We’re back with another blog about every prospective student’s favorite topic — financial aid! If you’re navigating the financial aid maze on a quest to fund each college credit hour, trip to the dining hall, or night in the dorm, know that you are not alone.
Let’s take a look at the timeline of financial aid in the year leading up to your first fall semester.
September – December
First things first, get organized! Collect all of your important documents and create a centralized document folder. You can use your computer or an old fashioned file cabinet to store your files, just be sure that everything is kept in a secure location.
Once you're organized, it’s a good idea to set up a meeting with a financial aid advisor. Remember, there are always people willing to help you, so long as you are willing to call on them. Here at LCU, we have a full team of financial aid experts that can help you at each stage in the financial aid process.
Your financial aid advisor will ask you about the status of your FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is a requirement for anyone seeking any type of financial aid. Applications open in the fall (October 1, 2018 for the 2019-2020 school year) and it’s imperative that you complete yours as soon as possible.
After you complete your FAFSA, you can also begin to look into external scholarships. These are available through a wide variety of sources outside of universities, state, or federal agencies.
January – April
New year, new tasks to complete. By this time, you should have a SAR, or Student Aid Report, in hand from your FAFSA application. This document will outline your EFC, that’s Expected Family Contribution, or how much the federal government believes your family should be able to pay towards your college education, based on the income information provided. Your EFC determines your eligibility for federal and student financial aid. You’ll want to exhaust your federal opportunities before pursuing outside resources. That being said, if you do not qualify for enough federal funding to cover your education, do not despair. Keep reading!
There are several opportunities for LCU students to receive financial assistance. Once accepted, you’ll start by completing the LCU Financial Assistance Application that is available on Chaplink. This application covers a lot of information, but it may not capture your family’s unique circumstances. Once you complete your application, you can work with the financial aid department to notify the school of special circumstances that may limit your family’s ability to fund your education, such as medical expenses or unemployment.
After your application is reviewed, you’ll receive a financial assistance offer. You can review this offer and accept financial assistance through the Chaplink portal.
Related Post: How to Read Your Financial Package Letter
May – September
This is it. Your senior year is officially coming to an end. Graduation is just around the corner and you can officially put a cap (and gown!) on the past four years of your life. Whether you experience a wave of nostalgia or a rush of excitement, it’s important to stay focused. This is your last shot to get all of your ducks in a row before classes begin in the fall.
It’s a good time to set up one last meeting with the financial aid department to discuss the status of your aid and check off the last few boxes. If grants and scholarships are not enough to cover your tuition, you’ll need to explore loan options to close the gap.
There are four basic types of loans that you should know about, and each one comes with its own set of pros and cons. If you choose to accept federal loans, you’ll need to complete entrance loan counseling and sign a Master Promissory Note (that’s MPN for short) before your funds are dispersed. You can learn more about this process here or talk through it with a financial aid advisor.
Things to Remember
While financial aid may not be the most fun topic here on the LCU blog, it’s critical that you understand the process as you’ll need to complete most of these steps before each school year. Here are a few things to remember as you move forward.
Stick to deadlines. If you stress over deadlines now, you’ll have much less stress when it’s time to register for classes.
Keep copies of your important documents. Remember that file we recommended at the beginning of this post? Hold onto it & add to it as you go. This will help you in future years.
You don’t have to accept all of the aid offered to you. When it comes to student loans, be a responsible borrower and only take what you absolutely need.