For all students planning to attend college or vocational school this coming fall, January is prime time to apply for financial aid. Applications must be filed prior to March 1st in order for a student to be eligible for grants, subsidized loans, or work/study during the fall semester. A handful of colleges award their own scholarships on a priority basis starting on February 1st ; it is worthwhile to check the “priority deadline” for the colleges to which you have applied.
First Step -- All students should complete the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the basis for all federal and state grants (including the new Middle Class Scholarship Program), subsidized loans, and campus employment. Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov to get started with the application. The FAFSA on the Web Worksheet (included with this letter) should help you with the process. DO NOT MAIL THE WORKSHEET: the application itself will be made online. You may receive mailings or emails from private, for-profit companies who offer their assistance in this process; however, the official FAFSA website has all the information you need at no cost. Important deadline: March 1st.
Second Step – Students from lower and middle-income families who plan to attend California schools should proceed to the Cal Grant application. Go to www.calgrants.org to get started. This is a much less complicated process, and it is also free: once you have completed the FAFSA application, you have already done most of the work. The Cal Grant online form asks for GPA verification; this has already been submitted for all current twelfth graders attending Venture and other high schools in our district. (Eleventh graders graduating this year must print a hard copy of the GPA Verification Form and bring it to me for completion.) Alert: Your name in our school database must exactly match the name which you use on FAFSA and Cal Grant applications. If not, you will need to bring your GPA verification paperwork with Social Security number to the Venture counseling office for completion and submission. Important deadline: March 1st.
Third Step – Students who are applying to private colleges and universities may be required to complete the CSS (“College Scholarship Service”) Financial Aid Profile, which can be submitted at any time. The CSS Profile is used to determine eligibility for non-government financial aid, such as the institution’s own grants, loans, and scholarships. File online at student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile. A basic fee is charged for the profile plus an additional fee for each campus selected.
Fourth Step – Research additional sources of financial assistance and scholarships. Free “Cash for College” workshops are held at a number of Bay Area locations in January and February. Selecting the “Cash for College” link at www.Calgrants.org will allow you to input your zip code and locate programs close to your home. Don’t forget that some large companies, service organizations, union or professional groups, and fraternal organizations offer scholarships to the children of their employees and members. It’s worthwhile to investigate and use your connections.
Other helpful websites:
www.Calgrants.org (helpful information in addition to Cash For College programs)
www.csac.ca.gov (extensive information about California programs and schools, including Webinars on various financial aid and scholarship topics)
www.finaid.org (an overview of types of aid, advice, tools, and application links)
www.FAFSA4caster.ed.gov (not a substitute of the FAFSA application)
https://secure.csumentor.edu/FinAid/ (for CSU applicants)
www.studentaid.gov/checklist (site contains other helpful links)
Cal High, Dougherty Valley, Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley High Schools have “College and Career Centers” on campus. You can access helpful financial aid information by going to the school’s homepage, clicking on the Counseling tab, followed by the College and Career Center link.