– All 12th graders and their families are strongly encouraged to attend our Financial Aid workshop in the fall! –
While everyone knows that college tuition is expensive, many don’t realize just how much financial aid is available, in the form of loans, grants and scholarships. The good news: what many students actually pay is far less than that the cost printed in the college brochures! Even with the recent downturn in the economy, colleges are still committed to providing financial aid because they want a diverse student body and strongly believe that financial need should not be a barrier to higher education.
The not-so-good news: financial aid can be complex and confusing. However, there is help – CAT is committed to working closely with our students and their families to navigate the process from beginning to end. Use the information below to become familiar with the basics of financial aid, but be aware that it is much more complex than this. Students will be given plenty of information at school, and parents/guardians should plan to attend the Financial Aid workshop in the fall and the online FAFSA workshop in January or February.
Financial Aid is awarded in the form of:
- Grants and Scholarships – Money that you do not have to repay.
- Loans – Borrowed money that must be repaid with interest.
- Work Study – Part-time jobs provided to students, who can then use their wages for tuition, and other college and living expenses.
How to Apply for Financial Aid
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a form that all colleges use to calculate the expected family contribution in order to determine eligibility for most types of financial aid.
The FAFSA is free to complete and can be submitted at FAFSA.ed.gov. (Do not use “www.fafsa.com” as this is a commercial site which requires families to pay to submit the FAFSA.) The FAFSA can be submitted between January 1 of the year a student plans to start college and June 30 of the following year. However, the deadline to file the FAFSA for students to qualify for a Cal Grant is March 2 of a student’s senior year. It is a good idea to file the FAFSA as early as possible. It is not difficult, but it is fairly time-consuming. Students will receive help from their College Advisor in filling out the FAFSA, and parents/guardians can learn more about the FAFSA at the Financial Aid workshop in the fall and the hands-on FAFSA workshop in January or February (date to be annouced).
Some schools also require students to fill out another form called the CSS PROFILE. Check the financial aid page on each college’s website to determine what forms, in addition to the FAFSA, they require. The UC and CSU colleges do not require the CSS PROFILE.
Many colleges also award non-need based aid in recognition of a student’s particular abilities, talents or other criteria. These are called Merit Grants, and also referred to as scholarships. They may range from several hundred dollars to a “full-ride.” Maintaining a high GPA, excelling in a sport, doing extensive community service or developing your art, dance or music skills are all ways a student can increase their chances of receiving merit-based aid.
While they represent a very small percentage of the total amount of money available for financial aid, scholarships offered by organizations, foundations and businesses are definitely worth pursuing. They are often small, but they do add up. Furthermore, scholarships offered at the community level are often easier to get, simply because there are fewer people competing for them. Scholarship money may be awarded to students for such things as academic achievement, essay writing, artistic talents, volunteer service or demonstration of leadership. The College Advisor will provide students with information about finding scholarships for which they may qualify.
Helpful Websites for Financial Aid
FAFSA – www.fafsa.ed.gov
CSS – College Scholarship Service – http://profileonline.collegeboard.com
Fast Web – www.fastweb.com. (Search over 600,000 scholarships available)
Scholarships – http://www.scholarships.com and www.scholarshipexperts.com
Financial Aid/Scholarships – www.finaid.com
Merit Scholarships – www.meritaid.com