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FAFSA in the fall

Financial aid application period opens Oct. 1, impacts MAP

FAFSA for 2018-19 begins October 1!

If you want or need to apply for financial aid for the 2018-19 academic year, get ready: The FAFSA filing period opens Sunday, Oct. 1.

And if you’re among the 5,000 NIU students hoping to secure MAP grants, don’t wait too long.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which administers the Monetary Award Program, only has limited funds. When the money’s gone, the money’s gone.

“MAP grants are first-come, first-served, and we never have any idea when the state will cut those off,” said Rebecca Babel, director of the NIU Financial Aid and Scholarship Office. “There is no hard-and-fast deadline. The cutoff is based on application volume, and therefore, we always see a race to get your FAFSA in.”

FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – is the U.S. Department of Education’s mechanism to consider students for Pell grants, federal student loans and work-study opportunities.

NIU students responded well to last year’s inaugural Oct. 1 start, which came three months earlier than previous years.

“We had more than 2,000 people who literally filled out the application with NIU’s FAFSA code during the opening weekend,” Babel said, “and that number climbed to 5,000 by the beginning of November.”

Last year’s significant and permanent change in the FAFSA cycle synced the process with traditional deadlines for college admission decisions.

Shifting the opening date also allows FAFSA filers to submit federal income tax information from the previous year and not the next. Parents and students no longer must wait for W2s from their employers or hurry to file their tax returns with the IRS, something that traditionally caused anxiety, especially in the scramble for MAP grants.

Questions? Need help? Call (815) 753-1395 or (800) 892-3050 or email