By: Connie Lucio, College Counselor
12th grade is the time to apply for college admission and financial aid.
To start, the first thing you need to do is determine whether you will complete the FAFSA or the California Dream Act Application. It is important to note that you will complete one or the other, never both!
- The FAFSA is the application for federal student aid like Pell Grants and federal student loans. You are eligible to complete the FAFSA if you are a US citizen, permanent resident, eligible non-citizen, or a T-Visa Holder.
- The California Dream Act Application (CADAA) is an application for private scholarships, university grants, and California state aid like the Cal Grant. You are eligible for the CADAA if you are undocumented, have a valid or expired Visa, have Temporary Protective Status (TPS), be a U Visa holder or meet the non-resident exemption requirements under AB 540.
Now that you know whether you will be completing the FAFSA or the Dream Act application, there are some items you need to gather to prepare for the application. Here are seven tips to give you the best chance of getting the most aid.
- DON’T ASSUME YOU AREN’T ELIGIBLE
Any student thinking of applying for college, or in college, should submit the FAFSA or Dream Act. It’s FREE! Many state governments and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for non-federal aid, such as college grants and college scholarships.
- APPLY AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE
Financial aid applications opened annually on October 1. Even though you have until February to submit, some aid is awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, so don’t wait! Apply as early as possible each year to increase your chances of getting the most financial aid.
- APPLY EVERY YEAR
In order to qualify for financial aid, you must submit every year, even if your financial situation hasn’t changed.
- CHECK FOR MISTAKES BEFORE SUBMITTING
After filling out, go back and make sure there are no errors. Mistakes on your application can cause processing delays and prevent you from getting the most financial aid possible.
- APPEAL YOUR AWARD
If you’re not satisfied with your financial aid award and you or your family’s financial situation changed after submitting the FAFSA (such as family illness, divorce, or job loss), you can appeal your award. Call the financial aid office, explain your case.
- PREPARE DOCUMENTS
You’ll need the following information about yourself and your parents, if you’re a dependent student:
– FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID — if you haven’t created one, you will need to do this before completing the FAFSA),
– Most recent federal income tax information or tax return,
– W-2 forms from jobs and all other records of money earned,
– Bank statements and account balances, records of investments, and untaxed income (if applicable).
- AFTER APPLYING
Be sure to create a Webgrants Account and check your College Portal or email for document requests. Then submit all requested documents ASAP. And finally, review your college acceptances and compare the colleges’ financial aid offers.