Freshmen Financial Aid & Scholarships


General Financial Aid Information

There are endless resources online to help you find money for college. Just beware of places that ask you to pay for information and/or ask for your Social Security number up front. The California Student Aid Commission has some resources on how to avoid scholarship scams: Is it a free scholarship? Or a scam? You should also try your local library; many online resources are published in book form (and staying offline when you first get started might be a good idea until you learn how to spot a scam). For libraries on the Dewey Decimal System, look for call number 378 for financial aid books.

For an overview of tax credits and college savings plans, see Tax Benefits from Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of misconceptions about how much colleges charge for tuition. Public colleges (like the UCs) are not necessarily cheaper than private colleges. As of 2011, every college that participates in federal student aid programs must post a “net price calculator” on its website to provide estimated out-of-pocket tuition cost. Search “net price calculator” on the college website to find out how much you are expected to pay to help you decide whether the college is affordable.

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Federal, State, and UC Financial Aid Resources

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FAFSA Workshops

Need help with filling out FAFSA? Sign up for one of the FREE California Cash for College workshops near you to get assistance on filling out your FAFSA and Cal Grant GPA Verification Form. Workshops are available from January to the March 2 priority deadline.

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UC Tuition & Financial Aid

For comprehensive financial aid information directly from the UCs, including different types of financial aid available and ways to control cost, visit UC Tuition & Financial Aid.

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UC Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan

Under the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, freshman students whose family income is below $80,000 will receive enough scholarships and grants to fully cover their UC fees for the first 4 years of college. But keep in mind that the expensive part of an UC education is not the fees but the housing and everything else. See the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan for more information.

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State and Federal Financial Aid Publications

Below are financial aid publications from the state of California and the federal government that will walk you through the basics:

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College Funding Guidance

Most middle and upper-middle income families can lower out-of-pocket college costs, maximize grants and scholarships, and minimize debt with a little planning.

Get the basics of how to navigate the college funding maze with SMARTTRACK’s free hour-long webinar. For more help, sign up for a free SMARTTRACK account (for parents or guardians) to receive a complimentary College Funding Evaluation with a professional SMARTTRACK Advisor, as well as access to free money-saving tools (such as EFC calculator and tax strategies). Services and additional resources can be purchased through the account at a discount if further guidance is needed. Purchases made from SMARTTRACK will generate a commission that helps support the free content on this website!

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Student Loans

Carefully consider your financial situation and take the time to apply for scholarships before taking out student loans. Be wary of the assumption that using loans to pay for college is the norm and that 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 for 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). Predatory student loan servicers have also been contributing to higher student loan default rates (please note, the link takes you to a video that contains explicit language; unfortunately it’s the only one I could find that provides a clear enough explanation regarding the problems with student loan servicers); although California student loan borrowers will benefit from expanded state protection starting in 2021.

There are resources out there to help though, you just have to look (and beware of scams). Do an online search for “interest free loans for students” or use the Interest Free Student Loans list put together by Student Loan Hero as a starting point.

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Information for AB 540/DREAM Students

California has passed legislation to provide state and UC financial aid to AB 540/DREAM students. Qualifying AB 540/DREAM students may borrow money through the California DREAM Loan Program to cover any financial aid gap.

ScholarshipsA-Z maintains a pretty comprehensive list of scholarships for AB 540 students. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard of California Congressional District 34 puts out a Student Resource Guide that includes several AB 540 scholarships. MALDEF publishes Scholarship Resources that include a Scholarship Resource Guide with AB 540 scholarships. Educators For Fair Consideration (E4FC) puts out a list of scholarships available for immigrant students that don’t have U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency. AffordableColleges.com maintains a short list of scholarships and resources for undocumented students.

Dr. Rebecca Joseph of Get Me To College periodically updates her list of AB540/Dreamer Friendly Colleges. It’s a great place to start if you are considering private or out-of-state colleges.

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Scholarship Search Sites

The search sites below have been vetted by high school and/or independent counselors I know. Keep in mind that no matter how legitimate the search sites are, they cannot keep out fraudsters 100% of the time. Take caution when you apply for scholarships and look around online to verify the legitimacy of the organizations before you submit your personal information. For tips on avoiding scams, see the General Financial Aid Information above.

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