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FAFSA Information

In case you haven’t heard, the 2018-19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is open now (as of October 1, 2017) and you should complete the form using tax information from the 2016 tax year (you can pull income-tax information directly from the IRS by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool that is embedded in the FAFSA).

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/DREAM/Deferred Action students, be sure to file the California Dream Act Application and NOT the FAFSA (even if you are DACA and received a 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 may receive loan offers to cover some or all of your college costs (your minimum out-of-pocket cost at a UC is at least $9k every year, regardless of your family income; Google “[UC campus] net price calculator” to run the numbers). Be sure to apply for scholarships to reduce the loans you need to take. You may find additional financial aid and scholarship resources for freshman or transfer students (including AB 540/DREAM/Deferred Action students) on my website.

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Advice for Low Income Families

Families with incomes below $80,000 qualify for the UC Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan; however, you may still receive loan offers to cover a part of your college costs (remember that your minimum out-of-pocket cost at a UC is at least $9k every year, regardless of your family income; Google “[UC campus] net price calculator” to run the numbers). Be sure to apply for scholarships to minimize any loans you need to take.

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.

You know you are going to college, the only uncertainty is where. Don’t leave financial aid up to chance. Take action today to ensure you have the means to pay for college!

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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 colleges, such as the UCs, and other organizations require the FAFSA to award merit scholarships). Consider the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) program, which provides funding to help middle-class students attend UCs or CSUs; families with incomes between $80,000 and $165,000 per year are eligible, but you MUST complete the FAFSA to qualify.

If you need help navigating the financial aid maze, I recommend Stephanie Hancock of College Aid Consulting. 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!). If you are simply not sure where to start, invest $150 for Stephanie’s Aid Profiler service; she 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, as a financial advisor with Hancock Wealth Advisory (a registered investment adviser), Stephanie can help you with shielding assets if opportunities exist.

You know you are going to college, the only uncertainty is where. Don’t leave financial aid up to chance. Take action today to ensure you have optimal financial aid eligibility!

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