Financial Aid Basics in 3 Easy Steps

Students smile while sitting around a desk during a UC Davis Teaching Assistant Conference at the Teaching Learning Complex on September 19, 2022.
Karin Higgins/UC Davis

Paying for college can be difficult, but at UC Davis, we have the resources to help you get the financial support you need. We’re going to outline some of the financial aid basics to make sure you get the low-hanging fruit, plus some additional ways to round out your financial aid package.

Complete the FAFSA or CADAA 

For starters, be sure to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application (CADAA) by the annual priority deadline of March 2. If you do your taxes early, we suggest doing this when filing your taxes. Both applications are free, and schools need the information on these forms to determine how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive. Our financial aid office has an amazing way of finding money even when you think there’s none, so don’t skip this step! 

Show Me the Money!

Students who complete the FAFSA or CADAA by the March 2 deadline have the best chance at grant money, which is free money that doesn’t have to be paid back. Work-Study is another type of award that pays a portion of your salary as a student employee, which means you can get work experience and money! 

Scholarships are another source of money that you don’t have to pay back. When you applied to UC Davis, the application included a list of scholarships that you could apply for just by selecting a checkbox! These scholarships can range from $100 to $15,000 per academic year. In addition to those listed on your application, we have gathered even more on our website for your consideration. My parents always told me never to walk away from free money, so I’m passing along that bit of advice to you. 

And finally, we look at student loans to help round out your financial aid package. Don’t overlook loans that are part of your financial aid package, as they may have a more favorable interest rate and repayment options than what you can find on the open market. 

It’s Just Not Enough

Yep, I hear that! Keep in mind that your financial aid package is based on the cost of attendance, which includes some variables that you have control over, like personal expenses. This is where budgeting and money management are two of your first lessons as a college student. At UC Davis, the Aggie Blue to Gold Financial Wellness Program can give you the tools to make smart decisions with your money–tools that will carry you through life. After all, more than half of all UC Davis Aggies graduate debt-free. And for the past two years, more than 80 percent of the financial aid was free money in the form of grants and scholarships.

Ready, Set, Go!

We’ve given you the basics, now it’s up to you to take the first step. You’ll likely have questions as you go through the financial aid process, but it gets easier after the first time. Check out our answers to some of the questions most frequently asked, and take the next step in preparing for your college experience! 

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