Introduction to Financial Aid

If you're new to the financial aid process, you probably have a lot of questions. But don't worry — we're here to help guide you all the way. Read through the information below to learn how to get started and what to be prepared for.

Note: This information is meant for traditional undergraduate students and their families. If you are applying to the Professionals program or one of our graduate programs, view the application process here.

1. Understand how financial aid is determined

If you want to know how your financial aid package will be calculated, view our Financial Aid 101 slideshow to understand how it all works. You can also take a look at our financial aid glossary to understand commonly used terms.

2. Complete the FAFSA

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It determines if you qualify you for need-based assistance programs such as government grants, institutional scholarships, and and federal subsidized loans.

The FAFSA opens on October 1st of each year, and the priority deadline is March 1st. We recommend you complete your FAFSA at the same time you apply for admission to Cal Lutheran. Be sure to include your social security number on both applications and use the Cal Lutheran School Code 001133 on the FAFSA when asked.

The FAFSA must be completed every year you attend Cal Lutheran with updated information. Learn more about the FAFSA and find a tutorial.

Start your FAFSA

3. What happens next?

Several things happen once your FAFSA and application for admission have been submitted.  

Some students are selected for "verification", which means the federal government wants us to verify the information provided on the FAFSA matches your tax documents. If you are selected, we will send you additional instructions at that time. Learn more about FAFSA verification.

If you are admitted to Cal Lutheran, you will be sent a financial aid award letter. This letter will outline the grants, scholarships, and loans in your financial aid package, and estimate your actual cost. The first award notification is mailed to your home address, but all other notifications will be delivered to your Cal Lutheran email address which you should check regularly.  Awards are often adjusted due to new information and should be monitored regularly. 

Students may also review their award at anytime through their personalized student portal.  (Access instructions are provided with you Letter of Admission and with your Award Letter.)  As an additional service CLU provides an electronic version of the "Shopping Sheet" that provides greater detail on a student's awards.  

4. What kinds of financial aid are available?

At Cal Lutheran, we use many different types of financial aid. Using your FAFSA information, we evaluate your eligibility for federal and state aid. The majority of financial aid we offer comes directly from Cal Lutheran as academic scholarships, grant aid, or other scholarships.

We highly encourage you to apply for as many scholarships as possible. California residents should also consider their eligibility for the Cal Grant.

Many students find additional assistance through private resources such as businesses, churches, and online scholarship searches.

5. Financial aid award letter timing

Financial aid award letters will start being delivered on the approximate dates below, and continually thereafter as applications and all required paperwork is completed.

Award Letter Delivery
Early Action Applicants Late February
Regular Decision Applicants Late March
Continuing Cal Lutheran Students Early May

View the full list of important dates and deadlines

Revised Award Packages: Award packages may be revised for many reasons including changes to the FAFSA, new scholarships, or changes in housing or enrollment status.  Notices regarding revised awards are sent via the student’s Cal Lutheran email.  However, students can monitor their award package anytime through their personal student portal.

6. Student and parent loans 

Loans are often used to pay for charges not covered by other financial aid. Student loans are federally sponsored and in the student’s name. There are limitations on the amount that can be borrowed, but the loan does not have to repaid until after the student graduates or leaves school.

Parent loans are federal loans in the parent(s) name.  Parent loans have flexible amounts that can be used to cover all or some of the remaining charges not covered by scholarships and grants.  Parents have the opportunity to adjust amounts as needed, based on the final billed amount, financial changes in the family or adjustments to other aid.

You can read more about loans, including interest rates, loan limits, and application instructions on our Loans and Loan Counseling page.

8. How to find more sources of financial aid

We make every attempt to provide the best financial aid package available using the various scholarship and grant funds at our disposal. Although loans are included in the award package, they should be the last option. Some additional funding options include:

8. Payment options and financial clearance

After you've been admitted, sent in your deposit, and are getting ready to enroll, you'll need to understand how to pay your balance. Our Business Office will send you a "pre-bill" in early June that will include your anticipated charges for that academic year. It's difficult to provide an actual final amount at that time because charges are dependent on meal plan and residence hall selections.  Also, your final bill may be adjusted for changes in financial aid.

All charges should be accounted for by the "financial clearance' date, set by the Business Office, usually the first week of August.  Students must sign a Cal Lutheran Promissory Note and have made arrangements to pay the charges/outstanding balance through a combination of financial aid (including loans), payment plans and/or self-pay methods.  Students with balances over $500 will not be eligible to register for future terms.

9. Some other things you should know

  • Learn about special income circumstances that may affect your financial aid eligibility.
  • Read about student rights and responsibilities to know what's available to you, and what's expected of you.
  • Financial aid recipients are expected to make reasonable academic progress towards obtaining a degree as a condition to continue receiving federal, state or institutional financial aid programs. Learn more

Questions? Ask us!

We are here to help you through the entire financial aid process. If you ever have any questions, don't hesitate to talk with us. Contact our office


Consumer Information

Postsecondary institutions participating in federal student aid programs are required to make certain disclosures available to students. Find those disclosures and other consumer information here.

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