Scholarships for Illinois can unite college students in the “Land of Lincoln” with backing for their American dream. Positioned in the Midwest along the Mississippi River, Illinois is the 25th largest state and ripe with opportunity for its nearly 12.9 million residents. According to Forbes, Illinois ranks 12th nationally for best “Quality of Life.” From the hustle and bustle of Chicago to the rural outskirts of Carbondale, Illinoisans can choose from 148 diverse colleges. High-ranking picks include Illinois State University, DePaul University, College of DuPage, Northwestern University, and Southern Illinois University. In fact, the University of Chicago was deemed the third best national college by the U.S. News. Harvest the funds you’ll need for post-secondary study in Illinois with these 15 free scholarships.
1. Anhelo Project Dream Scholarship
Established in 2009, the Anhelo Project offers its Dream Scholarship based on financial need to undergraduates and graduates who are undocumented immigrants. Selected recipients will exhibit academic achievement, community leadership, and perseverance with challenging obstacles. The only stipulation is students must commit 20+ hours paying it forward as Anhelo Project volunteers. Apply before January 13th with two recommendations, a resume, and proof of income.
• Take at least 12 credits at accredited Illinois institutions
• Exhibit academic merit with a cumulative GPA above 2.5
• Hold leadership positions in extra-curricular activities
• Lack citizenship and be ineligible for federal financial aid
2. Alpha Delta Kappa XI Education Scholarship
The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois (CFNIL) in Rockford has gifted over $85 million in approximately 400 regional funds since 1953, including the Alpha Delta Kappa XI Education Scholarship. Undergraduate and graduate students intending to teach in Illinois classrooms should apply before February 1st. Applications must include a 500-word personal essay describing your qualifications and achievements.
• Permanently reside in Boone, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties
• Attain at least sophomore standing at accredited Illinois universities
• Declare elementary, secondary, or special education majors
• Display leadership skills in school/professional involvement
3. Amanda Reed Memorial Scholarship
Another of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois’ (CFNIL) funds is the Amanda Reed Memorial Scholarship, which was named for a Boylan Central Catholic High School track star who died tragically in an abusive relationship. It’s intended for Illinois teens who are actively undertaking service projects that help curtail domestic violence. Applicants need to submit a one-page essay about their project before February 1st.
• Be graduating from high schools in Boone, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties
• Enroll full-time in accredited post-secondary institutions in Illinois
• Maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or better
• Exemplify Amanda’s caring nature in school/community leadership
4. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Scholarship
Fighting for housing rights since 1980, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) offers renewable $2,500 scholarships each June. Funded by the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, the program is currently helping 20 formerly homeless youth graduate with bachelor’s degrees. Before the April 15th deadline, interested students must submit a transcript, two references, shelter verification, and FAFSA forms.
• Be college-bound seniors or graduates of Chicago or suburban high schools
• Have experienced homelessness and received CCH services before age 22
• Show acceptance into an accredited two or four-year nonprofit college
• Maintain academic excellence with a minimum weighted GPA of 2.5
5. Dan L. Meisinger, Sr. Memorial Learn to Fly Scholarship
Named after the founder of Executive Beechcraft in Kansas City, the Dan L. Meisinger, Sr. Memorial Learn to Fly Scholarship is presented by the National Air Transportation Association. This renewable $2,500 award assists future pilots with affording tuition and fees for initial or primary flight training. Application materials must arrive before November’s last Friday. Recipients are also featured in NATA’s Aviation Business Journal.
• Legally reside in Kansas, Missouri, or Illinois
• Currently enroll full-time at accredited flight schools
• Show academic achievement with a minimum “B” average
• Be recommended by an NATA-member aviation professional
6. Dr. Loomis/Rockton Lions Club Scholarship
Ranging from $500 to $2,500, the Dr. Loomis/Rockton Lions Club Scholarship is granted yearly by the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois (CFNIL) too. Incoming full-time freshmen with U.S. citizenship and residence in the “Prairie State” could apply. Preference is given to students who participate in Lions Club activities like the Hononegah Leo Club. Applications are due on February 1st with a personal essay, transcript, and resume.
• Be graduating seniors at Hononegah High School in Rockton
• Rank in the top third of their class with a minimum 2.5 GPA
• Have financial need for a two-year, four-year, or vocational college
• Demonstrate active involvement in community service
7. George M. Pullman Educational Foundation Scholarships
Celebrating over 65 years, the George M. Pullman Educational Foundation has awarded over 14,000 scholarships to diverse young adults from Chicago’s Pullman/Roseland community. Based on merit and need, the renewable $10,000 awards could lower tuition for finishing your first bachelor’s degree full-time. Until February 3rd, online applications are accepted with three essay responses, two recommendations, a transcript, and Student Aid Report.
• Be graduating high school in Cook County, Illinois
• Matriculate full-time at accredited colleges eligible for Title IV federal aid
• Possess an unweighed cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better
• Have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status
8. Illinois AMVETS Service Foundation Veterans Scholarships
Valued at $2,000 each, the Illinois AMVETS Service Foundation’s Veterans Scholarships assist honorably discharged military members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Funding can be renewed for four consecutive years for completing their first bachelor’s degree. Applications received by the March 1st deadline are reviewed based on merit and need. Don’t forget to submit your DD-214 form, latest tax return, transcript, and recommendation.
• Be veterans with permanent residence in Illinois
• Enroll at two- or four-year universities and technical schools
• Register full-time with at least 12 credits per semester
• Successfully maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher
9. Kinnett Scholarships for College/Further Education
The Northern Suburban Special Education District (NSSED) serves approximately 40,000 students with disabilities from three to 21 years old on Chicago’s North Shore. They’ve formed the Kinnett Scholarship for College/Further Education to gift $1,000 annually. Students who’ve received special education services and aspiring teachers earning special education majors could qualify. Download the application packet before the April 7th deadline for consideration.
• Be graduating seniors at NSSED-affiliated high schools
• Have formal acceptance in vocational, two-, or four-year college programs
• Demonstrate commitment to education and disability awareness
• Exhibit unmet financial need on their FAFSA forms
10. Marianjoy Scholarship Program
Located in Wheaton, the Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation’s Scholarship Program has awarded nearly $750,000 since its inception in 1994. It’s designed to help talented students with disabilities who are exploring new post-secondary possibilities. Applicants must reside in the Illinois counties of Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, McHenry, and Will. Chicagoland applicants should submit an original transcript, autobiography, and two references by March 28th.
• Have a permanent physical disability, such as traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, amputation, or paralysis
• Enroll at least half-time at accredited colleges or vocational schools
• Exhibit determination to achieve career ambitions despite disability
• Take leadership roles in their school or greater community
11. Mary T. Washington Wylie Opportunity Fund
The Illinois CPA Society maintains several endowments providing $4,000 each, including the Mary T. Washington Wylie Opportunity Fund. This internship preparation program selects racial minority students of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American ethnicities who have aspirations in accounting. Applicants must submit a transcript and faculty recommendation before November 30th. The MTWW training will take place in Chicago in January.
• Enroll at Illinois colleges full-time with at least sophomore standing
• Declare an accounting major to ultimately become CPAs
• Present a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
• Not be already committed to an accounting internship
12. Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program
Administered by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), the Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program offers up to $5,000 annually. African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students attending partnering Illinois colleges and taking at least six units per semester in education majors should apply. Chosen scholars must sign a promissory note to teach full-time at high-need schools. The application priority consideration date is March 1st.
• Be Illinoisans with U.S. citizenship or legal residency
• Finish a high school diploma or GED certificate
• Maintain satisfactory standing with a minimum 2.5 GPA
• Pursue certification as preschool, elementary, or secondary teachers
13. NIADA Region III Scholarship
Sponsored by Manheim, the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) offers one Region III Scholarship of $3,500 annually for tuition and fees. Applications are considered from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri,
Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Before March 31st, send an official transcript, SAT/ACT score, recommendation, and minimum 1,200-word essay to Arlington. Writing prompts ask how services like Uber will potentially impact automobile sales.
• Be classified as high school seniors
• Enroll at any accredited U.S. higher learning institution
• Demonstrate academic aptitude with a 2.5 GPA or better
• Show interest in automotive industry careers
14. Gary S. Wilmer/RAMI Music Scholarship
To honor the Rockton Area Music Industry’s founder who died in 1994, the Community Foundation for Northern Illinois (CFNIL) gifts the Gary S. Wilmer/RAMI Music Scholarship for at least $1,000. It’s intended for college-bound high school seniors hailing from Boone, Ogle, or Winnebago counties who are pursuing education in music. Until February 1st, suitable applicants can submit a 500-word personal essay, recording of their musical skills, and two music teacher recommendations.
• Plan to attend an accredited college full-time
• Declare a music composition, performance, or education major
• Display academic merit with a minimum GPA of 2.5
• Be actively involved in their school’s musical groups
15. Illinois Conservation Achievement Scholarship
Annually, the Illinois Conservation Foundation (ILCF) in Springfield awards the Conservation Achievement Scholarship for $2,000 to support young preservationists. Ambitious, determined high school seniors who work to develop a more sustainable outdoor environment are selected. Until January 15th, interested candidates can submit their transcript, letter of support, proof of acceptance, and one-page essay on voluntary conservation efforts.
• Have permanent residence in Illinois
• Enroll at two- or four-year colleges nationwide
• Possess a cumulative GPA surpassing 2.5
• Actively contribute to conserving Illinois’ natural resources
Finding financial aid is essential to avoid entering the Illinois job market with overwhelming debt. On average, attending Illinois colleges costs $8,556 in-state and $18,515 out-of-state each year. Hefty tuition prices have skyrocketed in the last year by an unprecedented 17.9 percent. Many universities are charging significantly more; for example, the Illinois Institute of Technology presently sets yearly undergraduate tuition at $43,500. Luckily, the “Prairie State” administers millions of dollars to help educate its young adults. These 15 scholarships for Illinois offer an excellent starting point for your financial aid search.
Know of a scholarship available specifically for Illinois students that we missed? Contact us.