Whether you’re getting ready to go to college or are already attending, it’s always a good idea to think about various ways to fund your college tuition. Student loans can be one option, but finding free funding is always better if available.
Beyond the standard funding through the federal government, there are also many state-specific options for students attending school in California. These include California grants and scholarships, and if all else fails, California private student loans.
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Getting Financial Aid for College in California
First things first, all students should submit for federally provided student aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) works almost like a one-stop shop for students seeking funding for college. Through one simple online application, college students gain access to a wide variety of student aid options. They include federal student loans, grants, working arrangements, and grants. The application is required for state-based student aid as well.
Before applying, students should be ready to provide a little bit of information about themselves, their school, and their financial need. You’ll need to supply personal information including name, address, citizenship, and more. You’ll also need to indicate which school you are planning to attend, and expected tuition costs.
Finally, many students will need to apply as a dependent, meaning they are expecting to receive some financial assistance from their family. In the case of dependents, students will have to submit information on the family’s finances, as well as their own, usually pulled from previous tax returns and bank statements. There is a helpful worksheet provided by the Federal Student Aid office to help students collect all the required information before submission.
How much can you expect to receive from your FAFSA? There is no guarantee, and any issued funding varies from student to student, one grant to the next, and from year to year. Depending on what aid you receive, the government will dole it out based on the following factors: Your financial need, cost of attendance, status as a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.
A final important step to getting financial aid for college, no matter what state you live in, is to paint a complete picture of what your expected financial need is. The average cost of college has continued to rise of the last few years and the costs are much more than tuition. Have you considered room, board, books, and other costs? According to an estimate by the College Board, the typical living costs for a college student in 2018 is roughly $12,500 to over $18,000 depending on region and spending habits.
Student aid from a FAFSA applies to much more than just tuition, which is why having a full grasp of your expected budget can help better manage any financial aid you receive.
California Student Loans
There are state-specific California student loans available through local financial institutions. It’s always important to exhaust any federally provided student aid and student loans first before seeking a private student loan. Speak with your local bank or credit union to explore what options they have in place for students. Also, even if you only have one bank, shop around to others to ensure you are getting the absolute best deal before applying.
If your financial institution of choice doesn’t provide student loans in California, they may offer access to third-party student loans. For example, KeyPoint Credit delivers the Smart Option Student Loan, backed by national student loan provider Sallie Mae. They can help you apply, but do not manage the loan themselves.
Even if your financial institution doesn’t offer California student loans, they can provide valuable financial advice. For example, the California Credit Unionprovides its clients with all the information they could ever need to make an informed financial decision on their student loan choice.
California Scholarships for College
For new college students, sourcing out scholarships can feel like a daunting task. However, there are a few ways to make the process easier, such as scholarship search tools. You can view LendEDU’s scholarship search tool to help you find opportunities.
Another important tip is to explore the characteristics and associations that make you unique among others.
What does this mean? Well, for starters define what makes you unique. What is your gender, religion, cultural, or ethnic association? Often, scholarships are only open to specific groups. Also, are you or your parents part of any organizations like the Lions Club, Boy Scouts of America, medical associations, etc.? Many organizations like these have special scholarships for their members.
To help you get started in your search, here are five scholarships available to students in California. Each one has special eligibility requirements that may inspire your search.
Association of California Water Agencies Scholarship
Association of California Water Agencies Scholarship, open to California residents attending college in the state with academic achievement and a financial need. The student must also be pursuing an undergraduate degree in a water resources-related field. Deadline annually is March 1, and the scholarship is for $3,500.
California Association of Collectors Educational Scholarship Foundation
California Association of Collectors Educational Scholarship Foundation, open to any California high school junior or senior planning to attend a college in the state. For more information including deadline and necessary requirements, visit the CACESF website. There are three scholarships issued annually, with the highest at $2,500.
California Strawberry Scholarship Program
California Strawberry Scholarship Program, open to children of California strawberry fieldworkers with a minimum grade point average of 2.0. The application opens in October for the following year, and they issue scholarships up to $5,000. There is an essay requirement.
Central California Asian Pacific Women Scholarship
Central California Asian Pacific Women Scholarship, open to women of Asian or Pacific Islander descent who live in or are from the Fresno area in California. There are a few specific scholarships available.
California Restaurant Association Foundation Scholarship Program
California Restaurant Association Foundation Scholarship Program, open to students pursuing higher education in the restaurant, food service, and hospitality industries. There are many open scholarships under the same umbrella, all with different eligibility requirements; more information is available on the website.
California Grants for College
As with scholarships, there are many grants available for California-based students. California grants for college are also available based on merit, the industry of study, or any possible organizational associations. Speak with your college’s financial aid office to get a full briefing on which grants are available in your area and applicable to you.
Many grants in California are provided via the state-managed California Student Aid Commission, via the Cal Grant or Cal Grant Competitive programs. There is a wide variety available with eligibility requirements as follows:
- U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Resident of California
- Attending a California college, university, career, or technical school
- Demonstrated financial need
- Enrolled at least part-time
- Meet any minimum GPA requirements
- Must apply one year after graduating high school
There could be other specific requirements depending on the grant. However, this list will get you started. More information and a one-stop-grant application can be found on the California Student Aid Commission website.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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