Financial Aid Process

multiple UG students in commencement attire showing off their diplomas

Seven Steps to Financial Aid

By working through these steps, we hope you will find all the information you need to successfully complete the financial aid process. As you go through the steps, don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions or are unclear about any part of the process.

Please also be aware that our office will send many items to you at your Messiah University email address, so it is very important that you check this regularly.

Most communications will go only to the student email.  This means that, for parents to be informed, they will need to be in regular contact with the student.

A common request we receive is to have copies of all Financial Aid communications forwarded to parents.  While our system is not able to function in this fashion, we have created a set of instructions that students can use to forward emails to parents, or anyone whom they would like to receive copies.  Click here to see these instructions.

The financial aid process is a team effort, and we need you to do your part. Here are some of the important things you can do:

  • Quite simply, carefully read through all the information, especially the instructions and any communications we send to you.
  • Check out Types of Aid to identify any Messiah University, government or private financial aid programs for which you may qualify, and make sure you review everything on our Financial Aid Forms page, including a publication called “Financial Aid Instructions," which contains detailed instructions for completing the applications.
  • If you need our office to send you a paper copy of these forms, please contact us at or 717-691-6007.

In addition to this, the various federal and state forms each contain extensive instructions of their own. If you need help with the federal forms, we can help you, but you might also try the United States Department of Education's toll-free number for information and instructions on applying for federal student aid. This phone number is 800-433-3243.

Read Scholarships, Grants and Loans to learn about the different types of aid.

As you review all of this information, it’s important to keep in mind that not every form of financial aid applies to everyone’s situation.  For example, you may decide that you don’t want to apply for forms of financial aid which are based on your financial need.  Still, we recommend that each student review all of this information so that you can be sure you are applying for everything for which you might qualify.

After reading these instructions, if you want to proceed with the application process, go to Step 2 to learn about filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


Review 2024-25 FAFSA Changes

Complete your FAFSA now at FAFSA on the web

  • This step should be completed if you want to apply for need-based financial aid, which includes most of the federal and state programs.  Also, you cannot receive the Messiah University Grant without filing the FAFSA.
  • When asked for the school code, please enter Messiah University's code—003298.
    • Also complete the Housing Plans section.
  • If you decide that you do not want to proceed with applying for need-based financial aid, contact the financial aid office to have this requirement waived on your record.  Otherwise, we'll keep sending you emails to remind you to do this.

The FAFSA is used to apply for

  • Federal work-study—Check “yes”. (“Are you interested in being considered for work-study?”) Indicating an interest in student employment will not decrease your grants or scholarships.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (no separate application necessary)
  • Federal Stafford Loans (automatically added to your financial aid package when you file a FAFSA.) Student loans will not decrease your grants or scholarships.
  • Federal PLUS Loan
  • Federal TEACH Grants
  • State grants (some require separate application)
  • Messiah University grants and scholarships based on financial need (no separate application necessary)


IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Almost all applicants should be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to roll their tax data into the FAFSA.  You should use the DRT, rather than typing the income information into your FAFSA.  It will be easier and help avoid errors.  By using DRT, you will be using your completed and accepted tax data, which should be correct, so you should not make changes after you roll your tax data into your FAFSA.

Tax Year for FAFSA filers

The FAFSA will require your tax information from two years prior to the academic year for which you are applying. 

If you filed your taxes more than two weeks before completing your FAFSA, you should be able to roll your tax data right into your FAFSA using the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).  If, for any reason, the DRT doesn't work for you, make sure you have a copy of the tax information for both you and your parents.  This will help you to quickly and accurately complete your FAFSA.


This chart illustrates the beginning FAFSA filing dates and appropriate tax years for the next few academic years.





JULY 1, 2023 – JUNE 30, 2024


OCTOBER 1, 2022 – JUNE 30, 2024


JULY 1, 2022 – JUNE 30, 2023


OCTOBER 1, 2021 – JUNE 30, 2023



Renewing your FAFSA (for continuing students)

Any current student who filed a FAFSA for the previous year will receive a reminder to complete the Renewal Application on-line. The on-line Renewal Application contains the information that the student entered on the previous year’s application. The student simply needs to update any items that have changed.  Renewal applicants should also use the DRT to roll tax data into the FAFSA.  This will result in the quickest and smoothest filing process.

NOTE: Previous school codes will not be rolled over; please enter Messiah University’s code: 003298.



Both you and your parent (if you are a dependent student) will need an FSA User ID to electronically sign your FAFSA.  It is very important to understand that this is a legal signature and one person is not authroized to create or use an FSA ID on behalf of someone else, including a family member.  In other words, parents should not create and use an FSA ID for the student.  Misrepresentation of your identity to the federal government could result in criminal or civil penalties.  Parents can help the student create their FSA ID and help them use it to sign documents, but the parent cannot sign on behalf of the student.


Tips for Completing the FAFSA

Use your name as it appears on your Social Security card. Do not use different names, such as F. Scott and Francis S., on different applications (FAFSA and other forms). Do not use initials or include name extensions such as Jr. or III.

Very Important Note: If you or a parent has experienced a name change (e.g. – as a result of marriage) and did not change the name with the Social Security Administration, this will cause a mismatch. This is a very common problem. Please make sure that this information is accurate.

Social Security Numbers and Date of Birth: Misreporting of Social Security Numbers (SSN) and Date of Birth is one of the most common problems we encounter.  Please check this item carefully.

Student’s (and spouse’s) U.S. income tax paid and/or Parents' income tax paid: This is the tax you actually paid.  Do not report the amount withheld from your pay during the year.  Do not include self-employment tax.  Use the amounts of taxes actually paid as shown on your tax forms.

Student’s (and spouses) income earned from work: If the student and/or spouse worked and had earned income, the amount earned should be reported even if it was not enough to pay taxes on.



After you file your FAFSA, you will receive an acknowledgement email from the federal processor.  This just lets you know that your application has been received and is in process.

When the processing of your FAFSA is completed, you will receive a Student Aid Report. The Student Aid Report is a summary of your application data. Review this carefully for any messages about things you need to do and for information about your eligibility for various financial aid programs.

Messiah will also receive this report, and we will use it to get started on the completion of your financial aid package.


Depending on the information that is conveyed to us as a result of filing the FAFSA, it is possible that you may need to submit additional information to the Messiah University Financial Aid Office.  For this reason, it is very important that you monitor both the Financial Aid Requirements in self-service (FALCONlink for continuing students; Accepted Student Resources webpage for prospective students) and your Messiah University email account on a regular basis.  Please provide any and all information that is requested.  In most cases, you will find a detailed description of the specific information that is being requested.  However, if you still have questions, please feel free to email or call our office.  It is likely that we will not be able to complete the financial aid package until we have received and processed any additional information that is requested.

When you file your FAFSA, the federal processor might select you for verification. If so, the Messiah University financial aid office will also send you an email with instructions on what you need to do. You will access this information via your account.

Read more about verification requirements.

Regardless of whether you are selected for verification or have additional requirements for some other reasons, we normally can't complete the processing of your aid until we receive all these requirements from you, so it is very important for you to pay attention to all the communications we send you and respond to us as quickly as possible.

If we let you know that there are additional requirements you need to complete, you can access your Student Requirements here (Prospective students can also reference the financial aid sections of the Accepted Student Resources webpage).  Review the instructions in your  account and respond with any forms or other information we are requesting from you. The links to most requested forms will appear in the text of your requirements along with all the information and instructions you need to satisfy these requirements.  If you need additional help, please don't hesitate to contact us.

New students

We start working on new student financial aid applications in early January. If you have filed a FAFSA by that date, within a few weeks you should receive an email message (at your Messiah University email address) with instructions for viewing your online Financial Aid Award Notice.  After that date, you should expect to receive notification of the availability of your award within a few days of the date we receive your FAFSA results. This date could vary depending on outside factors.

Continuing students

You should receive your package by July 15. Please keep in mind that we don’t start financial aid packages for continuing students until May and they won’t be finished until mid-July. If there are any items that are needed to complete your file, you will be notified via your Messiah University email account. It is not necessary for you to contact us about the status of your package until July 15, unless you have reason to believe there is a problem.

Privacy Word

Financial Aid Office staff (and staff in other University offices) will not be able to discuss sensitive data (financial aid awards, tax data, etc.) with you or your designated individual (usually your parent) unless you have established your Privacy Word.  If you have not yet done this, please go to to create your Privacy Word.  This requirement does not apply to prospective students until they officially enroll at Messiah University.

After you've completed all of your requirements and are waiting for us to complete your financial aid package, you can still make good use of your time by looking for some other resources. Private scholarships, along with other state and federal grants, will help make college more affordable.  

How to find scholarships

This information will link you to web-based Free Scholarship Search Services and some pages with lists of other scholarships for which you might qualify. Search Services can help you find private scholarships for which you qualify. If you have not already done this, visit this page and set up one or more profiles to search for private scholarships. Some of these scholarships may have deadlines that are quickly approaching, so we recommend that every student give this a try as soon as possible.

Find out more

How to find grants

Our grants page will give you more information about some of the major state and federal grant programs, and a few other programs from Messiah University. For the most part, if you have completed your FAFSA, you have already applied for these and, if you are eligible, we will include them in your financial aid package. But you should still review this page to get more information and identify any of these programs for which you might qualify. In particular, if you live in one of the following states, see this page for more information about grants from there: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.

Find out more

After all the necessary forms and other information are received, the Messiah University Financial AId Office builds financial aid packages for students who qualify for financial aid.  A financial aid package will be built for incoming students as soon as the financial aid file is complete, beginning in mid-January.

When your financial aid package is completed and ready to review, we will send you an email at your Messiah University email account. This email will not contain your actual financial aid package but will give you instructions on how to access your award in our secure web portal.

Once you have accessed your award notice, you will need to follow these steps:

Step 1: Review your award

On the Award Overview tab, learn how your financial aid is calculated and what aid we can offer you.

Step 2: Complete any questions

On the Resources/Additional Information tab you need to complete any questions before you may continue to the next tab.

Step 3: Accept your terms and conditions

On the Terms and Conditions tab, read and accept the Terms & Conditions for receiving aid. No aid (merit or need based) will be applied toward your bill until you have accepted these terms and conditions.

Step 4: Accept your financial aid award

On the Accept Award Offer tab you need to accept or decline any financial aid that is in Offered Status. To change an award that is already in accepted or declined status or to make changes to an individual term amount, please contact our office.

Step 5: Review special messages related to your aid

On the Special Messages tab you learn about the next steps in the financial aid process and important information specific to your aid. On this tab you can also complete the What Do I Owe worksheet to calculate your actual out of pocket costs after your financial aid.

If, after reviewing your financial aid award, you think you will need additional resources to help pay the cost of attendance, here are some options to consider:

If you haven’t already reviewed Step 5, please do so to find out about other scholarships and grants.

Additional borrowing

If you are considering an additional loan, there are several options.

  • If you are a dependent student, your parents might want to consider a Parent PLUS Loan. This is a loan made to the parents to help pay the dependent student’s college costs.
  • If you are an independent student, or a dependent student whose parents do not want to take out a PLUS Loan, check out the loans on our private loan page. These loans can be taken out by both dependent and independent students, but you’ll typically get the best deal if you have someone to co-sign the loan with you. That is often a parent, even if you are independent, but it can be anyone who is credit-worthy and willing to co-sign.
  • When applying for one of these loans, you need to consider all the expenses you will have. These expenses include more than just tuition, fees, room and board. On the Award Overview tab of your award on your Self-Service menu (prospective students use the Accepted Student Resources webpage), we have provided our calculation of your total cost of attendance. You may want to borrow enough to cover these amounts. Your total cost of attendance minus the other aid you have already received is the maximum loan you can receive (On the Special Messages tab, we have provided our calculation of your maximum PLUS or Alternative Loan Eligibility), but some people may not need as much as we have included in each of the cost of attendance categories, so don’t borrow more than you really need. Review your total cost of attendance and adjust your borrowing based on what you think your actual expenses will be.
  • If you think your expenses will be higher than we have estimated in any of the categories, contact us to discuss an adjustment, since you can’t borrow more than what we have currently estimated as your total cost and only the financial aid office can increase one of these categories.


You may not have saved enough to pay all of your college expenses, but even smaller amounts of savings can make a big difference in what you need to repay in loans after you graduate. Review all of your savings and make a plan for how much you can use each year toward your college expenses. Although it might seem difficult to spend that money now, in the long run you’ll be much better off.

Monthly Payment Plan

NEW ****   Messiah University is moving to “Semester Only” payment plans with CASHNet.  “Semester Only” plans will make it easier for students and families. Learn more about how to take advantage of this option.

Tuition Insurance

Consider tuition insurance to supplement and strengthen our refund policy. We believe it’s important to offer an easy, affordable way to protect the investment your family has made in higher education.

That’s why Messiah University is pleased to announce we have partnered with GradGuard™  to provide our families with tuition insurance featuring special plans and rates not available to the general public. 

This insurance program complements and enhances our school's refund policy and we believe families will benefit from this added protection by offering reimbursement for covered illness, injury or mental health withdrawals at any time during the semester.

The deadline to apply is the day before the first day of classes each semester.

Unusual Circumstances

We often receive requests for adjustments to the FAFSA results or the financial aid package based on unusual circumstances. Typical circumstances upon which an adjustment can be considered are loss of employment (including due to injury or illness), reduction of business income, extreme medical expenses not covered by insurance, or loss due to natural disaster, but many different circumstances can be considered. If you wish to submit unusual circumstances to our office to assist in the determination of your eligibility for financial aid, send us a signed letter describing the circumstances. Please include specific information with dollar amounts, if applicable. Please make us aware of your unusual circumstances as soon as possible. Waiting until summer will make it difficult for us to process your circumstance before bill payment deadlines, and it is unlikely that additional aid will be available at that time.  Note: We do not normally adjust for private elementary or secondary school tuition paid unless attendance at the school was required for reasons outside the control of the family.  We cannot adjust because of family choice.

Well, now that you’ve completed The Seven Steps to Financial Aid, you should be ready to start your college career. We look forward to having you on campus. As always, if there is any way the Messiah University Financial Aid Office can help you, please do not hesitate to contact us.

If you have questions about federal or state financial aid programs, you can also try these numbers:

  • 1-800-433-3243 - Federal Aid Programs
  • 1-800-692-7392 or 1-717-720-2800 - for questions regarding the Pennsylvania State Grant