You have your pathway chosen; you are going to apply for admission into Seminary! Praise God for His direction and revealed will for your life! As you encounter the myriad of practical needs and decisions to be made, the elephant in the room is this: How will I pay for seminary?
There are several methods to arrange for your tuition and other expenses; what follows is by no means a comprehensive list, but a few ideas to keep in mind as you navigate the path to your degree.
Here are 7 Tips for Applying to Seminary & Getting Financial Aid
1. Apply for aid
This seems obvious, but the simple fact is that many students do not consider financial aid due to a perceived ineligibility that is only that – perceived. In other words, you won’t know if you can receive financial assistance until you apply for it! There are many available channels of aid for students that go untapped each semester. With some research, you ought to be able to find a program that you qualify for (a few suggestions follow). But the bottom line is that you have to be like “Nike” – just do it!
2. Arrange aid BEFORE you are accepted
Less obvious than point #1 is the timing of when to apply for aid. It is best to arrange for your financing before you apply to a Seminary (not unlike qualifying for a car loan before you go for a test drive). You will be an informed student with a good handle on what your remaining needs are when you consider each school. Approval for aid can be deferred or canceled if plans change; having a green light at the front end of the process will allow you to focus on the individual school(s) of your choice instead of being dependent on an individual school’s aid programs. This tip is in partnership with #4 below.
3. Apply AFTER January 1
The financial evaluation uses the previous year’s income tax base as a guide. (And remember most aid needs to be re-approved each school year) Most financial aid programs have some income criteria attached to their approval. They will want “last year’s” income data to evaluate your application. You will not have that data until after the end of the year (a W-2 statement may not be available until January 31, but the YTD info on the last paystub of the year can be used to get the process started). Remember that each source of aid will have different criteria – be sure to confirm that you provide all the requested information as soon as it becomes available.
4. Investigate your chosen Seminary for assistance and advice
After you have determined your direct sources of aid, do not overlook funding available from the school itself. There are usually a variety of scholarships, grants and other assistance programs associated with each seminary. Ask your admissions officer about these programs during the application process.
5. Use Available assistance-seeking services (FastWeb.com)
There are more than a few research aids for educational financial assistance. There are programs through governmental agencies and private organizations who help students obtain tuition help. These include FastWeb, NASFAA, FinAid and many others (please understand that this article is not a recommendation for any of these programs, this brief listing is but a sample of available search resources available). Search them out to help match you with appropriate aid.
6. Consider Denominational Grants & Scholarships
There are financial aid packages available through many denominations. These include aid packages, scholarships and grants for members of churches within the denomination. If you attend a denominational church, investigate the available opportunities through your church’s administration. One caveat, however: be sure to research ALL the criteria associated with any grant, scholarship or aid package as there may be some strings attached that you might not be willing to accept. Otherwise, there can be a plethora of private funds available to assist with your education.
7. Seek Specialty Financial Aid (based on ethnic status, military service, Pell Grant, etc.)
Do not overlook the more niched sources of funding. This is financial aid based on diverse criteria like ethnicity, location of origin or other non-traditional features. Some funds are awarded on the basis of being left-handed, being a descendant from a specific family, being a vegetarian or short! Additionally, there are various contests where the prizes are scholarships. These include (but are no means limited to) wardrobes made with duct tape, innovation competitions or writing an essay about the value of music in education. There are many non-traditional sources of private funding out in the marketplace. One has only to look for one that fits and pursue it.
Again, this list is not comprehensive in its content, but should provide a good starting point as you seek to put together your seminary career. This is an exciting time in your life and there are many resources that will help you along your journey and meet the many practical needs that arise on the way.