Our Panel of Pros
Jim Long, Director of Financial Aid
Calvary Bible College--Kansas City, Missouri
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
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
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
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.