Illinois college students can file now for 2017 aid, shouldn't delay

In Illinois, October is College Changes Everything® (CCE) Month, a campaign launched by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to address the change to “early FAFSA” and assist students who will be completing college applications at the same time they are filing financial aid forms. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form used to apply for all federal and some state financial aid; filing it is an important first step to maximizing financial aid. This year, students will be able to file their 2017-18 beginning October 1, 2016, instead of having to wait until January, as in previous years. Because some financial aid programs—including the state's Monetary Award Program (MAP grant)–are awarded on a first-come first-served basis, eligible students should file their FAFSAs as soon as possible after October 1st in order to have the best chance of receiving funding. Students should check with their college for all school-specific deadlines.

During CCE Month, ISAC will partner with schools and communities to help students navigate these changes, and will offer support for students and families with both college application and FAFSA completion.

“The college application and financial aid process can be overwhelming, particularly for first-generation students who don’t have an immediate family member who attended college,” said Eric Zarnikow, ISAC executive director.

“Now that all of these activities are taking place in the fall, it’s even more important that students have access to free services that will help them apply to colleges that fit their needs and goals, and access all the financial aid for which they are eligible. Providing students with the information and assistance they need to make more informed choices about college and financial aid can help minimize their student debt, and maximize their chances for completing a degree or certificate program.”

Many of the college application activities and FAFSA completion workshops are supported and/or conducted by the ISACorps, a group of recent college graduates working statewide who are extensively trained in assisting students with planning, applying, and paying for college. At free workshops in high schools and communities throughout the state, students will get hands-on assistance in filing college applications and the FAFSA. They can also get one-on-one help from their local ISACorps member. For a list of events, visit isac.org/calendar; find your local ISACorps member at isac.org/isacorps.

ISAC also offers additional resources to assist students, including ISAC College Q&A, a text messaging service where students can get answers to their college and financial aid questions sent directly to their phones, and the award-winning ISAC Student Portal, which offers free online tools and resources for college and scholarship search, money management and financial aid planning, and career and job search. ISAC also offers assistance through the agency’s call center, 1-800-899-4722 (ISAC).

High schools and counselors who would like to participate in College Changes Everything Month can find information and a downloadable toolkit at collegechangeseverything.org/ccemonth.