Your Virtual Counselor! Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action!
The California Career Center. Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action!

Financial Aid

A complex set of factors determines financial aid awards and it’s never too early to explore financial aid opportunities while you’re still in high school. Getting the best financial aid package takes effort and research. Some financial aid is given on a first-come, first-served basis and most financial aid is based on economic need, not academic performance.

Before starting your research on financial aid options, consider some of the factors that influence the cost of a college:

  • Type of School: Public schools are usually less costly than private ones, but attending an out-of-state public school may be just as expensive as a private school.

  • Time: The longer you stay, the more it costs. Advanced placement classes or community college classes while you’re in high school might help ensure you graduate in four years or less.

  • Location: This affects the cost of housing, food, and transportation. On-campus housing provides room and board; off-campus living involves expenses for rent, utilities, commuting, and food. If you are living away from home, remember to figure in the travel costs for your trips home.

Two Types of Financial Aid

Federal and state governments, as well as private sources, offer help. Some are based on need or specific interest, others on academic performance. About 70% of the student aid awarded each year comes from the U.S. Department of Education.

  1. Grants and Scholarships do not need to be repaid:
    • Grants are awarded on the basis of need.
    • Scholarships are awarded on academic merit, need, and/or other criteria.

  2. Loans and Work-study must be repaid or earned:
    • Student Loans are special loans available to students and their parents.
    • There are both Federal subsidized loans which require evidence of financial need and unsubsidized loans which are not needs-based. These loans are explained in detail on the U.S. Department of Education Student Aid website.
    • Work may include work-study or part-time employment.

Scholarships may be available through your parents’ employers, religious groups, private clubs, lodges, businesses, foundations, unions, community groups, private individuals, and various organizations. Scholarships can be based on such things as academic merit, test scores, competitive essay, field of study, special talent (for example, music), ethnicity, leadership ability, community service activities, or athletics.

Get started on your research at Financial Aid Resources.