I Thought College Was Expensive, Now I'm Getting Paid!
My name is Nicholas Carrillo and I am a Senior at California State University, Los Angeles studying communications. This semester I am the PLUS ME project's Communications/Outreach Intern and will be assisting PLUS ME with community outreach and this blog. Throughout the month of October, I will be posting weekly posts about things I wish I knew about college when I was in high school. In this series, I will walk you through tips on how to navigate life after high school especially for those who are the first in their family to attend a university.
Let's get started! High school is an emotional roller coaster filled with fear, excitement, confusion and puppy love! Contrary to what students in high school may think, it does not last forever and the mistakes you make there do not have to follow you. Although high school ends, life’s emotional roller coaster does not. This is why I will be focusing my posts on how to prepare yourself financially, act professionally, and navigate socially for life after your senior year of high school.
Tip #1 College is more affordable than you think.
Have you ever thought to yourself "I cannot go to college because it is too expensive?" Or have your parents ever shown hesitation about supporting your college journey because they think it is not financially affordable? I'm here to tell you - it IS possible and realistic.
There are various forms of government and state funding for those who apply and qualify. The Federal Pell Grant awards a maximum of $5,775 per year to students who demonstrate financial need. In California, students have the opportunity to qualify for Cal Grants, which can be awarded for living expenses and tuition/fees. These range based on the school you attend and your overall financial need.
When I received my financial aid package, I qualified for a maximum Pell Grant award ($5,775 for the year) and two additional Cal Grants. One of my Cal Grants was for living expenses/books ($1,656 for the year) and the other was for tuition and fees ($5,742 for the year). These grants pay for my all of my tuition, books, fees and afterwards I am left with around $2,000 for living expenses for each quarter (3 months).
Because I applied and qualified I now get paid to go to school!
Now of course this won’t be the situation for every student. You might be thinking, “But Nick, I already know all of this and I still cannot qualify for these grants. My family makes too much money to receive financial aid, but not enough to pay for college!" If this is you, don’t worry there are options for you, too! The middle class scholarship funds awards to students in California whose family income ranges up to $150,000 per year. These students can use these funds while attending a University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) campus.
Where do I apply?
You will begin your journey to financial stability on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website. The FAFSA handles the application for the Pell Grant, Cal Grant and Middle Class Scholarship. The deadline federally is listed as June 30th, but more importantly the state deadline in California is March 2nd. Be sure to fill out all proper forms and submit necessary information by the deadline!
What if I am undocumented?
If you are an undocumented student, then make sure you apply to be an AB 540 student. To find out if you meet the qualifications for AB 540, click here.
The great news about all of this is that this is just ONE of the categories of financial aid that can be offered to you when attending college. Stay tuned for my upcoming post that will go into more detail about some of the other forms of financial aid that you can earn!
The overall message is: there are funds out there for you to apply and earn. Do not let the negative voice in the back of your head that is worrying about funding college stop you from pursuing your dreams.
Questions or Comments for Nick?
Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org