Understanding Financial Aid Resources

“Fund Your Future”: (Click here for the Spanish version): This is one of the best guides to understanding financial aid for students in California. It is available in multiple languages. From the California Student Aid Commission, this guide explains a variety of federal and state grants and loans, how to apply for financial aid, how financial aid is calculated, and how loans are typically repaid.

BigFuture: The College Board’s website is chock full of information about financial aid, scholarships, merit aid, and more. Easy to read and navigate. Videos are available too.

StudentAid.ed.gov (Click here for the Spanish site): Information about financial aid that comes from the federal government (federal loans, grants, etc.). From the U.S. Department of Education.

Fafsa.ed.gov (Click here for the Spanish site): Link to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). If you are applying for Fall Semester enrollment, you should fill out the FAFSA in January of your senior year at the earliest. If you have specific questions about the FAFSA, you can call one of the telephone numbers provided below:
Telephone: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)
TTY: 1-800-730-8913
Spanish speakers are available (se habla espanol)

FAFSA4caster (Click here for the Spanish site): To estimate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

CSS Profile: Some colleges may require the CSS Profile as part of your financial aid application. Use this website to find out which colleges require it, and to complete the application.

Cash for College Workshops (Click here for the Spanish site): In January and February each year, the California Student Aid Commission hosts FREE workshops on how to fill out the FAFSA. These workshops are scheduled throughout January and February at various locations. Search by county to find the workshop nearest you.

Cal Grants (Click here for the Spanish site): If you plan to go to a public or private, 2-yr or 4-yr college in California, find out more about CalGrants and their eligibility requirements. After you’ve applied, if you would like to follow up on the status of your application, visit https://mygrantinfo.csac.ga.gov/logon.asp.

NEW: The Middle Class Scholarship FAQs for California residents.

CalGrants for AB540 Students: Starting January 1, 2013, AB540 students will be able to apply online for Cal Grants. Here is a short video describing the California Dream Act. See your counselor or Ms. Nguyen at the CCC for details.

Financial Aid Guide for AB540 Students: This guide contains information about AB540 and in-state tuition, the California Dream Act (AB130 and AB131), privacy concerns, applying to private colleges, and other sources of financial aid available to AB540 students. Also, check out some resources from the UC schools and these lists of scholarships that you might be eligible to apply for.

Tips on Getting Financial Aid

  • Check the Financial Aid webpages of each college on your list to learn about the school’s own scholarship forms and deadlines, and any offered by alumni or related groups. Some scholarships that colleges offer will require application materials that are separate from the regular application. Their financial aid webpages will also have web links that take students to additional scholarship portals.
  • Learn about the about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. You and your parents will need to complete this very important form in no earlier than January 1st of your Senior year (do not file earlier, or it will not be processed correctly). It is a good idea to fill out the FAFSA, regardless of your income, because your family’s financial situation could unexpectedly change between the time you apply to college, and the time college acceptances arrive in April, and even over the summer before your college freshman year. Also, the majority of need-based scholarships, merit scholarships with need-based elements, and/or student loans require you to submit the FAFSA. For example, to qualify for a Cal Grant, you must file the FAFSA on or before March 2.
  • To get an estimate of how much a specific college might cost to your specific family, each college’s financial aid webpage will have a “net price calculator” or “net cost calculator.” Remember, your actual financial aid offer may differ from the info on this calculator, based on a variety of factors.
  • Check Naviance’s list of many local scholarships which is updated regularly throughout the year. Click on the “colleges” tab, then click on “scholarship list”. You can then use a drop-down menu to filter scholarships by categories like athletics, career-interest, visual and performing arts, etc.
  • Ask your parents to ask to their employers’ Personnel or Human Resources offices about any scholarships. If you have a job, ask your own employer.
  • Conduct online searches for scholarships. See links below for such search portals.
  • Get a part-time job and save for college. Talk to Mr. Gradiska at the CCC at LUNCH time about places that are currently hiring or often employ M-A students.
  • The Choice blog on the New York Times posted Q&A's from one of the nation’s premier financial aid experts on several topics: the FAFSA, loans, finding scholarships and other financial aid offers.
  • Here is another NY Times article on appealing financial aid offers.