Cash for College: Most People Qualify for Free Financial Aid

By Inland Empire Success | June 20, 2024

College in the Inland Empire is within your reach, regardless of your family’s income. There are plenty of opportunities for free financial aid available to many students!

Your family doesn’t have to be wealthy to afford it. Free money (yes, free) is available to many students! 

Don’t Believe Myths About Financial Aid!

College is not just for rich kids or students with perfect grades. Financial aid helps all students, including those whose families haven’t had anyone go to college before, and you might qualify for it!

The financial aid process might seem complicated, but it’s accessible to everyone. 

There are different types of financial aid. Grants and scholarships are basically free money you don’t have to pay back. Work-study programs help you earn money for school with part-time jobs.

The Keys to College Cash: FAFSA and CADAA

The most important step to getting financial aid is called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA ( Qualified students should also take a look at the California Dream Act Application, or CADAA

First, let’s cover the CADAA. The California Dream Act provides a separate financial aid option for undocumented students, DACA recipients (valid or expired), U Visa holders, and students under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) who live in California. 

If you think you might qualify for CADAA financial aid, be sure to check out the program’s website

Now let’s look at the FAFSA, which every student will want to complete.

The FAFSA is used to determine how much financial aid you qualify for. Sources of financial aid will use your FAFSA to determine if you qualify for their programs. 

The FAFSA isn’t just for federal financial aid. State programs and even the programs run by schools use the FAFSA.

To fill it out, you’ll need your tax returns or your parents’ income information. 

There are deadlines to submit the FAFSA, so don’t wait until the last minute! FAFSA opens on October 1 each year, and the earlier you submit it, the better chance you have of getting the most grant money possible. 

Every financial aid program has its own deadlines. That includes the deadline for filing the FAFSA. Filing early gives you the best options.

Seems complicated? Don’t worry. You can also find more information by visiting the financial aid resources page on this website. If you’re in high school or college right now, be sure to take advantage of the resources your school offers.

Let’s take a quick look at the different kinds of financial aid you might be able to get by filling out a FAFSA on time.

Free Money: Grants 

Grants are a kind of financial aid. They can be thought of as “free cash” to students who show financial need. The more your family needs help affording college, the more grant money you might qualify for. 

There are lots of grants out there. The federal government has several grant programs, including the Pell Grant. So does the state of California through the California Student Aid Commission

Every grant has rules about who can qualify for them and how much money anyone can receive. Most of them also have rules about how you spend the money. So it’s not quite “free” cash, but it’s close.

More Free Money: Scholarships 

Scholarships are another type of free money. They’re awarded based on your achievements, like getting good grades, having great skills, or volunteering in your community. 

Colleges often have scholarships for students with specific interests or talents. Local groups like community centers and businesses might also offer scholarships.

You can start looking for scholarships today! Check out the College Board’s BigFuture website, which helps you search through over 24,000 scholarships available right now.

Earn While You Learn: Work-Study

Another kind of financial aid is available through work-study programs. They let you continue your studies while working at a part-time job on campus. Jobs can be anything from helping out in the library to working in a computer lab. 

You earn money to cover college costs while gaining valuable work experience that looks great on resumes. This can help you land internships or jobs after graduation. 

Responsible Borrowing: Loans 

Even with a grant or scholarship, there might be college costs left. Student loans can help cover these costs, but it’s important to borrow responsibly. 

Student loans help you bridge the gap to your future earnings. But remember, loans are money you need to pay back later – with interest! Don’t take out more than you absolutely need.

Be sure to shop around. Many loan programs offer students ways to have their loans forgiven. Some offer better terms than others.

Some loan programs are only available to people who qualify. Students who are undocumented or who meet certain other qualifications can get special loans through the California Dream Act.

Check out Let’s Go To College California’s website for more about student loans.

How Much Will College Cost? College Affordability Calculators 

How much will college really cost? Online calculators can help estimate your financial aid eligibility. They also help you understand what all the costs of going to college are. 

Tuition is just the start. Textbooks can be expensive. If you plan to leave home for school, you’ll need to pay rent. It adds up!

The net price of college is an important piece of information you can get from an affordability calculator. The net price is all the costs that aren’t covered by financial aid. You might need to take a part-time job or borrow to cover the net price.

The California Student Aid Commission hosts a calculator that covers colleges throughout the state. You can access it by clicking here.

Just plug in some basic information to see how affordable different colleges might be. 

Free Money is Waiting for You – Go Get It!

Don’t let myths stop you from applying and getting the help you need for your education. College is affordable with financial aid, making it accessible for everyone. Take advantage of free resources and plan early. Access our financial resources section and start your financial aid journey with IESuccess.  Our articles and videos on financial aid can help you make college dreams a reality!