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    The Bucks Start Here

    Financial aid pros tell you how to get started on your search.

    Interview by Martin Cockroft

    Our Panel of Pros

    Greg Bruner, Assistant Financial Aid Director
    Olivet Nazarene University--Kankakee, Illinois
    Jim Long, Director of Financial Aid
    Calvary Bible College--Kansas City, Missouri
    Mari Notley, Director of Financial Aid
    Dallas Baptist University--Dallas, Texas

    Got questions about paying for college? We asked these experts to help us understand the confusing world of financial aid, and here's what they had to say.

    Let's say I'm in high school and I want to go to a Christian college. When do my parents and I need to start thinking about financial aid?
    Financial Aid and Scholarships Jim: If you're a freshman in high school, get started. Go in and talk with your high school guidance counselor. Later, be sure to let schools know you're interested. Junior year, or even earlier, call up the schools you're considering and say, "I'm thinking about going to your school. Tell me about the types of aid you have and when I need to apply."

    Mari: Start planning immediately. Look at the present costs of a college education, and find an estimate on what the cost might be in a few years. Then plan out your whole education. Most students and families only look at the one-year costs, instead of a four- or five-year figure. Look for ways to manage your money.
    As early as freshman year in high school, students should get involved in activities that will help them earn scholarships. Yes, academics are very important. But develop leadership or athletic skills and be proactive about community service.
    Greg: Junior year is when you really start picking up steam. A lot of students looking at Olivet even apply then. It's not a complete application--obviously we don't have transcripts at that time--but it gets them into the system and on our mailing list. And the quicker you get into the system, the better shot you have at the school's limited funds.
    As early as the summer before your senior year, we like to have you come to campus. Sit down with us, and we'll plug in some numbers, just to see what kind of financial aid you might expect.

    What happens in an initial meeting with a financial aid officer?

    Greg: I'll explain the aid process to the student and parents and give them some general dates: "This is when you're going to get your federal packet in the mail. You can't fill it out until January 1, but here's when we'd like to see it back. This is our priority deadline, so all financial aid forms need to be in by then to get everything you're eligible for." Then, I basically just answer questions about the process. That's a big part of the meeting.
    You mentioned a "priority deadline." Do all schools have one? What exactly has to be in by that date?
    Greg: Almost every school has some sort of priority deadline, because funds run out. Each school gets a certain amount of money to divide up. And we just can't make those dollars last.
    Mari: You want to get the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in by the priority deadline. But most private schools also have an institutional application. And some require you to submit that by the deadline, too.

    Tell me more about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.


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