Financial Aid & Scholarships
Parents often ask whether their family should apply for financial aid. The California Student Aid Commission, which administers the Cal Grant program, recommends that every student apply for financial aid. Applying is also a good safety measure in case the family's financial situation changes.
The term Financial Aid includes need-based grants, scholarships, work study, student loans, and parent loans. All institutions of higher education evaluate requests for any type of financial aid by considering a student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if a family's income is too high for need-based aid, the student may qualify for scholarships, work-study, or low interest student loans.
Don't assume you will not qualify for financial aid. The FAFSA formula not only considers income and savings in calculating a family's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) but also other factors such as the age of the parents and the number of children enrolled in college. To estimate your EFC use the FAFSA4caster. The benefit of using this pre-application estimator is that data can be saved to pre-populate the online FAFSA form. A PIN isn't required to use the site, but having a PIN gives users access to many additional resources. The logon and PINs created for the FAFSA4caster will also be used for your FAFSA form.
Filing the FAFSA on time is important in case circumstances suddenly change (e.g. a parent loses a job); it is much easier to amend an existing application and ask a college to reconsider the application before their discretionary funds are distributed. Families should NOT wait until the last year's tax return to complete the FAFSA; estimate information based on the previous year, then amend the application when you have the most accurate data. It's important to file the FAFSA on time; check the colleges for specific deadlines.
For help and advice, you can call FAFSA Customer Service at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).