Scholarship Timeline

See below for step-by-step details on how to apply for 2024 scholarship awards.

PLAN AHEAD: The HICF online scholarship application portal for Fall semester 2024 will close June 1, 2024.

Before the application

Step 1: Start thinking about letters of recommendation

November 15
You will need two letters of recommendation to apply for HICF scholarships.

  • One from a teacher at your high school
  • One from a community member (clergy, employer, high school counselor, etc.)

Ask early to allow time for your references to complete the letters of recommendation. You will be asked to upload these letters in a PDF form to the application. Letters from relatives are not accepted.

Step 2: Learn of other scholarship opportunities

November 20
Visit your high school counselor to ask for a list of scholarship opportunities available for students within your school.

Step 3: Complete the FAFSA - We have extended the application deadline due to FAFSA delays.

Visit to read about how to prepare for completing the new FAFSA prior to the launch. After preparing, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid when it opens in January 2024.

Note: You will need the Student Aid Report (SAR) (approximately 7 to 8 pages) in a PDF form to upload to your scholarship application within the financial information section. The earlier you apply the more grant money you will possibly receive.

If you have applied or are working on a scholarship application, your FAFSA Submission Summary has likely been delayed. However, you should complete the remaining parts of your scholarship applications as you wait.

When you finish your FAFSA Submission Summary, you will receive your Student Aid Index (used to be EFC number).

Instructions for uploading your FAFSA file on scholarship application - the student logs into their FAFSA, selects the correct year, then clicks on “View or Print your FAFSA Submission Summary.” The next screen gives the option to print it or view the FAFSA as a pdf. At this point, the student may save the pdf and upload it onto the online application. The FAFSA document is approximately 5 to 8 pages or more in length. The Student Aid Index is located at the top of the first page of the FAFSA.

The deadline for scholarship applications has been extended to June 1, 2024. Please contact Kathy Carter at or 217-220-1363 if you have questions. Thank you.

Step 4: Make a list of extracurricular and community service activities

December 1
Make a list of your involvement with sports, clubs, community service activities, and work. Make sure to note when you were involved, if you held a leadership position, how many hours you spent at each, and if you have accumulated more than the required amount of community service hours for graduation.

Step 5: Collect your academic information

December 7
You will need the following information to complete the Academic Information section of the application:

  • Request from your counselor your academic transcripts through seventh semester for high school seniors (includes first semester senior year). College students need college transcripts only.
  • SAT or ACT or both scores uploaded
  • Cumulative GPA
  • Your major/field of study you plan to pursue
  • Name and approximate cost of attendance for the college/university you plan to attend

Step 6: Begin drafting essay responses

December 14
Each scholarship application requires an essay to be written. Each scholarship requires an answer to the following prompt:

  • Please write a one-page response answering the following questions: What are your educational goals and how do you hope to achieve them while attending college? What are your long-term or career goals/plans and what steps will you take to achieve them? What personal characteristics or experiences qualify you to receive a scholarship?

Specific scholarships may require an essay in addition to those listed above. Scholarships which require further essays may be found on the essay page of the application.

During the application process

Step 1: Create an account on the scholarship application portal

January 1
Visit and click “Scholarship Application Portal”. On the log on page, click create new account and fill in your personal information to create your account.

Step 2: Complete the eligibility form

January 1
The eligibility form will automatically match you with every scholarship for which you qualify. You must fill out an application for each scholarship, however you can copy your application answers into each separate scholarship application.

Step 3: Complete the personal and academic information sections of the application

January 1

Enter your personal information (email, county of residence, contact information) and academic information (collected in During the Application Process - Step 2). Your email should not be your high school email account because we may need to contact you after graduation.

Step 4: Complete the extracurricular activities and financial information sections of the application

January 10

Enter your list of extracurricular and community service activities (collected in Before Completing the Application - Step 4). Upload your FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR) into the application and enter your Expected Family Contribution (EFC Number) which is located at the top of your SAR.

Step 5: Enter essay responses

January 20
Paste your essay responses into the application. Be sure to check if a scholarship requires another essay in addition to the prompts listed above.

Step 6: Upload letters of recommendation

February 15
Upload one letter of recommendation from a teacher at your high school and one from a community member.

Step 7: Copy application into qualifying scholarships

February 20
Copy your application responses for each scholarship you matched with.

Step 8: Submit your applications

February 29
After reviewing all items on your applications for completion and accuracy (did you double check your essay prompts?), complete the electronic signature, enter the date, and submit.

Prior to the deadline, your submitted application will be reviewed and we will contact you if there are concerns. Also, if you have questions regarding your application, please contact the Heart of Illinois Community Foundation at 217.429.3000.

Step 9: Application deadline

June 1
You must submit your online application(s) by 11:59 p.m. on June 1, 2024. No late applications will be accepted.

After the application deadline

Step 1: Scholarship committees and reviewers go to work

June 2
Nearly 100 volunteer committee members will read and score the applications during the review process.

Step 2: High school guidance counselors and recipient parents notified of scholarship recipients


High school counselors and recipient parents will be notified regarding the scholarship recipients. College students receiving scholarships will be notified by letter in July. In addition, high school students not receiving a scholarship will be notified.

Step 4: Checks are mailed to colleges/universities

HICF will mail a check directly to your college/university provided all prerequisite steps are completed by the recipient.