How to apply for financial aid in California

By Sergio A. Lagunas @salagunas

Applying for financial aid can seem intimidating and complicated. The reality is that any new process will appear to be challenging. Once you do it the first time, it gets easier every year as you renew your eligibility for financial aid. The biggest expenses to consider when comparing how much it costs to attend a college or university is housing and tuition.

Housing costs for living on-campus can average about $13,000 to $18,000 a year when accounting for both rent and a meal plan. Tuition at the California State University for a California resident is about $11,484 for an academic year. Similarly, the University of California‘s tuition for an academic year is about $12,570.

Financial aid in the form of state, federal, and institutional gift aid can help cover tuition and a portion of your housing expenses.

What is financial aid?

Financial aid is grants, scholarships, and student loans. When you apply for government financial aid, you will be applying for all available state, federal, and institutional financial aid programs. Your financial aid award will be based on your financial need.

How do you apply?

Financial aid applications open October 1st and the California priority deadline is March 2nd.

If you are a US Citizen or US Permanent Resident, you can apply for financial aid by completing and submitting a FAFSA Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

If you are undocumented and a California resident, you can apply for financial aid by submitting a California Dream Act Application.

If you need help completing your application, there are several workshops lined up starting in October all across the state of California: Find a workshop near you: Cash4college.

What is next?

  1. Your financial aid information will be sent to the schools you list on your application.
  2. Upon admissions decisions, the office of financial aid at each school you are admitted to will offer you an estimated financial aid award.
  3. Once you commit to a school, they will soon after provide you with an official financial aid award for that academic year.
  4. Contact your financial aid office if you have any questions regarding your financial aid package.
  5. You will need to renew your FAFSA or CA Dream Act application every year to qualify for financial aid for the following academic year(s).