Step 2: Get Ready to Apply

Filling out financial aid applications might seem overwhelming, but we will help you streamline the process. Use the tools on this website to get organized and prepared before you start applying for financial aid.

Although you can apply for financial aid year-round at California community colleges, there are some types of aid that have specific deadlines, such as Cal Grants. Be sure to visit our Important Dates/Deadlines page for more information.

What do I need to submit?

To apply for financial aid you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We walk you through this application in more detail below. 


Applying for aid can require additional forms or applications. For example, Cal Grants require a verified Cal Grant GPA. Individual colleges may request additional documents, such as tax returns or proof of income or benefits, to complete your financial aid file. You should always respond quickly to all requests made by a college financial aid office.


No matter what kind of financial aid you're applying for, your first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. The FAFSA isn't a type of financial aid, it's just the application that can get you fee waivers, grants, work study, loans and in some cases, scholarships for college.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available every year on October 1. You should apply as soon as possible after October 1 to give you a better idea of what your financial aid package will look like so you can figure out how you are going to pay for school before it begins. Filing early will also give you a better chance to receive more aid, if you qualify. To plan ahead for the 2019-2020 academic year, complete the FAFSA as soon as October 1, 2018 to get the most aid possible. 


Academic Year FAFSA Available Tax Filing Year to be Used
2017/2108 October 1, 2016 2015
2018/2019 October 1, 2017 2016
2019/2020 October 1, 2018 2017

Fortunately, you can fill out and submit the FAFSA online, which is the recommended and quickest way to access financial aid. Or, you can complete a paper application instead if you prefer. The online version of the application will guide you through the form, and will only ask and require answers for questions that apply to you based on your situation. You will only need to complete one FAFSA for each year you are in school, as you will be able to send that application to as many colleges as you are applying to attend.

If you file your FAFSA online, you should receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), listing all of the information you put on your FAFSA, in 3-5 days (if you submitted a paper FAFSA, it will take 7-10 days). A copy of your SAR will automatically be sent to the state grant agency and all of the colleges you listed on your FAFSA. Once those colleges get your SAR, they'll let you know how much federal aid you qualify for and, in some cases, may ask you to correct information or provide additional information to your college financial aid office.

Check out the FAFSA resources available to help you get started on your applications:

California College Promise Grant (Formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver) Application

To apply for the California College Promise Grant, students should take one of the following steps:

  • Go to and complete a FAFSA to qualify for a fee waiver, as well as federal and state financial aid. This is the recommended way to apply as it opens the door to all types of financial aid and can maximize the amount of money you can receive.


  1. Click the following link to begin the California College Promise Grant 2019-2020 application.
  2. Fill out the form. (You can get free help filling it out from the financial aid staff at your local community college.)
  3. Turn in the form to your community college's financial aid office. Make sure to ask if you need to turn in any other documents along with it.

The financial aid office will let you know if you qualify for the California College Promise Grant. Even if you don't qualify for the fee waiver, you should still fill out the FAFSA—you may qualify for other kinds of financial aid.

Financial Aid Office Locator

Enter your zip code to find the nearest financial aid office