Student Loans: Understand the Financial Aid Timeline

Follow five guidelines when marketing student loans.

May 9, 2013

Spring is an exciting time of year when the families of many high school seniors are scrambling to decide which college or university their children will attend.

It is also a scary time for families who, as they receive their financial aid award letters, realize just how much they’ll have to pay toward the students’ higher education.

Marketing private student loans effectively starts with understanding the financial aid timeline:


High-school seniors receive financial aid award letters and make final decisions on where they will attend school in the fall.


Families begin to search for financing options to bridge the gap between the cost of tuition and federal aid awarded.


Families receive fall tuition bills and must decide how to fund the gap in federal aid by either paying out of pocket or by procuring a private student loan—hopefully through a credit union.

Most students will require a creditworthy co-signer to be eligible.


Fall tuition bills are due and students in need of private student loans commit to a lender and finalize the loan process.

Keeping the financial aid timeline in mind, it’s important to start marketing your private student loan program early—preferably in May—and to follow these five general guidelines to capture members:

1. Target both students and parents. Communicate your marketing message to the right audience. Segment your list into potential college students and their parents based on the age demographic.

If you already have a student loan portfolio, secure repeat business through graduation by marketing to current borrowers.

2. Engage young members with social media. College attendance is a huge topic for your young members, and presents great engagement opportunities via social media.

According to a University of Minnesota-Duluth study, 94% of undergraduates check their Facebook accounts at least one to two times each day. Boost views and likes for your credit union fan page by offering college-related content that matches up to your marketing calendar.

3. Teach financial literacy. While providing complimentary access to educational resources and college-planning events may not book loans immediately, it can build trust with your members and generate volume down the road when students are ready to apply.

Your members should understand how to take control of their finances early and only borrow what they can pay back.

4. Help your community. Local high-schools are searching for ways to help students and families with college financial planning. Contact the guidance department to introduce yourself and your program.

Credit unions are a trusted resource for financial services, and providing a low-cost lending option along with financial literacy will raise awareness and recognition of your offerings.

5. Don’t lose business to a bank. Other financial institutions will advertise aggressively to this young demographic, but they cannot offer the exceptional service or borrower benefits that your credit union can.

Students deserve to know about your affordable student loans—and your credit union deserves having young members for life.

KEN O’CONNOR is director of student advocacy at LendKey (formerly Fynanz), a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider. As the voice of the College Resource Center blog on, he helps students achieve their education and career goals without losing sight of financial responsibility. Contact him at 800-881-8985.