Financial Aid for College

Financial aid is money loaned or awarded to students to help them pay for college. The largest source of financial aid is the federal government, followed by state governments, colleges, and then private organizations. The first step to getting financial aid—get to know the financial aid administrators at the colleges that your students are applying to.

Need-Based Financial Aid Versus Non-Need-Based Financial Aid
Some financial aid is based on the amount of financial need you and your family have. For instance, need-based loans offer lower interest rates. Other types of loans are available regardless of your financial situation. These would be considered non-need-based financial aid.
Types of Financial Aid
The term "financial aid" covers all the different options to help you pay for college. Financial aid is broken down into three main categories.
  • Free Money (grants and scholarships)
Grants: Money awarded based on financial need. Grants are given out by the federal government, state governments, and colleges. The federal government funds two of the largest grant programs: the Federal Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG).

Scholarships: Money given for a variety of reasons—excellent grades, economic need, community involvement, parents' employers, membership in organizations, left-handedness, etc.
  • Earned Money (work-study programs) Work part-time on campus. Work-study programs have flexible hours and expose you to more of what college can offer.
  • Borrowed Money (loans) Loans must be repaid, usually with interest. Most educational loans are government-sponsored.
Applying for Financial Aid
You must reapply for aid each year that you are in school, or when you transfer to a different school. Stay on top of your aid applications. Incomplete or late forms will reduce your chances of getting financial aid. Help is available if you have questions.
  • Gather important documents that you will need to fill out your financial aid application (bank statements, driver's license, W-2, tax returns, etc.)
  • Keep a financial aid file
  • Set up a deadline calendar
  • Keep copies of all applications you send
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Please be sure to download a FAFSA form online at It’s important to make sure that you have obtained a PIN number for student and parents via before you begin work on your FAFSA. Once you’re done, please list as many schools on the FAFSA as possible to receive your information. You may submit your FAFSA after January 1st.
Cal Grants
Funded by the State of California and administered by the California Student Aid Commission, Cal Grants are one of the smartest ways to get cash for college. You’ll need to meet specific academic, financial, and eligibility requirements (see and submit two forms by the Cal Grant deadline.
The CSS Profile
Some colleges require that students complete the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Financial Aid Profile to be considered for institutional aid (aid is available from the college). You can register for the Profile by calling 1-800-778-6888 or by going online at
Other Forms
Most colleges require that students fill out institutional financial aid forms. Find out from the school's financial aid office which forms you need to fill out. Most states require students to fill out state aid forms for state grants and scholarships.
Find out more about financing college:

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