Student Financial Aid: What to Expect


By Kasi Khathuria

A couple weeks ago, all seniors were told to rush to their laptops and fill out the FAFSA/CADAA form ASAP. Counselors visited every senior history class with hopes to inform and push the students to submit their forms. 

The process of applying to college itself is one of the most stressful times of our high school career, for the most part. Along with the tons of essays seniors have to write for applications, comes these financial aid forms and scholarship applications. Even though they do add to the workload, these aid options can be extremely beneficial and can save a student tons of money. It’s no secret that college in America is one of the most expensive experiences. Need-based financial aid can make college a more realistic opportunity for low-income students and the application is open to all!

“FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and then CADAA is the California Dream Act Application. They are both the same application but depending on the students immigration status they fill out one or the other. It is the application for any time of need-based financial aid,” Alison Liu, school counselor, said. 

FAFSA and CADAA are the most well known need-based financial aid programs. Both programs provide aid solely based on your family situation and income. In reality, most middle class families will not receive much aid simply based on needs and their income. However, high schools encourage every student to complete the forms which are then sent to various colleges based on applications. Even if you receive only a couple hundred dollars in aid, applying and getting that money is better than nothing at all. 

There is a difference that’s important between FAFSA and CADAA and that is… Not all students fill out FAFSA and not all students fill out CADAA. 

There are still other opportunities for seniors to get financial aid. This is through merit-based scholarships. If need-based financial aid isn’t an option, but college is still out of the financial comfort zone, thousands of these scholarships are highly achievable. The application process for these merit-based scholarships are due generally during spring. Still, specific colleges offer their own scholarships that can range from a few hundred to full-ride. If you are applying to college, make sure you keep up with the scholarship deadlines for those specific schools because they can save thousands. 

Merit-based scholarships are not only plentiful, but they also can be extremely easy to receive. According to Mrs. Paul, a counselor at SMHS, many families and individuals want to reward students with scholarships, but end up getting barely any applications. A student who applies to a scholarship could receive the aid simply because they were the only student to apply. Many forget or often don’t want to write the extra essay, but in reality, if students were to apply to a few scholarships they have a high probability of being rewarded. 

Remember to apply to meet your scholarship deadlines, for FAFSA/CADAA and merit-based scholarships. If you write just one essay or fill out a simple form, you could be eligible to receive hundreds of dollars towards your future education! If you have any further questions on financial aid for college, please contact the SMHS counseling office.