JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

Types of Financial Aid

There are two basic types of financial aid — gift aid and self-help aid. Like the name says, gift aid is assistance received that does not typically have to be repaid. Self-help aid includes work opportunities and loans, and is called self-help because the individual takes responsibility for receiving this type of aid.

All types of financial aid can help you pay for college, though they all work in different ways. Scholarships and grants typically do not need to be paid back. Federal Work-Study programs and loans are self-help aid and do need to be earned or paid back. Financial aid also comes from many different sources, including the federal government, the State of Illinois (for Illinois residents), your college and/or your employer or your parent’s employer. Plus, there are many private sources that provide financial aid, such as agencies, associations and organizations (e.g., corporations, civic, religious, philanthropic groups and associations related to your field of interest).

You can improve your chances of obtaining financial aid by planning ahead, applying early and reading directions carefully. Since private financial aid programs generally have early deadlines, start researching these sources during your sophomore or junior year of high school, or two to three years before you plan to attend college. You can find information on this website about financial aid planning, colleges, libraries and related publications. You can apply for as many different types of financial aid as you’d like.