Financial Aid & Scholarship Information

FAFSA Information
California Dream Act Application Information
Scholarship Information
Advice for Low-Income Families
Advice for Middle Class/Upper Middle Class Families
Borrowing


FAFSA Information

Due to the ongoing technical glitches in the 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), deadline for California has been extended to April 2, 2024. HOWEVER, UCs are urging students to complete FAFSA by the original March 2, 2024 deadline.

You need to complete the form using tax information from the 2022 tax year (you must provide consent for access/use of federal tax information; more information here, including some circumstances where tax information may need to be entered in manually).

Feeling lost or confused about how to fill out the FAFSA? There are FREE California Cash for College workshops available to assist you. You may find workshops near you at the California Student Aid Commission website.

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California Dream Act Application Information

For AB 540/DACA/DREAM students in California, be sure to file the California Dream Act Application and NOT the FAFSA (even if you have a DACA SSN). Filing the FAFSA when you should be filing the California Dream Act Application will delay processing of your financial aid award!

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Scholarship Information

Keep in mind that you will likely receive loan or work-study offers to cover some or all of your UC costs (MINIMUM out-of-pocket cost for a UC starts at around $9,000 per year regardless of family income; calculate your estimated “net cost” for each UC campus here, which is what the UCs expect you to come up with on your own, by paying out-of-pocket, taking out loans, or getting work-study jobs). Be sure to apply for scholarships to reduce the loans you need to borrow or the need to work while attending college. You may find additional financial aid and scholarship resources for freshman or transfer students on my website (including resources for AB 540/DACA/DREAM students).

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Advice for Low-Income Families

Families making less than $80,000 annually and filed FAFSA on time will qualify for the UC Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan; HOWEVER, you may still receive loan and/or work-study offers to cover a part of your UC costs (even with the “debt-free pathway,” you will still likely face a MINIMUM out-of-pocket cost of at least $8,000 per year, with work-study prioritized over loans to cover that). Be sure to apply for scholarships to reduce the loans you need to borrow or the need to work while attending college.

If you are a transfer student and you have been using your Cal Grants and/or Pell Grants while attending community college, please see my post Cal Grants & Pell Grants at Community College for additional information regarding your financial aid after you transfer.

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Advice for Middle Class/Upper Middle Class Families

I strongly urge you to complete the FAFSA even if you don’t think you are eligible to receive need-based aid. Completing the form will guard against any unexpected changes in your financial situation and may help you qualify for merit-based scholarships (some organizations/programs require the FAFSA to award merit scholarships). Consider the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) program, which provides funding to help eligible middle-class students (who meet income and asset criteria) attend UCs or CSUs, but you MUST complete the FAFSA to qualify.

Please note that I make the recommendation below because many parents have asked me for financial aid advice and that often involves financial planning, which is a complicated and highly regulated field. This is simply for your information in case you are interested.

Given that FAFSA utilizes “Prior-Prior Year” (using tax information from two years prior for the current cycle of FAFSA) to calculate your financial aid eligibility, the ideal time to optimize it is at least THREE YEARS prior to college enrollment. However, even if you are late to the game, there are still things you can do now to improve your financial aid eligibility in future years. If you need help (or a second opinion), I recommend Stephanie Hancock of College AidWorks. She is knowledgeable, honest, and she genuinely cares about helping her clients get the best financial aid package possible (I spent two hours talking to her on the phone and learned more about financial aid than all of my previous years combined!).

Ready to jumpstart your financial aid process now? Enjoy an exclusive discount (pay $500 instead of $799) when you sign up for Stephanie’s AidProfiler (use this link to access the discount)! Stephanie will assess your current financial status and identify any opportunity to receive aid, where, and under what circumstances. You will walk away with a clear understanding of how much financial aid you will qualify and what actions you can take to maximize your need-based and merit-based aid. In addition, Stephanie is a financial advisor with Hancock Wealth Advisory (a registered investment adviser).

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Borrowing

Do NOT assume that you should just take out loans to pay for college and everything will work out. The government, colleges, and private lenders are NOT taking the time to educate you on how to manage your money or explain how crushing student loan debt could ruin your life. Loans are too easy to take out and the interests add up too quickly (particularly unsubsidized or private loans). Federal student loans will follow you for life and not to be taken lightly (you will carry the debt until you die because student loans typically cannot be discharged through bankruptcy). This is further complicated by predatory student loan servicers that are taking advantage of borrowers and contributing to skyrocketing student loan default rates (find a video that offers a clear, comprehensive explanation of the problem here – please note the video contains explicit language); some states have begun addressing the issue and California students are now protected by the California Student Borrower Bill Of Rights.

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