Frequently Asked Questions

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FAFSA (Application for Financial Aid)

Do I need to fill out the FAFSA?

We strongly encourage you to fill out the FAFSA, even if you think you won't qualify for financial aid. You may be eligible for more aid than you think, and most students will be eligible for loans. NIU also uses the results of the FAFSA, along with academic credentials, to determine eligibility for additional grants.

Is there a deadline for the FAFSA?

Yes, there is, although you should complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after it opens on October 1. Some state and institutional funds are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you submit the FAFSA, the more likely you are to receive funds for which you are eligible.

NIU continues to process financial aid applications on a rolling basis throughout the academic year. The FAFSA deadline occurs during the summer after the academic year. The filing deadline for the 2019-2020 school year is June 30, 2020. If your FASFA is completed after the end of the semester, you may not be eligible for financial aid.

What if I have a special family circumstance?

Below are a few examples of special circumstances you may need to consider when filling out the FAFSA.

  • Dependent student whose parents are not married: If you are a dependent student whose legal (biological or adoptive) parents are not married and do not reside together, you must apply using the parent with whom you lived more in the 12 months prior to filing the FAFSA. If that parent is married, the stepparent and their income must be included on the FAFSA as well. If your legal parents live in the same home, include both parents' financial information, even if they are not married.
  • Dependent student living with someone other than parent: Federal regulations do not allow you to file the FAFSA with anyone other than your biological or adoptive parent(s). If you live with someone other than a parent, you may meet one of the criteria to be considered an independent student, or an independent appeal could be considered. If you’re not sure which direction to take, contact the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office to discuss your situation.
  • Independent appeal: If you do not meet any of the criteria to be considered independent but feel you have an extenuating or unusual circumstance, you may appeal to be considered an independent student. Contact our office to discuss your situation and determine if an independent appeal is appropriate. A parent's unwillingness or inability to pay for college cannot be considered. Generally, you must document that a parent cannot be located, is incapacitated to an extent that prevents parental interaction, has not had any parental role in your life for an extended number of years, or that you have been abandoned or would be at risk to contact the parent.
My FAFSA has been selected for verification. What does that mean?

The Department of Education (ED) randomly selects about one-third of all FAFSAs to be verified with additional information.

If you are selected for verification, you will receive an email from the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office. The documents requested will be posted on your MyNIU "To-Do List," found on your Tasks Tile. You may be asked to submit copies of your tax returns, W-2s, IRS tax return transcripts, proof of income or a family member’s college registration form to verify the information on your FAFSA. Make note of any deadlines and be sure to submit the documents to the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office before deadlines pass.

Once you return the necessary documents, your financial aid eligibility may increase, decrease or stay the same. Failure to submit the documents will prevent us from completing your financial aid award. Since some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it is in your best interest to submit the information as soon as possible.

Students who use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool during the FAFSA application process are less likely to be chosen for verification, since they are submitting documents to back up their claims. We suggest you use this tool to help you through the application process.

Read more about the verification process.

What is the EFC?

The information supplied on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used by the federal government to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC defines for the university what financial aid programs you are eligible to participate in and the amount for which you are eligible.

A common misunderstanding is that the EFC is the amount you will owe the university. Rather, the amount you will owe the university consists of your total expenses minus the financial aid awarded and disbursed to you.

My NIU Financial Aid Award

How is the amount of financial aid determined?

Your financial aid award is determined based on the information provided in your FAFSA. Before offering an award, the information must be verified as accurate for students who have been selected for verification. The award offered assumes you will be enrolled full time for the entire academic year. Any changes to your enrollment status may affect the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.

Please contact the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office if you have any questions about how your enrollment status may affect your financial aid eligibility.

When will financial aid award notifications be issued?

New and transfer students attending NIU for the first time can expect to receive their financial aid award notifications by the end of March. Award notifications for continuing students are generally sent out in May. Students who are selected for verification must provide all required documents in order to be offered an award letter.

When should I accept my financial aid award?

We encourage you to accept all sources of financial aid as soon as possible. You must accept federal student loans before the last day of the term you are attending. Federal, state and institutional grants, as well as most scholarships, are automatically accepted for you.

How long will it take for submitted documents or loan applications to be processed?

Documents are processed in the date order received, and processing time can vary depending on the specific documents submitted. Basic verification documents such as the Household Size Form or federal tax return transcripts will normally be reviewed within four days of submission. Be sure to watch your student email account and your MyNIU To-Do List. We will contact you here if we need clarification on anything.

To ensure prompt processing, scan documents and email the images to finaid@niu.edu or fax them to 815-753-9475. Be sure to include both sides of the document. Mailing documents may result in longer processing times.

If your parent applied for a Parent PLUS loan online, you can expect the resulting loan amount to be visible on your awards screen within about one week. Private loans will take at least two weeks, due to the federal Truth in Lending Act.

Why did my financial aid amounts adjust?

To be eligible for the full amount of the Federal Pell Grant and/or Illinois MAP Grant, you need to be enrolled in a certain number of credit hours (12 credit hours for Pell, 15 credit hours for MAP). When we give you an initial award package, we assume you will be enrolled in enough hours to qualify for the full amount. If you enroll in fewer hours, you will receive adjusted, lower amounts of these awards.

At various points prior to disbursement, the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office reviews your current hours of enrollment and adjusts these awards accordingly. This is the best way to ensure that you have the most accurate information about your pending aid at any given time.

The Department of Education requires schools participating in the Title IV federal aid program to periodically adjust student budgets based on their level of enrollment (full time, half time or less than half time). If your cost of attendance changed, it is most likely the result of the amount of hours you are enrolled in for the term.

How many credit hours is my financial aid award based on?

Financial aid awards are generally calculated and issued prior to the beginning of a school year. Financial aid awards are based on an assumption of full-time enrollment until the week before a semester begins, unless you have requested a part-time award.

Students register for upcoming semesters over time and may make numerous changes to their schedule and number of registered hours. This means that the number of registered hours fluctuates for many students and may not be final until the first week of a semester.

The majority of NIU undergraduate students enroll full time and need to know what their financial aid will be based on a full-time status. If you plan to attend an upcoming semester part time and want your early award notification to reflect your plan, simply contact the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office and let us know how many hours you plan to take.

Financial aid awards adjust to actual registered hours the week prior to the start of each semester and again at the end of the add/drop period for the semester.

Read more about student rights and responsibilities.

Estimated Cost of Attendance Versus Actual Cost

What is the estimated Cost of Attendance, and how does it differ from what I will see on my bill?

The Cost of Attendance (COA) is a term used to represent an estimate of all of the expenses you can expect to pay while attending college. It includes expenses charged directly by NIU and reasonable estimates of other necessary expenses you may incur during your course of study, such as travel and miscellaneous personal expenses.

Your bill will only include direct costs, which consist of tuition and fees, and other NIU charges, such as student health insurance, on-campus room and board, books purchased on your NIU OneCard, and any additional fees or fines.

You can view an estimate of what it costs to attend NIU. For a more accurate idea of what your actual costs will be, use the Office of the Bursar’s Planning and Cost Estimator. This tool allows you to enter some general information in order to project your expenses for a semester or year.

How is the Cost of Attendance determined?

The Cost of Attendance is determined by taking modest averages of anticipated expenses for a group of students to develop an estimate of yearly expenses. These projections are then used to determine what you may be eligible to receive in financial aid.

Financial Aid and Your Student Account

How do I know exactly what I will owe for an upcoming semester?

NIU issues a monthly account/billing statement. It is a snapshot in time and reflects actual charges, payments and anticipated financial aid credits at the moment the bill is produced. This snapshot does not change until the next month.

The Term Account Detail screen in MyNIU is real-time and will change as payments are made and charges incurred. Your anticipated financial aid will remain calculated and displayed for full time, regardless of current registration, until one week prior to the beginning of a semester, unless a part-time award has been requested.

Visit the Bursar’s Office website for information about account statements

How can I see the exact charges on my student account?

Log in to your MyNIU account. Click on Financial Account tile. Click on the drop down arrow next to Account Services, then click on Term Account Detail. This will show you the exact charges, payments, financial aid, pending financial aid and refund information for that semester. You can print it if you need it for future reference.

Please note that if anything on the account changes, the information on this page will change. For more information, visit the Office of the Bursar.

How do I provide a prospective landlord with evidence of my financial aid?

You can find a summary of the financial aid awarded to you in MyNIU. After logging in to MyNIU, click on the Financial Account tile. Click on the drop down arrow next to Account Services, then click on Term Account Detail. This screen shows the amount of aid you have been offered and the amount you have accepted. Printing this screen will show this information, along with your name and the NIU logo, in a format that longtime DeKalb landlords should be familiar with.

Can I use financial aid to pay for my books?

NIU students who have an active financial aid application or who have a scholarship posted on their account may charge books and supplies to their bursar account at either the NIU Bookstore or the Village Commons Bookstore (VCB) for a limited time at the start of each semester. It is important to note that the amount you charge will be added to your bursar account. You will be responsible for covering these charges, either with financial aid or by paying out of pocket if your financial aid has been exhausted.

For additional information, visit the NIU Bookstore.

Disbursements and Refunds

When does financial aid disburse, and when will I receive my refund?

Disbursements generally occur about two weeks after classes begin (earlier for College of Law students). Refunds are generated over the rest of the third week of classes. To receive a refund, you must have financial aid in excess of your charges. We recommend that you consider signing up to have your refund directly deposited into your personal bank account. Refund checks will be sent through the mail to students who do not take advantage of this service.

Parent borrowers who opt to have any Parent PLUS refunds sent to the borrower rather than the student have the option of receiving the refund as a direct deposit or paper check.

NIU has a very flexible add/drop policy that allows you to change your enrollment through the second week of classes. By issuing refunds after the add/drop period is closed, we assure that your refund is based on the most up-to-date enrollment information. The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office will recalculate your financial aid eligibility after the add/drop period is over based on your enrollment at that time. It is at this point that financial aid funds will disburse to your bursar account for refund processing.

I just received my refund. Why do I still have a balance owed on my account?

You may have a balance owed on your account for two reasons: A charge was applied to your account after the refund was calculated and/or your refund was from a financial aid disbursement and you have one or more charges on your account that financial aid cannot pay. Students can choose to use their financial aid refund to pay these charges.

Financial aid regulations restrict the charges that can be covered by your financial aid. Financial aid disbursed to your accuont can be applied to outstanding tuition and fees for the current term as well as any bookstore, housing and dining charges. Miscellaneous charges such as orientation fees, graduation fees, late fees, parking tickets fines and balances from prior years cannot automatically be paid with a financial aid disbursement. If you have a balance on your account, the unpaid charge may be related to one or more of these items.

The financial aid disbursed to your account paid outstanding tuition and fees for the current term, as well as any bookstore, housing and dining charges. The remainder of your financial aid is the refund you have been issued. You may use part of your financial aid refund or other personal funds to pay any miscellaneous charges you may owe.

Title IV Authorization

I received an email about Title IV Authorization. What does this email mean?

Title IV financial aid is federally funded aid such as Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), and Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans. Federal financial aid funds may only be used to cover certain charges associated with tuition, room and board, and books. Title IV funds cannot be used to cover prior year charges or charges not related to education, such as parking tickets, fines or recreation charges.

In order to use Title IV funds to pay other charges, such as parking permits or student health insurance, you must provide your authorization. This authorization can be given online through MyNIU and may be rescinded at any time by contacting the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office.

Learn about the steps for Consenting to Title IV.

Loans

What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?

Subsidized loans are based on financial need, while students qualify for unsubsidized loans regardless of financial need. If you are eligible to borrow a subsidized loan, you will not be charged interest on the loan while you are enrolled at least half time. Interest on unsubsidized loans begins accruing while you are enrolled in school. You may choose to defer the interest payment on an unsubsidized loan until you begin repayment.

Who is eligible to apply for a Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan?

Eligible Parent PLUS applicants must be either your biological parent, your adoptive parent or the spouse of your parent. In addition, the parent borrower must be either a United States citizen or an eligible noncitizen and must not be in default or owe a refund to any financial aid program.

You must be enrolled at least half time (six hours per semester).

Your parent must submit to a credit check by the U.S. Department of Education to be eligible for a Parent PLUS loan. The applicant authorizes the credit check when they sign the Parent PLUS loan request form. To be approved, your parent must have a satisfactory credit history. However, income-to-debt ratio is not considered.

How much should my parent request for the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan?

Your parent can choose to request either the maximum eligible amount or a specific dollar amount when completing the Parent PLUS loan application. Whenever possible, parents are encouraged to request only the amount of loans necessary to pay for students’ expenses in order to limit future interest expenses. If a parent requests the maximum loan amount, the PLUS loan will be offered up to the Cost of Attendance minus any other financial aid that has already been awarded.

Parents who wish to request a specific amount for the Parent PLUS loan are encouraged to use the NIU Planning and Cost Estimator. The estimator allows parents to input anticipated enrollment, housing plans and awarded financial aid in order to determine the approximate yearly total due. This amount should help determine how much to request for a Parent PLUS loan.

Your parent may wish to borrow more than the amount of the approximate yearly total due if you plan to use financial aid to help pay for living expenses. Parents can borrow up to the Cost of Attendance.

My parents just applied for the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan. When will I see it on my awards?

When a parent applies for the Parent PLUS loan, the Department of Education performs a credit check to determine if the parent will be eligible to receive the loan. The results of the application are sent to the school within three to five business days. The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office processes all loan requests in the order received. During peak application times, it may take five to seven business days from when the application was submitted before additional funding is offered.

What if my parent is denied the Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan?

If a Parent PLUS loan application is denied, it may be possible for you to borrow an additional amount of the Unsubsidized Direct loan in your own name. Freshman and sophomore students are eligible to receive up to $4,000 in additional unsubsidized loan, while juniors and seniors are eligible to receive up to $5,000 in additional unsubsidized loan.

If your parent chooses the option of "Not Pursue PLUS Loan" or "Undecided" on the PLUS loan application, the additional unsubsidized loan eligibility will automatically be offered to you. If your parent chooses the option of "Appeal Decision" or “Pursue Endorser,” then information about these processes will be provided by and should be submitted back to Direct Loan Servicing.

Options for when a Parent PLUS loan is denied are included on the application. The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office will proceed based on the choice made on the application. If a change to the option your parent originally selected is necessary, contact us for more information.

Who is eligible to apply for a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?

To be eligible to receive a Graduate PLUS loan, you must be either a United States citizen or an eligible noncitizen and must not be in default or owe a refund to any financial aid program. You must be enrolled at least half time (four-and-a-half hours in the fall and spring semesters and three hours in the summer semester). If you are a graduate student in the College of Law, half-time enrollment is six hours in the fall and spring semesters and four hours in the summer semester.

You must submit to a credit check by the U.S. Department of Education to be eligible for a Graduate PLUS loan. You authorize the credit check when you sign the Graduate PLUS loan request form. To be approved, you must have a satisfactory credit history. However, income-to-debt ratio is not considered.

I just applied for the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan. When will I see it on my awards?

When you apply for the Graduate PLUS loan, the Department of Education performs a credit check to determine if you are eligible to receive the loan. The results of the application are sent to the school within three to five business days. The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office processes all loan requests in the order received. During peak application times, it may take up to two weeks from when the application was submitted before additional funding is offered.

What if I get denied the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan?

If a Graduate PLUS loan application is denied, it may be possible for you to use an endorser. Information about this process will be provided by and should be submitted back to Direct Loan Servicing. Options for when a PLUS loan is denied are included on the application. The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office will proceed based on the choice made on the application. If a change to the option you originally selected is necessary, contact us for more information.

When do I have to repay my student loan?
  • Federal loans are deferred while you are taking classes at least part-time. The loan will go into repayment once you are no longer enrolled part-time for six months.
  • For private loans please contact your lender for loan terms and conditions.
  • Perkins are deferred while you are taking classes at least part-time.

Exit Counseling

What is exit counseling and do I have to complete it?

Exit counseling is designed to inform you of the grace period, interest rates, repayment options and incentives, and terms and conditions of your loans, as well as the availability of deferment, forbearance and consolidation. Exit counseling for Federal Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized loans can be found on the Federal Student Aid website. Exit counseling for Federal Perkins loans can be found on the Heartland ECSI website.

Please note: You are only offered a grace period once. If you use your grace period and then return to school, repayment will begin immediately after you graduate.

Federal Work-Study

How does Federal Work-Study employment work?

Federal Work-Study awards are not guaranteed and are earned as wages by working on or off campus with eligible employers. A Federal Work-Study award reflects the amount you can earn if hired. You must apply for a Federal Work-Study job and be hired in order to utilize the eligibility offered on your award notification. Federal Work-Study wages do not credit to your bursar account. You earn paychecks for work performed.

Many NIU departments hire work-study students, but there are some student employment positions that do not require Federal Work-Study eligibility.

Other Financial Aid Options

What other options do I have?

If your financial aid does not cover all of your educational or living expenses, PLUS loans for parents of dependent students are one option. Private student loans from a number of national lenders are also available to borrowers with good credit.

In addition, NIU offers a payment plan, called the Huskie Installment Plan. This program may prove beneficial to those who plan to pay some or all of their charges for a given semester out of pocket.

Where do I go for assistance with choosing a private student loan?

Private loans are meant to supplement federal and state aid when the Cost of Attendance is not fully covered by your financial aid. You can find a comprehensive list of private loan lenders and additional information regarding private loans on FinAid, an informational website. This site provides valuable information about the private loan process and interest rate calculations, and you should read it carefully.

Summer Financial Aid

Can I receive financial aid for the summer?

Very limited financial aid is available for summer. Many scholarship and grant programs are restricted to fall and spring payment. Loan programs have annual limits that many students exhaust during the school year. If you filed a FAFSA for the previous year and are enrolled at least half-time for the summer, you will be considered for financial aid.

How is summer eligibility determined?

Summer aid eligibility is based on the actual hours and weeks you will attend. You also have to meet all general and program eligibility criteria, including Satisfactory Academic Progress and minimum enrollment level. You can’t have exceeded program limits, and must be admitted to and enrolled in an eligible degree program.

When will my financial aid for summer be awarded?

Summer aid cannot be awarded until you are registered. Students will be packaged in order of start date of first course. You should receive your award before your classes start. For example, Study Abroad and May-start students will be packaged before June-start students.

Scholarships

What scholarships does NIU offer?

We offer several types of scholarships. Merit scholarships are awarded to new students at the time of admission and are based on high school GPA and test scores, or transfer GPA and hours earned. Merit scholarships are automatic and do not require a separate application.

Other scholarship opportunities are competitive and are available from various academic and student service departments. You can apply for these scholarships through MyScholarships.

What are the deadlines for merit scholarships?

Your application for admission plus all required documents (transcript, test score, application fee or waiver) must be received by the priority deadline to be considered for a merit scholarship. If funding continues to be available, we may award scholarships after the priority deadline.

  • Spring admission
    • October 1 is the priority deadline for freshman and transfer merit scholarships.
    • The Presidential Scholarship is not awarded for the spring semester.
  • Summer or fall admission
    • December 1 is the priority deadline for all freshman merit scholarships.
    • March 1 is the priority deadline for transfer merit scholarships.
What is the Huskie Legacy Award?

The Huskie Legacy Award is a one-time, $1,000 scholarship given to incoming students whose parent(s) graduated from NIU. There is no application or deadline for this award.

Do I only have to fill out one application?

When logged in to MyScholarships, you will be prompted to fill out the general application. When you complete the general application, you will be considered for dozens of awards! Based on your major and other identifying criteria, you may be prompted to submit additional information. You will be able to save your application to continue working on it before actually submitting it. You will need to apply for scholarships every year, as the opportunities available change from year to year.

How do I send a recommendation letter?

Good news! Not all scholarships require recommendation letters. If you need a recommendation or reference letter, you will be notified during the application process. You will be asked to enter the name and email address of your reference. MyScholarships will send a request directly to the individual. We strongly suggest you notify your reference before listing them on your application.

How will I know if I get a scholarship?

You can log in to MyScholarships to check the status of your application(s) by clicking on the My Applications tab in your portal. You will also receive an email with further instructions if you are awarded a scholarship.

How do I donate towards scholarships?

The generous support of our donors makes a difference in the lives of NIU students. Alumni, community members, student organizations and philanthropists have many options to help a Huskie! Contact the following departments to learn more about how you can donate to NIU's scholarship funds.

The NIU Foundation develops and supports a culture of giving throughout the NIU community. Donations to student scholarships through the NIU Foundation provide financial assistance to students with academic merit and/or financial need.

The NIU Alumni Association has provided financial assistance through scholarships and trusts to thousands of students over the past 50 years, thanks to generous donations from NIU alumni.

The purchase of an NIU license plate lets you show your Huskie pride while supporting NIU student scholarships.

You can also contact individual schools and departments to ask how you can help support students through scholarship funds.

Student organizations should contact the Student Association to learn how to donate to NIU scholarships.

Where should I send the check for an outside scholarship I have been awarded?

All scholarship checks should be sent to the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office and will be directly applied to your bursar account, one-half in the fall semester and one-half in the spring semester, unless otherwise specified by the donor. If the check needs your endorsement, please sign it before mailing.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Office
Northern Illinois University
Swen Parson Hall 245
DeKalb, IL 60115

Using the MyScholarships System to Apply for Scholarships

What are recommended opportunities?

Recommended opportunities, also known as "apply-to," are scholarships that require you to submit additional information to be considered. For example, you may have to answer additional questions, submit a specific essay or provide reference information. You have to first save and submit your general application before being directed to recommended opportunities.

What is the scholarship deadline?

Scholarship deadlines vary by department, but a common deadline is January 31 for the next academic year. MyScholarships usually opens in November. Winter break is a great time to apply for scholarships.

When will I find out if I will be awarded a scholarship?

Review for most scholarships begins in February. You will be notified by an email to your student account if you are selected for an award. In most cases, you will be asked to log in to MyScholarships to accept or decline the offer.

I changed my major. Can I apply for new scholarships?

You should check back before the deadline if your GPA or major has changed. You will automatically be matched to scholarships that meet your updated applicant record; however, there may be a new conditional application or recommended opportunities to complete.

Is MyScholarships the only place to apply for NIU scholarships?

No. MyScholarships contains the majority of competitive NIU scholarships. However, you should check with your academic college or department, as well as student organizations, to see if they offer additional opportunities for financial assistance. For example, study abroad and other travel grants, as well as research reimbursements, are not processed n MyScholarships. Huskie Link may also have some leadership award opportunities.

How do I thank my scholarship donor?

If you were awarded a scholarship that has a living donor, you will be required to submit a post-acceptance questionnaire in MyScholarships. This information will be shared with your donor.

NIU School Code

Use NIU's School Code when completing the FAFSA.

001737

Contact Us

Financial Aid and Scholarship Office
Swen Parson Hall 245
815-753-1395
finaid@niu.edu

For scholarship-specific questions

scholarships@niu.edu

Additional Contact Info

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