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February is Financial Aid Awareness Month

It is a busy time of year for high school seniors. With an eye toward graduation, students are finalizing their college choices, taking the ACT and SAT tests, preparing themselves for living on their own in a few months, shopping for prom dresses and tuxedos, staying involved in extracurricular activities … all while finishing their senior years of high school.

While the students are eager and excited about college, they and their families may have questions or concerns about the costs of higher education. To help inform and educate Louisiana high school seniors and their families that college is attainable and that there are numerous sources of financial aid options available, February has been declared "Financial Aid Awareness Month."

In 2002, the Louisiana Education Loan Authority, or Lela, a division of the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority, launched what would become the annual statewide outreach campaign Financial Aid Awareness Month. February was chosen since it is the key time to begin the application process in order to be considered for all aid programs offered at state and federal levels.

Today, most students rely on some form of financial assistance to attend college. LSU participates in all federal and state programs and also offers a variety of institutional scholarships for an entering freshman. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions & Student Aid is dedicated to helping students finance their education through federal, state and institutional dollars.

As part of Financial Aid Awareness Month, LSU will hold Financial Aid Program sessions on Feb. 24 and March 13. The program is designed to educate students and parents about federal financial aid, institutional aid and the TOPS program.

"These programs are a way for us to sit down with a family to give detailed information on what kinds of financial aid opportunities are available," said Mary Parker, executive director of the LSU Office of Undergraduate Admissions & Student Aid. "We work with the family to develop an award package, so they know exactly what is available and how and when to apply for those programs."

The Financial Aid Programs will be held in LSU's Pleasant Hall Thursday, Feb. 24, from 5-7 p.m. and from 7-9 p.m. and on Sunday, March 13, from 1-3 p.m., 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Representatives from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions & Student Aid will be present to answer any questions students may have about the financial aid process. In addition, one-on-one financial aid counseling will be available to discuss LSU's costs and financial aid opportunities to cover those costs.

"We encourage everyone to attend the programs to see what is available," Parker said.

Students can register to attend the Financial Aid Program by visiting http://www.lsu.edu/departments/visitcampus/ScheduleaCampusVisit/Forms/item24556.html.

If a student cannot attend one of these sessions, they can set up an appointment to meet with someone in the LSU Office of Undergraduate Admissions & Student Aid at another time. The office provides affordability and access for all students to obtain their educational goals. The office strives to provide students with a quick and efficient, user-friendly site.

To apply for financial aid at LSU, first a student needs to apply for admission to the university. In order to streamline the process, the LSU Application for Undergraduate Admission is also the automatic application for entering freshman scholarships, so there aren't duplicate forms that students must fill out when applying to the university. Students may also read the Tips for Applying for Aid, located on the LSU's Student Financial Aid office website at http://www.lsu.edu/departments/financialaid/AdditionalInfo/item16301.html. The last step of the application process is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, located at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/, for the applicable term each year.

Students are reminded that the application deadline for summer and fall semesters is April 15.

Once a student applies to LSU and fills out the FAFSA, they need to ensure that the financial aid application is complete. The FAFSA is processed and generates a printed Student Aid Report, or SAR, which students need to review for accuracy. Also, additional information may be requested by the LSU's Student Financial Aid Office. Once everything is complete, students will receive an award notification via their PAWS account, provided by LSU, and funds can then be disbursed. More information on this process is available at http://www.lsu.edu/departments/financialaid/StepstoApply/item16234.html.

LSU's Student Aid office is staffed with professionals to provide excellent service to students. The staff is available, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to meet with students and answer any questions about financial aid and the financial aid process. Please feel free to stop by the office in Pleasant Hall or contact someone via e-mail at financialaid@lsu.edu or by phone at 225-578-3103. For more information, visit http://www.lsu.edu/departments/financialaid/index.html.

Lela is Louisiana's non-profit resource for college planning whose mission is to develop projects and programs to make higher education more accessible and affordable to the people of Louisiana. For more information, visit http://www.lela.org/faam/.