Student FAQ's

Application submission instruction graphic 

  1. Am I required to renew my GEAR UP Scholarship every year? 
  2. How do I renew/apply for my GEAR UP Scholarship?
  3. What documents must be submitted with my GEAR UP scholarship application?
  4. How can the Illinois STEPS AHEAD (ISA) GEAR UP scholarship funds be used?
  5. How is the ISA GEAR UP scholarship amount determined?
  6. How much of my ISA GEAR UP Scholarship may be used for summer school?
  7. Will dropping or stopping out impact my GEAR UP Scholarship?
  8. How many credit hours are required per semester to retain my ISA GEAR UP scholarship?
  9. Can I transfer to another school?
  10. Can I transfer to an out-of-state school?
  11. Can I attend a school located outside of Illinois?
  12. Can I study abroad using my ISA GEAR UP scholarship?
  13. Do I have to maintain a certain GPA to continue to receive the ISA GEAR UP scholarship?
  14. What if I can’t obtain all of my documentation needed to submit by the deadline?
  15. Am I expected to submit my grades at the end of each semester/quarter?
  16. Am I expected to submit my new class schedule for each new semester/quarter?
  17. If I qualify for a Pell Grant, am I still eligible for the ISA GEAR UP scholarship?
  18. How many years am I eligible for the ISA GEAR scholarship?
  19. Do I have to attend a post- secondary institution immediately after graduating from high school to receive the ISA GEAR UP scholarship?
  20. Is the ISA GEAR UP scholarship program accepting new student applications?
  21. Am I responsible for paying back the ISA GEAR UP scholarship?

1. Am I required to renew my GEAR UP Scholarship every year?

Yes. You must submit your application by the annual deadline date of June 30 for each school year. You are responsible for submitting the Continuation GEAR UP Application, grades from the previous school year (or an unofficial transcript), a current Financial Aid Award Letter, the Cost of Attendance, class schedule for the fall semester/quarter and the unofficial transcript covering each school year, even if you are attending the same school as the previous year.

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2. How do I renew/apply for my GEAR UP Scholarship?

Under the tab called FORMS, complete the Continuing Student GEAR UP Application. Submit the application and all of the documents electronically to Nicolle.mckinney@illinois.gov. You may also submit it via fax to 312-793-4666Call:. If mailing your application, send it to: Build Your Resume ad

Nicolle Mckinney
Illinois Department of Human Services
Division of Family and Community Services
401 S. Clinton, 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60607

Only completed applications will be reviewed.

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3. What documents must be submitted with my GEAR UP scholarship application?

The documents needed to submit with the Continuation Applications are:
• Unofficial transcript
• New class schedule
• Financial aid award letter for the current academic school year
• Average Cost of Attendance for the current academic school year

The documents needed to submit with the New Student Applications are:
• Scholarship Agreement
• Birth Certificate or Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
• High School Transcript of diploma with graduation date included
• Attendance sheets from the provider where you participated in the GEAR UP program (eCornerstone Snapshots, rosters, letter of attestation from the agency with the specific dates of participation)
• Class schedule (with classes and credit hours listed)
• Financial Aid Award Letter
• Average Cost of Attendance

All documents must be submitted on the school’s letterhead in order to be considered. Unofficial copies of your transcript are acceptable.

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4. How can the Illinois STEPS AHEAD (ISA) GEAR UP scholarship funds be used?

ISA GEAR UP scholarships may be used to cover all pertinent post-secondary education costs. If the tuition costs are met, ISA GEAR UP scholarships funds can be applied toward other costs of attendance, including room and board, text books, other supplies required by the institution, transportation and up to $300 toward the cost of leasing or purchasing a personal computer.

Students may opt to live off campus (apartment); in this case students should submit the apartment rental contract with their scholarship application. Consult with GEAR UP Program Coordinator for details.

Students may also use scholarship funds for purchasing a meal plan from your school, if you live off campus. The rule of thumb is to follow the allocation provided in the average cost of attendance.

Students who choose to commute to school are allowed to cover transportation cost as outlined in the cost of attendance.

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5. How is the ISA GEAR UP scholarship amount determined?

Your GEAR UP scholarship is based on your financial need as well as your award. Your GEAR UP scholarship is calculated by using your college’s average cost of attendance for the current school year as well as your awards (e.g. scholarships, federal aid, etc.). For example: $35,000 is the average cost of attendance (COA) and subtract all the grant awards (scholarships, federal aid, etc.) from the COA (see below):
1. $5,000-Dean’s Scholarship Award
2. $4,000-Hawk Grant
3. $5,730-Pell
4. $1,300-SEOG
5. $3,000-VA Benefits 33
6. $800-Basic Housing Allowance
7. $200 – VA Book Allowance
Total: $20,030 (Awards)

$35,000 (COA) - $20,030 (Awards, Grants, Scholarships) = $14,970; therefore, your need is $14,970.

You may be eligible for $10,000, your need is only $14,970; therefore, your GEAR UP Scholarship will be awarded the full scholarship of $10,000.

If you had been awarded $28,000 in awards, grants and scholarships, your scholarship award would be in the amount of $7,000 ($35,000 - $28,000 = $7,000).

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6. How much of my ISA GEAR UP Scholarship may be used for summer school?

If you have any unexpended funds after all school bills have been paid covering the Fall and Spring semesters/quarters of the current school year, the remaining ISA GEAR UP Scholarship funds may be used to cover the cost of attending summer school. There will not be any additional funding. Only remaining funds from the current school year can be used.

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7. Will dropping or stopping out impact my GEAR UP Scholarship?

Yes. It is required that students attend consecutive semesters, maintain a 2.0 GPA and maintain full-time status. Students should immediately contact the ISA GEAR UP Program Coordinator, Nicolle Mckinney at 312-793-4639Call: 312-793-4639, if you are considering dropping out of school for a semester. The Program Coordinator will advise the student of the consequences of dropping out mid-semester (also referred to as stopping out), as well as to discuss the requirements of the grant and the potential impact on the ISA GEAR UP scholarship. Extenuating circumstances must be provided and discussed to determine continued eligibility.

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8. How many credit hours are required per semester to retain my ISA GEAR UP scholarship?

Students must register for at least12 credit hours per semester during the academic year in order to remain eligible for the ISA GEAR UP scholarship. If you attend an institution that operates on the quarterly system you must carry an equivalent of a full time schedule for each quarter.

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9. Can I transfer to another school?

Yes. You can transfer to another school. You must notify the Program Coordinator for approval.

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10. Can I transfer to an out-of-state school?

No, you must transfer to an in-state (Illinois) school in order to remain eligible for your MAP (Monetary Award Program) funds.

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11. Can I attend a school located outside of Illinois?

Yes. You may attend a school in another state at the beginning of your post-secondary education; however, you are not allowed to transfer to a school located outside of Illinois even if you are attending a school outside of Illinois. You must transfer to a school located in the state of Illinois.

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12. Can I study abroad using my ISA GEAR UP scholarship?

Yes. If you plan to study abroad, you may use the scholarship funds towards the institution’s average cost of attendance in the United States. All aspects of the program must be coordinated and managed by the school in the United States. The scholarship funds will be disbursed to the school and the school will compensate you for your expenses associated with this educational opportunity. Funds may not be used to cover travel expenses.

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13. Do I have to maintain a certain GPA to continue to receive the ISA GEAR UP scholarship?

Yes. A student must maintain a GPA of least 2.0 or higher to continue to receive the ISA GEAR UP Scholarship.

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14. What if I can’t obtain all of my documentation needed to submit by the deadline?

Do not submit your application until you have all of the documentation. You should submit your completed application as soon as possible. The scholarship applications are processed in the order in which they were received. A delay in submission of any of the documents could delay the processing of your application as well as the awarding of your scholarship.

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15. Am I expected to submit my grades at the end of each semester/quarter?

Yes. You are required to submit your grades at the end of each semester/quarter to ensure your GPA meets the requirement of the scholarship (at least a 2.0 GPA) so that we can track your progress.

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16. Am I expected to submit my new class schedule for each new semester/quarter?

Yes. New class schedules are required in order to ensure that students are maintaining full-time status.

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17. If I qualify for a Pell Grant, am I still eligible for the ISA GEAR UP scholarship?

Yes. The Pell Grant does not affect your eligibility for receiving the GEAR UP Scholarship.

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18. How many years am I eligible for the ISA GEAR scholarship?

A student is eligible for the ISA GEAR UP scholarship for up to six years as long as they are an undergraduate student attending a post- secondary institution.

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19. Do I have to attend a post- secondary institution immediately after graduating from high school to receive the ISA GEAR UP scholarship?

No. You may choose to postpone attending college; however, you must be enrolled in a post-secondary institution prior to the age of 22.

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20. Is the ISA GEAR UP scholarship program accepting new student applications?

The only “NEW” applications that will be accepted will be from the students that participated in the program and are now graduating from high school or those that have postponed pursuing their post-secondary education and have not reached the age of 22. A student must demonstrate participation covering 2006 through June 30, 2012.

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21. Am I responsible for paying back the ISA GEAR UP scholarship?

No. The ISA GEAR UP scholarship is not a loan; therefore, is not subject to repayment.

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