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The first step in the financial aid process is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).  You must submit the FAFSA in order to be considered for all federal financial aid programs (including student loans), most programs through your college and most state programs, including the State of Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant. 

What will I need to fill out the FAFSA?

To complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will need:...
•Your Social Security Number
•Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
•Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
•Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
•Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
•An FSA ID to sign electronically.
If you are a dependent student, then you will also need most of the above information for your parent(s). 
Overview of the College Financial Aid Process

Overview of the College Financial Aid Process

Please visit for an overview and video on FAFSA.

Financial Aid Process Timeline:

Fall of student’s senior year:

  • Contact colleges financial aid offices or check their websites for deadlines and required forms.
  • As soon as possible beginning October 1 complete and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at
  • Be sure to submit any college financial aid applications by their deadlines. 
  • It is recommended to submit your FAFSA prior to any college financial aid deadlines. 

After you complete the FAFSA:

  • You should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) between 3 days - 3 weeks. Submit any needed corrections to the FAFSA processor.

Spring of student's senior year:

  • You will receive financial aid award letters from each college you listed on the FAFSA. 
  • Review your college acceptances and financial aid offers. Compare the remaining costs of attending those institutions.
  • Contact the school's financial aid office if you have any questions regarding their offers. Be sure to submit any other paperwork they may need.
  • After you receive your award letter, you need to accept all or part of the financial aid offered. Sign and return the letter to the college. This is not a commitment to attend the institution, but please inform them ASAP if you decide not to attend so that they are able to distribute those funds to someone else.  

Key Financial Aid Terms: 

  • Aid package - A combination of scholarship, grant, loan and/or work-study determined by a college financial aid office.
  • Grants - Awards based on financial need that do not require repayment. Grants are available through the federal government, state agencies and educational institutions.
  • Scholarships - Awards to students based on merit or merit plus need that do not have to be repaid.
  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - An amount you and your family are expected to contribute toward your education. It is used in determining eligibility for federal student aid.
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - The application required for students to be considered for federal student financial aid. The FAFSA is processed free of charge and is used by most state agencies and colleges.
  • Student Aid Report (SAR) - The report you will receive after your FAFSA has been processed that will list your EFC.


The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) is pleased to announce the availability of two online aid estimators via ISAC's Student Portal.

These estimators – which currently use formulas for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year – may be used to help students get an idea of the types and amounts of federal and state financial assistance for which they may potentially qualify. Once the decision is made to apply for admission and attend college, students must then submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to actually apply for most forms of federal, state and institutional financial assistance – including ISAC's Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant.

Accessing the Aid Estimators

The aid estimators described below may be accessed by visiting ISAC's Student Portal, and then scrolling down to the "Federal & State Aid Estimators" section of the "Financial Aid Planning & Applying" area. They are also available via the Calculators page at


The FAFSA4caster, made available by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid, uses self-reported tax information to arrive at an estimate of the student's federal financial aid. Estimates are provided for Federal Pell Grant, Federal Work-Study and maximum Direct Loan (subsidized and unsubsidized) eligibility. The FAFSA4caster can also estimate the student's expected family contribution (EFC), which is needed for the MAP Estimator described below.

MAP Estimator

MAP grants, which do not need to be repaid, may be available for qualifying Illinois residents who demonstrate financial need and attend approved Illinois colleges.

Students' EFCs [and, if dependent, their adjusted gross income (AGI)/earnings from the most recent tax year, as well as their cash, savings and checking account balances] are required in order for the MAP Estimator to generate the amount of their estimated MAP grants at up to three approved Illinois colleges.

A future enhancement will allow students to store MAP Estimator data and results as part of their Profile in ISAC's Student Portal. This upcoming feature will streamline the process the next time the student uses the estimator, or in the event that results from the previous visit are misplaced or forgotten. Students will need to be signed in to the portal – rather than accessing it as a guest – in order to take advantage of this option, once it becomes available.
ISACorps Region 2 | Waubonsee Community College

ISACorps Region 2 | Waubonsee Community College

Madeline Haymond
Illinois Student Assistance Commission
ISACorps Region 2 | Waubonsee Community College
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