A is for Aid: Your starter guide to college finances (2024)

College finances are overwhelming. Getting bills with numbers that are higher than anything you’ve ever seen before is scary. However, nothing is more frustrating than not moving, stuck amongst an endless sea of confusing acronyms and unfamiliar topics because you don’t know where to start.

While I can’t provide you with all the answers you are looking for, treat this starter guide as your first college course — College Finances 101. Here you will only find helpful advice and tidbits of information (and, yeah, that’s a dig at every high school teacher who thought it was better to teach us that mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell versus how to open a savings account — of course if you’re a biology major, I kid) that will leave you feeling confident and prepared to dive into the first real challenge of your new life, paying for college.

Introducing your admissions insider, Isabella Beristain

Isabella Beristain returns to UC Davis, as a staff writer and editor, after graduating in 2022. She works closely with the UC Davis Undergraduate Admissions team and partners, to bring you the inside scoop on admissions info. With over five years in marketing and a knack for storytelling, Isabella ensures your start tocollege is both entertaining and enlightening.

A- Applying for aid

Whether you get a grant, scholarship or loan to pay for college, chances are you need to fill out some paperwork. At UC Davis, navigate beginning funding for entering undergraduate students to learn how and where to apply for aid.

B- Budget breakdown

Life costs money and those costs can get out of hand fast, especially when you'rehaving fun. If this is your first time living away from home, take a deep breath and a seat, grab a pen or your computer and create your college budget.

C- California Dream Act

California Dream Act is a vital aid resource for eligible AB540 and undocumented students pursuing higher education in California. Apply by March 2 for maximum financial aid consideration.

D- Debt dilemmas

No one wants to get saddled with debt. Manage your debt head on, borrow responsibly, stay on budget and use credit cards wisely.

E- Evaluating financial aid offers

As you receive financial aid offers, take the time to explore what works best for you and your financial situation. Don’t rush the process and determine which aid package will benefit you most in the long run.

F- FAFSA fundamentals

Eligible students are encouraged to apply to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid each year. Follow the steps in the FAFSA checklist to get started and apply by April 2 (for the 2024-25 application) for state and university grant consideration.

G- Grants galore

Everyone loves free money! Grants are need-based gifts that don’t need to be repaid if you maintain eligibility. If you receive a grant at UC Davis, it appears in MyAwards (your financial aid portal) along with its requirements.

H- Handling unseen college costs

Handling potential unseen costs, associated with attending college, is crucial in sticking to your budget. To prepare, ensure that you know what is covered in your tuition bill and plan to pay for those unexpected course material fees or obscure charges that you must budget for.

I- Income ideas and how to supplement

Exploring creative ways to supplement your income during college is a smart financial move. However, sometimes diversifying your income can only go so far when you’re busy studying for midterms and writing multipage papers. At UC Davis, there are many ways to get your basic needs met during your time here.

J- Juggling jobs and studies

Juggling a job and your studies takes time and energy. Maintaining that balance is your key to success. On-campus student jobs are great opportunities to jumpstart your career and make some extra cash in an understanding and part-time environment.

K- Knowledge is power

Knowing how to budget your money and make it work for you is worth it! All UC Davis students get access to the Aggie Blue to Gold Financial Wellness Program, which provides students and families with endless resources like peer advising opportunities, virtual webinars, workshops and online courses geared at strengthening financial literacy.

L- Loan lingo

Loans are a form of financial aid that must be repaid. Educational loans have varying fees, interest rates (yes, unfortunately this means money that you will have to repay on top of your original loan amount), repayment terms and borrower protections. Before you borrow it is important to understand everything about the loan you are borrowing from.

M- Maximizing aid

You get the most bang for your buck, if you maximize your aid. This means applying to various scholarships and seeking out additional grants all while creating and sticking to a budget.

N- Nifty savings

Can you kill two birds with one stone when it comes to saving? No, you don’t think so? Well, actually you

can because personal sustainability and saving money go hand in hand. Saving the environment and your wallet, now that’s nifty savings!

O- Outside scholarships

Need more help building your aid package? There are almost an endless amount of grains of sand here on Earth and lucky for you, there are a similar number of outside scholarships waiting for you to apply to.

A is for Aid: Your starter guide to college finances (1)

P- Personal statements

Perhaps the most critical piece of many scholarship applications is the personal statement. This is your time to let your personality shine through and make your case to get your coin.

Q- Quick tips for financial success

There is a lot to know about money management and college finances. Let’s make this quick. Here are 40 money management tips every college student should know.

R- Repayment realities

After graduation, you’ll likely begin repaying your loan (if you take one out). Understanding these realities now will help you manage your payments in the future.

S- Start with the basics

Is this starter guide feeling overwhelming? UC Davis has partnered with CashCourse to provide Aggies with tools to learn money basics.

T- Timeline tactics

You need to apply to some aid every year, like the FAFSA, some you don’t, like one-time scholarships. Understanding each aid sources' specific and unique deadlines and staying organized will ensure you are prepared.

U- Understanding interest

Interest is the cost of borrowing money. Before you borrow you need to know what type of loan you are borrowing and who your lender is to understand how your loan interest will affect you.

V- Visioning

To plan what aid package or sources work out best for you and your family, it’s crucial to make most educated decision you can. Look at how much you'llspend over your time at college and adopt a vision that aligns with your future money goals and aspirations.

W- Work-Study wonders

Work-Study is a needs-based offer. It is more than just a job and financial support for your education. Participating in work-study offers you a double bonus — education plus job experience in an increasingly competitive job market.

X- (e)Xtra cash ideas

You might not have time to commit to an on-campus job or paid position, but everyone needs some spending money, right? Think about other smaller gigs you can pick up to supplement your income, like dog walking, babysitting or even selling your class notes!

Y- Yearly financial checkup

Your financial situation might change throughout your college journey and that’s okay. Whenever that happens, fill out an appeals form to inform financial aid officers of your situation and see what they can do to help.

Z- Zeroing in on financial success

Let’s get real, financial wellness takes time. It’s a skill you grow. Everything in this starter guide won’t apply to you or your unique financial situation; but learning the basics is a great place to start to zero in on financial success!

A is for Aid: Your starter guide to college finances (2024)


What is financial aid used for in college? ›

Provided by the federal government, these funds may be used for tuition, fees, books, housing, food or other educational expenses. The addition of the Pell Grant will replace the University Grant, dollar for dollar. Need-based. Students pursuing their first bachelor's degree.

What is financial aid in college terminology? ›

Award YearForbearancePLUS Loan
ConsolidationGrace PeriodPrivate Student Loan
Cost of Attendance (COA)Graduated Repayment PlanRefinancing
DefaultGrantSatisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)
DefermentIncome-Driven Repayment (IDR) PlanScholarship
6 more rows

Which type of financial aid should you accept first? ›

Given the option, you should accept a Direct Subsidized Loan first. Then, if you still need additional financial aid to pay for college or career school, accept the Direct Unsubsidized Loan.

What is the first step towards financing college? ›

The first step to financial planning for college is to apply for federal student aid. If you haven't submitted it already, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form as soon as you can!

What are the 4 types of financial aid? ›

Financial aid is money to help pay for college or career school. Grants, work-study, loans, and scholarships help make college or career school affordable.

Do colleges care about financial aid? ›

Some colleges are need-blind, while others only consider financial need when filling the last spots or pulling from the waitlist. But colleges want to admit their best applicants, and if you need financial aid in order to afford a school, you should apply.

What is aid in terms of college? ›

Financial assistance provided to students based on their financial situation, determined by completing the FAFSA. Need-based financial aid can take different forms, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and low-interest loans, like the federal direct subsidized loan. Net Price.

What is financial aid quizlet? ›

Financial Aid. Consists of funds provided to students and families to help pay for post secondary education. 1 / 17. 1 / 17.

What is a synonym for financial aid? ›

aid allowance appropriation assistance bonus contribution endowment gift grant payment pension premium scholarship support.

What is the most attractive financial aid? ›

Grants are one of the most attractive types of financial aid you can receive. That's because they give you free money. In other words, when you receive a grant, you don't have to pay any federal loans back (as long as you complete the conditions of your grant program).

Do you apply for college first or financial aid first? ›

It is possible to file your FAFSA before applying for admission to a college, but the schools will generally not package an award offer for you until you have been admitted to their school. So the FAFSA information will be sent to the colleges but you will not receive an award offer until you are admitted. Q.

In what order should I take financial aid? ›

Accept Financial Aid in This Order
  1. Free money first (e.g., scholarships, grants)
  2. Earned money second (e.g., work-study)
  3. Borrowed money last (e.g., federal student loans)

Can I use FAFSA money for a laptop? ›

Yes, you can use federal student aid funds to buy a laptop or other computer equipment you need for college.

How much does FAFSA give based on income? ›

The FAFSA formula doesn't expect students or families to use all of their adjusted available income to pay for college. The formula allocates 50 percent of a dependent student's adjusted available income to cover college expenses and anywhere from 22 to 47 percent of parents' available income.

How does FAFSA determine aid? ›

The financial aid office at the college or career school you will attend will determine how much financial aid you're eligible to receive. Your eligibility depends on your Expected Family Contribution, year in school, enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you'll be attending.

Does financial aid have to be paid back? ›

There are several different types of financial aid for college. Some of these are free, while others need to be paid back with interest. Scholarships, grants, and work study are the three main financial aid types that don't need to be paid back. Loans are the main type of financial aid that needs to be paid back.

Is FAFSA a loan or free money? ›

It is not the financial aid itself. However, the FAFSA enables the student to qualify for many types of financial aid from several sources. Some of this money is free money, some must be earned through work, and some must be repaid. There are three main types of financial aid.

What is the difference between financial aid and FAFSA? ›

Financial aid is any form of funding that helps you pay for college, including scholarships, grants, loans and work-study programs. You have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to be eligible for most forms of financial aid.


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