Niche College Scholarship
Zina Kumok Image Written By: Zina Kumok | Edited By: Kevin Ladd | Updated: February 20, 2024

Illinois Scholarships

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As one of the most populous states in the country, Illinois also happens to be (unfortunately) among the states with the highest student loan debt burdens. The average Illinois student has about $38,000 in student loans, which is the sixth-highest in the nation. Interested in going to college but don’t want to wind up with that much debt? That’s where Illinois scholarships come in. These scholarships can cover the cost of your education so you don’t have to take out tens of thousands in student loans. Read below to see how Illinois scholarships work, where to find them and how to qualify for the best ones.

Continue reading the article below the scholarship list.

25 Illinois Scholarships with Approaching Deadlines

What is an Illinois Scholarship?

An Illinois scholarship is an award given to a student who is either attending school in Illinois, is from Illinois or both. Yes, that is correct; some Illinois scholarships will require that students be both from Illinois and attend school in Illinois.

Illinois scholarships may either be need or merit-based, depending on the specific award. Some need-based awards may also have a merit requirement, like a minimum GPA or test score.

Illinois scholarships can come from government or non-profit organizations, as well as from for-profit companies and major corporations. Many schools based in the Land of Lincoln also give out Illinois scholarships.

Where to find Illinois scholarships

There are several different ways you can find Illinois scholarships. If you’re still in high school, your school’s guidance counselor or college counselor may have a list of local awards you can apply for. Also, if you sign up for an account on Scholarships.com, you’ll receive a personalized list of scholarships you are eligible for that include scholarships by residence state.

Many schools have their own scholarships that are only available to attending students. When you start applying to schools, figure out if there are any additional applications you need to fill out to be considered for potential awards. These should be listed on the school's financial aid website. You can also reach out directly to the financial aid department and see what they say.

For example, the University of Illinois has its own scholarship database that students can access. You can search for specific awards or filter them by category, such as the specific department or school you’re attending.

How to apply for Illinois scholarships

The first step that every student should take is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is your ticket to many scholarships and grants, as well as federal student loans and work-study. The school you attend may also require that you have submitted the FAFSA if you want to win any institutional awards.

Make sure to complete the FAFSA by the school’s and the state’s financial aid deadline. These deadlines may differ so just choose the earlier one. If you miss a financial aid deadline, then you won’t be considered for any awards.

Also, in some cases, awards are given on a first-come, first-serve basis. As a basic rule of thumb, try to submit the FAFSA and any other scholarship applications sooner rather than later.

Not all students will be able to fill out the FAFSA. You need to have a Social Security Number to complete the FAFSA. If you don't qualify for the FAFSA, you can submit the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid. Undocumented students can still qualify for state-based scholarships if they complete that form. They may still need to meet Illinois residency requirements to be eligible for those awards.

Illinois Scholarship FAQs

Students should know the ins and outs of Illinois scholarships and how they work, especially if they’re local and attending college in-state. Here are the most common questions that come up:

Are there Illinois scholarships for certain minority groups?

If you’re part of a minority group, you may find Illinois scholarships that are only available to students from certain demographic groups.

For example, the University of Illinois offers the Tribal Nations Scholarships for Non-Illinois Residents. If you are a member of a tribal nation and are not from Illinois, you can receive a scholarship that pays the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. This is a four-year scholarship for incoming freshmen or a three-year scholarship for transfer students.

Also, the Native American Scholarship - Peoria Tribe Scholarship at the University of Illinois pays any remaining education-related costs for up to four academic years if you’re a freshman. If you’re a transfer student to the University of Illinois, you can receive funding for three academic years.

If you’re part of a specific minority, you can use Google to find more scholarships. Just be sure to remember to thoroughly vet any scholarships you find on the open web to ensure they are not scams and won't charge you a fee for applying. Also, if you’re part of any specific diversity organizations, they offer scholarships for college students.

Do you have to attend a public school in Illinois to get an Illinois scholarship?

While many Illinois scholarships have rules on whether you can attend school in a different state, they usually have fewer restrictions on the type of school you can attend. These scholarships are usually open to both public and private schools.

For example, if you're attending a private school, like the University of Chicago or Northwestern University, then you may still be eligible for an Illinois scholarship. Just make sure you understand each scholarship’s rules on school eligibility before applying.

Do you have to be from Illinois to win an Illinois scholarship?

If you're attending an Illinois school but are not an Illinois resident, you can still qualify for scholarships.

For example, the University of Illinois has a scholarship - James Hunter Anthony & Gerald E. Blackshear Endowment - that is only for Illinois residents. This is a four-year full-ride scholarship to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

If you're an Illinois student but are attending school out of state, you may still be eligible for an Illinois scholarship. You can also look for scholarships tied to the general Midwest area, not just Illinois.

What are the best Illinois scholarships?

The Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant is one of the best scholarships that any Illinois student can win. To apply, you can either fill out the FAFSA or the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid. To be eligible, you and your parents must currently be Illinois residents.

For the current school year, the MAP award ranges between $300 and $8,400. This is like the state version of the federal Pell Grant. Awards are only given to students who qualify based on need.

However, unlike the Pell Grant, the number of awards is limited so students should apply as soon as possible. Students who only attend school part-time will receive a partial award. Also, there is a limit to how many semesters or years you can receive the MAP award.

Are there scholarships for students from specific Illinois counties or cities?

While state-based awards are a great place to get started, you should also look at awards for students from your specific city, county, or region. These awards may have fewer applicants but they can be just as lucrative. If you're still in high school, ask a college counselor about how to find these local awards. If you're currently enrolled, then you should check out your school's financial aid office and ask them.

For example, the DeKalb County Community Foundation offers scholarships to students who attend a high school in DeKalb County, Illinois. There are several applications that students can complete. Some scholarships are available to any high school student from DeKalb County, while others have more stringent requirements.

If you’re searching for Illinois scholarships, don't forget to do your own Google research. For example, if you're from Fayette County, Illinois, type in “Fayette County” and the word “scholarship.” You might be surprised at how many scholarships you can find using this method. And, again, be careful when searching for scholarships on the open web.

While the dollar amounts for these local scholarships may be smaller, they also often have fewer applicants. If you apply and meet the criteria, you might have a good shot at claiming them.

What is the Illinois Promise Scholarship?

The Illinois Promise is a need-based award for low-income students and families. To apply, you must complete the FAFSA and receive a $0 result on your Student Aid Index. This means that your family cannot afford to contribute anything to your college education. Your family must also meet federal poverty guidelines, which you can find here. To qualify, you must take at least 12 credit hours in the fall and spring semesters.

Only Illinois residents are eligible. Renewal eligibility will depend on your family’s financial circumstances. If your family’s finances improve, you may lose your scholarship eligibility.

Are Illinois scholarships available for community college students?

While community college is relatively affordable compared to a four-year institution, the tuition and myriad associated costs can certainly add up, particularly if you’re not living at home or plan to transfer to a four-year school later on.

Fortunately, there are scholarships available for students who are attending community college. For example, the Illinois Community College Faculty Association gives out several scholarships to students who are currently attending community college.

There are also scholarships for students who have completed community college and are now transferring to a four-year institution.

For example, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers the Transfer Scholarship. This $2,000 scholarship is given to a first generation student who has completed at least 30 credit hours at their community college. You must also have demonstrated financial need and must have attended an Illinois-based community college.

Are Illinois scholarships available for graduate or professional students?

If you're attending graduate or professional school, such as law school, you may think that you've missed your chance to apply for scholarships or grants. But there are plenty of scholarship opportunities for students pursuing advanced degrees.

There are also specific scholarships depending on the type of graduate or professional school you’re attending. The Illinois Judicial Council gives out awards to those attending law school in Illinois. The school must be an accredited law school and students will be evaluated both on a merit and need basis.

Can I become an Illinois resident by attending school in Illinois?

If you're not an Illinois resident and want to establish residency, your time in school usually will not count. Sometimes even living in Illinois does not make you an official resident. For example, undocumented students may have a harder time qualifying for Illinois scholarships and grants. However, if you are undocumented but have a Social Security Number, then you can still fill out the FAFSA. While you will not be eligible for federal student aid, you can still qualify for state grants.

Are there specific Illinois scholarships for certain majors or degrees?

Some Illinois scholarships are available to any student as long as they are currently enrolled or plan to enroll in an accredited school. Others require that the student be majoring in or interested in a particular industry or field.

For example, the Karnes Award is given to a graduate student studying special education at the University of Illinois.

Can I get an Illinois scholarship if I’m an international student?

If you’re an international student attending school in Illinois, you may still be eligible for certain scholarships. While awards will be more limited than if you were an American citizen, you can still find awards.

For example, Illinois College has specific international student scholarships that are worth between $20,000 and $23,000 annually. These scholarships won’t cover the entire tuition, but can greatly reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.

You should also try to find awards from your home country that you can use while studying abroad. Some schools also offer tuition waivers for international students. A tuition waiver is when the school charges a student a lower tuition rate.