Applying for Financial Aid

The most crucial part of applying for financial aid is adhering to deadlines for each form.

All students and parents applying for aid at any public college or university will have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which comes from the Department of Education. The FAFSA can be filed as early as October 1. It will call for figures from the 2019 Tax Return, which parents should have available by the fall of 2020. The form is sent to a central processor who analyzes it and sends the results, called a needs analysis, to the colleges and scholarship programs that have been designated by the applicant.

Undocumented students will not be eligible for federal aid but will generally be eligible to receive private funds from the college. College financial aid offices will often guide undocumented students to an application process that mirrors their process for international students applying for financial aid. Applicants should feel comfortable requesting information about financial aid for undocumented students; most colleges will have thoughtful processes in place.

All students and parents applying for aid at California colleges or universities, public or private, should apply for California State Scholarships, commonly known as Cal Grants. Necessary information considered for a Cal Grant is included on the FAFSA. An additional form, the GPA Verification Form, is also required and will be available in the Deans’ Office in January.

Many families applying to private colleges will have to also file the CSS PROFILE, a customized financial aid form produced by the College Scholarship Service through the College Board. The PROFILE is tailored to reflect the specific requirements of the various colleges to which the student is applying and from which aid is being sought. There is a fee for the preliminary registration form in addition to a charge for each institution listed in a student’s PROFILE. You must check the college’s application materials to see if the PROFILE is required and when it must be submitted. Each college has its own deadline.

In addition to these standardized forms, some colleges still require short forms of their own, and some will request a certified copy of the most recent 1040 form. Again, each college has its own deadline. Make sure you know what it is for each college. Meeting deadlines is crucial; most colleges will not have aid available to families wh