2017-2018 FAFSA FAQ


FAFSA timelines, tips and common errors

MAP Grant deadlines and calculator

FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool


Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)


You must complete this application for each academic year to determine your eligibility to participate in federal, state, and institutional grant and loan programs.  The FAFSA is available beginning October 1.  An academic year generally consists of a fall, spring and summer term.  Schools must define whether summer begins or ends an academic year for financial aid purposes.  NIU has defined the academic year to begin with fall and end with summer. The 2017 -2018 FAFSA is for the Fall 2017, Spring 2018 and Summer 2018 academic year.

When is the best time to file the 2017-2018 FAFSA for students who receive or hope to receive the MAP grant? 

Now!  MAP grant eligible students should plan to file the FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016.  The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) uses a “first-come, first-served” methodology, based on the FAFSA processing date, to allocate limited funds.  Once the state-wide application volume reaches the estimated number of students that can be funded, ISAC suspends all future applications.  

  • For 2016-2017 ISAC has suspended MAP awards for all student with an original FAFSA processing date greater then March 10, 2016.
  • For 2017-2018 we anticipate the suspension date between end of October and November.

It is advisable to complete the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.  The second best option is to use information from a completed tax return. See FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool


I am not eligible for MAP grant, when should I plan to file the 2017-2018 FAFSA?

  • Complete the 2017-2018 FAFSA as soon as October 1, 2016.
  • We encourage students and parents to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible as there may be additional deadlines for scholarships, institutional aid, etc. 
  • MAP Calculator:  http://www.isac.org/calculators/  


What are the best practices for reporting tax information on FAFSA?

  • Plan to have the required 2015 tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) early, January or February if possible.
  • Utilize the FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool, if eligible, to report and/or update federal tax information. 
  • Carefully review the FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR) for accuracy of reported information.

What are some of the common application errors to avoid? 

  • Report only whole dollar amounts; do not include cents.
  • Be sure to report student and parent earnings from work.
  • Make sure not to report parent income information in the student section.
  • Do not report the value of the family’s primary residence.
  • Do not forget the parent and the student need to sign the FAFSA using their FSA ID.
  • Accurately report all names, dates-of-birth and Social Security Numbers on the FAFSA.

You should double check to make sure your name, date of birth, and Social Security Number are also reported accurately on your NIU Admission application.   These three data elements are used to match the results of your FAFSA to your student record.  Last year over 600 new students reported one of these items incorrectly on either the FAFSA or NIU Admission application, resulting in significant delays. 

MAP Grant


How do I apply for the MAP grant?

The FAFSA serves as the application for both federal financial aid and the State of Illinois MAP grant.

Is there any way to know if I may be eligible for MAP Grant?

ISAC EFC Calculator:  http://www.isac.org/calculators/    

Why does the MAP Grant deadline get earlier and earlier?

For the past several years the deadline to file the FAFSA for MAP Grant consideration has been earlier each subsequent year due to limited funding availability, increasing numbers of applicants, and ISAC’s need to suspend awarding to stay within their level of funding for the year. 

What is the MAP deadline date for 2017-2018?

The suspension date for MAP deadline has not been determined. We estimate the deadline could be as early as end of October to November. FAFSA applications submitted after the date are placed in a suspense status and will not have MAP awarded unless additional funding becomes available. The funding cutoff date is dependent on application volume and will be even earlier this year.

FAFSA IRS Data Retrieval Tool

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is a feature that helps streamline the FAFSA by allowing online FAFSA filers to securely pull tax data directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  

What are the advantages to using the retrieval tool?

  • The retrieval tool simplifies the application process
  • Increases the accuracy of your FAFSA information
  • Minimizes the documentation you may be required to submit to NIU

How soon after filing 2015 federal taxes can the retrieval tool be used?

  • Electronically filed tax return information should be available online from the IRS site 1-2 weeks after the return has been filed, beginning in February
  • Data from paper tax returns will be available 6-8 weeks from the point of mailing them to the IRS
  • Please note that you may experience a delay if you owe taxes to the IRS

This option is not available if: 

  • The marital status changed after December 31, 2015
  • The tax filing status was married filing separately
  • An amended return was filed
  • A foreign tax return was filed
  • A tax return was filed using a Tax ID Number (TIN)
  • The home address on the FAFSA does not match the address on the tax return