you still must meet the eligibility requirements for MAP to receive a grant.

Q. The criteria to complete the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid says that I had to have graduated from high school to be eligible to complete it, so if I'm currently a senior in high school, does that mean I have to wait until after I actually graduate to complete the application?

A. If you are currently a high school senior, you do not have to wait until after you have graduated from high school to complete the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid. While the criteria does state that you have to be a high school graduate, that is a typical college admission requirement that you will need to meet in order to enroll in the college of your choice and receive the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant as a college student. If you are currently a high school senior, waiting until after you graduate to complete the application could impact your ability to receive limited MAP funds, so you are encouraged to complete the application as soon as possible after it becomes available in the academic year that you will graduate from high school.

Q. Are international students or students whose parents are in the U.S. on a work visa eligible to complete the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid and apply for MAP?

A. No. They are unlikely to be eligible. In relation to undocumented students, the intent of the Retention of Illinois Students & Equity (RISE) Act is to retain undocumented students who are Illinois residents and provide them with equitable access to state financial aid, but they must meet the RISE Act criteria to be eligible to apply. The pre-screening questions in the Alternative Application are intended to help undocumented students determine if they meet those criteria. In order for an undocumented student to qualify to apply for Illinois aid, all of the following criteria must be met:
  1. you resided with your parent or guardian while attending a public or private high school in Illinois;
  2. you graduated or will graduate from an Illinois public or private high school, or received or will receive the equivalent of a high school diploma, in Illinois;
  3. as of the date you graduated from high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma, you had attended school in Illinois for at least three (3) years;
  4. by signing the Alternative Application you agree to provide an affidavit stating that you will file an application to become a permanent resident of the United States at the earliest opportunity you are eligible to do so; and
  5. you have not established a residence outside of Illinois.

The last two criteria specify that, as part of the application process, applicants are signing an affidavit stating that they plan to file an application to become a permanent resident of the U.S. at their earliest opportunity to do so and that they have not established a residence outside of Illinois, so a student with a temporary visa would likely not meet the conditions of those two pre-screening criteria and therefore not be qualified to apply.

Q. Should Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students complete the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid?

A. If a DACA student meets the criteria specified by the RISE Act, they may be eligible to apply for state financial aid programs and would be able to apply for a MAP grant through the Alternative Application. Because the decision to apply for financial aid through the FAFSA or the Alternative Application involves a variety of considerations, it is a decision best made by the student together with a counseling or financial aid professional who is working directly with the student.

Q. Is a student with a Type “T” Visa eligible to complete the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid?

A. No. Students with a Type “T” Visa are NOT eligible to complete the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid as an undocumented student because they are eligible to apply for federal and state student aid. The Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid is for students who do not qualify for federal student aid. “T” visa holders should file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and identify themselves as eligible noncitizens.

The “T” Visa is set aside for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking and allows victims to remain in the United States to assist in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking.

Q. Does my parents’ immigration status impact my eligibility for MAP and other state financial aid?

A. No. If you are eligible to apply for MAP through either the FAFSA or the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid and your parents do not have Social Security numbers (SSN), they should enter all zeros in the SSN fields on either application.

Q. What information/documents will I need to complete the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid?

A. The Alternative Application asks students and parents for similar information to the FAFSA. Documents and information you will need to complete the application include:
  • Federal income tax returns, W-2’s, and other records of money earned (tax year 2018 information if you are completing the 2020-21 application; tax year 2019 information is you are completing the 2021-22 application)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • Transgender applicants who have a Social Security Number should be prepared to provide it in the pre-screening section of the application. (This will be used by ISAC for internal purposes only, such as to determine if a student has previously received MAP grant funding and if so, to calculate remaining MAP paid credit hours. This information will NOT be provided to colleges and universities as part of a student record. No social security number will be required for the application itself.)
  • List of up to 10 colleges you would like to attend.

Q. Should I start the Alternative Application even if I know I will not be able to provide my parents' information?

A. If you are unable to obtain your parents’ information, complete the application as much as you can and contact your college’s financial aid office as soon as possible. The financial aid office will evaluate your situation and let you know, if, based on their school policies, they can override the need for parent information. You will likely need to provide additional information to the college to help the financial aid office better understand your special circumstance and make a determination regarding your dependency status. ISAC does not have the authority to override dependency or financial information; that must be done by the college and they must have sufficient information to document the situation and make their decision.

Q. Are transgender students who are U.S. citizens ineligible for federal financial aid? If so, why?

A. Being a transgender student does not, on its own, make a U.S. citizen ineligible for federal financial aid.

Federal law requires men age 18-25 who are U.S. citizens or are immigrants living in the U.S. to be registered with Selective Service in order to be eligible for federal financial aid. Transgender students who were assigned a male gender at birth but who now identify as female or non-binary are still required to register for selective service. A failure to do so will make these students ineligible for federal financial aid. By contrast, individuals who were assigned a female gender at birth and now identify as male or non-binary are not required to register. https://www.sss.gov/Registration-Info/Who-Registration

The RISE Act, which became effective on January 1, 2020, allows transgender students who do not register for Selective Service to be eligible for Illinois state financial aid.

Because the decision whether to file a FAFSA or the Alternative Application involves a variety of considerations, it is best made by the student together with a counseling or financial aid professional who is working directly with the student.

Q. Does the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid have the same requirement as the FAFSA for men ages 18-25 to register with selective service?

A. Students do not certify selective service registration on the Alternative Application. However, like the federal requirement, men age 18-25 are required to register for selective service in order to receive a MAP grant. Note that this requirement to register for Selective Service applies both to U.S. citizens and to non-citizens, including undocumented students. (Information for immigrants and dual nationals regarding Selective Service registration is here: https://www.sss.gov/Registration/Immigrants-and-Dual-Nationals.)

The RISE Act, which became effective on January 1, 2020, allows transgender students who do not register for Selective Service to be eligible for Illinois state financial aid.

Q. Can I file both the FAFSA and the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid?

A. No. A student should complete either the FAFSA or the Alternative Application, depending on their eligibility and other considerations in determining which application to file. A student should not complete both applications.

Q. Can I use my cell phone to complete and submit the Alternative Application?

A. No. The Alternative Application is not mobile-friendly and cannot be submitted through a mobile device.

Q. How many college choices can I include on my Alternative Application?

A. You may select up to 10 colleges on your application. You should include your top choices, even if you haven’t applied for admission or been accepted yet. If you want to make your Alternative Application information available to an additional college after submitting the application, you may make a change to your school choices, however, no more than 10 schools may be listed on your application at one time. If you have already made 10 school choices, you will need to replace one of the choices with the new school. The college removed from the list will not have access to any new information you provide after you’ve removed that school.

Q. How will I know that my Alternative Application was submitted and complete?

A. Your application is considered complete when all required information, including signatures, have been provided, at which point the “Submit” button will be activated and you may submit the application to ISAC. If you are a dependent student, both your signature and your parent’s signature must be provided to complete the application process. If your application was successfully submitted, a confirmation page, which you are encouraged to print, will appear and you will also receive a confirmation e-mail.

Q. Should I submit another Alternative Application if I am having trouble updating/making a correction?

A. No. You should not submit another application. If you are finding it difficult to update or correct an Alternative Application, contact an ISAC Call Center Representative at 800.899.ISAC (4722) or an ISACorps Member for assistance.

Q. How can I log in to my application if I have forgotten my password or challenge question that I used to create my Student Profile?

A. If you have forgotten your password, you can easily reset it by clicking on the “Forgot Password” link on the Log In screen. You will be asked for your User ID, which is the e-mail address you used when you set up your Student Profile, and then you will be prompted to answer your challenge question . After correctly answering the question, you will be prompted to reset your password.

To reset your challenge question and answer, navigate to the Log In screen and select “Forgot Password” and then “Reset Question and Answer.” An e-mail will be sent to the e-mail address you used when you created your Student Profile with instructions on how to reset your challenge question and answer. Click on the URL in the e-mail and you will be able to set a new challenge question and answer.

For additional assistance, you may contact ISAC Student Services at 1-800-899-4722 or isac.studentservices@illinois.gov.

Q. Will I receive notification of my Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and my eligibility for MAP from ISAC after I submit my Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid?

A. No. ISAC does not notify to students who complete the Alternative Application about their EFC or their eligibility for MAP. The only notification that a student will receive from ISAC after submitting the application will be confirmation that it was submitted successfully and has been received by ISAC. Information about the student’s EFC is provided to the colleges that were selected as school choices on the application, and colleges will use that information to provide a notification to the student regarding their eligibility for MAP when they begin sending out financial aid award notifications. Questions about eligibility and award amounts should be directed to the financial aid office at the college that you plan to attend.

Q. Where can I find my ISAC ID Number?

A. Your ISAC ID Number is located at the top of various screens within your Alternative Application. The easiest place to find it is in the Student Section, right above your last name. Please keep your ISAC ID number secure, as it serves as your individual student identifier at ISAC and at your college.

If you are a dependent student and a parent is required to sign your application, your parent will need your ISAC ID Number as part of the log in process to access your application and provide their electronic signature via a Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Please note that ISAC cannot provide ISAC ID Number information to students (or your parents) by phone or e-mail, however, ISAC is available to assist you with logging back into your application to help you locate it.

Q. If I update my e-mail address on Section 1 of the Alternative Application, will the e-mail address on my Student Profile be automatically updated?

A. No. If you update your e-mail address on Section 1 of the Alternative Application, the e-mail address you provided when creating your Student Profile is not automatically updated.

The e-mail address you provide when creating your Student Profile is pre-populated on the application. If you change or update the pre-populated e-mail address on the application, you will still need to use the Student Profile e-mail address to log back into the application.

If you update your e-mail address on your application, ISAC recommends that you also update the e-mail address on your Student Profile. While not required, it may help avoid confusion should you need to log back into the application and it will ensure that all communication about your application is directed to the same e-mail address.

The e-mail address that is provided in Section 1 of the Alternative Application is the e-mail address that your PIN will be sent to, is the e-mail address the college will see on your application record, and is the e-mail address that ISAC may use to communicate with you in the future.

When creating your Student Profile and completing the application, you are encouraged to use a personal e-mail address (such as gmail, yahoo or hotmail) rather than a school provided e-mail address that could potentially change if you change schools.

Q. How is the information I provide on the Alternative Application protected? How will the information be used and who will it be shared with?

A.ISAC respects students’ right to privacy and is committed to ensuring that their personal, professional and financial information is secure.

Data Protection:

With respect to data protection, ISAC has taken numerous steps to help safeguard the integrity of our communications and computing infrastructure, including but not limited to authentication, monitoring, auditing, and encryption for all of our programs and applications. Security measures have been integrated into the design, implementation and day-to-day practices of the entire ISAC operating environment as part of our continuing commitment to risk management.

Data use and sharing

The information collected on the Alternative Application pre-screening questions is used to determine eligibility to file the application and will be retained by ISAC and kept private according to the agency’s privacy policies. Data from the Alternative Application itself is used to calculate a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the eligible award amount for the Monetary Award Program (MAP). This information will be retained by ISAC and will be shared with the colleges a student selects on the application through ISAC’s secure portal that colleges use to administer ISAC programs.

Consistent with our privacy policies for all ISAC programs, ISAC does not share student information with other third parties unless the third party is an authorized agent of ISAC and the information will only be used in furtherance of a student’s financial aid request or for research purposes. Such third parties are subject to restrictions regarding data confidentiality, use and security.

Illinois law prohibits the public disclosure of names and addresses of students who receive aid through any of ISAC’s non-discretionary programs, including MAP. Aggregate financial aid applicant and recipient information (meaning, information that does not identify individual students), such as aggregate demographics and income levels, is shared publicly to support research that, for example, identifies how program funds benefit students. Please note that ISAC could be required to share individual student data pursuant to a valid subpoena or as required to investigate student aid fraud.