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Financial Aid

Financial Aid written over dollar bills with a small graduation cap

How do I pay for college? (i.e. What is Financial Aid?)

Financial aid is money you qualify for to use toward college expenses like tuition, room, board, books, supplies, transportation, etc. These expenses add up so the more aid you apply for and receive, the better!

Aid comes in 4 different forms and each is very different:

  • Grants
  • Loans
  • Scholarships
  • Work-Study
Free Financial Aid

This is money you qualify for based on either financial need or merit for college related expenses. You do not need to pay this back!


Grants, like Cal Grant and Federal Pell Grants, are offered by the state and federal government respectively, but there are limits to how much aid can be awarded.

Cal Grants have additional merit-based requirements. CMHS sends GPA verification information automatically during your senior year, but you must claim your award online on WebGrants before the end of the school year.

Federal Pell Grants are based on need and managed by your school.


Scholarships are mostly merit-based and external (but you can also qualify for school-based scholarships!). These require extra legwork on your part (i.e. applications), BUT there is no limit to how many you can apply for and how many you can win! Don't miss out on the opportunity!

Not Free Financial Aid

This is money you qualify for based on financial need to use for college-related expenses. These types of aid are not free. 


Loans earn interest and must be repaid monthly beginning 6 months after you stop attending school. 

Loans can be financed by the government or private institutions, but interest rates are significantly lower for government loans. Government loans also are awarded in many forms. Research the details BEFORE accepting any loan offers.

Private loans have high interest rates and require credit checks. These should be a LAST resort.


Work-study funds make you eligible to work part-time, on-campus while you are in school. You only receive this money as you work a work-study eligible job. These jobs tend to be better paid and more flexible to accommodate college student schedules.

Apply for FAFSA or fill out the California DREAM Act

These applications are used to determine need-based eligibility for Grants, Loans, and/or Work-Study. Offers depend on your EFC as it compares to the expected expense of attending your chosen school. All Financial aid offers are created by individual colleges and sent out after you have applied and/or been accepted. They will vary from school to school. It is important to review your offer with your parents and counselor before finalizing your decision.

DREAM Act students are NOT eligible for federal government aid (like Pell Grants or loans), but they may qualify for state-based financial aid (like Cal Grants and/or loans) or school-based financial aid (like scholarships and/or loans).

FAFSA and DREAM Act applications open on October 1st.

**Priority submission close March 2nd.**

(Early submission gives your more opportunities to be awarded money!)

  • FAFSA is for citizens & permanent residents
  • Dream Act is for students who are undocumented
  • The Class of 2020 will use 2018 tax returns
  • The Class of 2021 will use 2019 tax returns
  • The Class of 2022 will use 2020 tax returns
  • The Class of 2023 will use 2021 tax returns

Attention senior students and parents: Cal Grant Awards are free money provided by the State of California to help pay for the cost of college.

If you are a:

  • graduating high school senior
  • meet academic and financial eligibility requirements

You may qualify to receive a Cal Grant. 

We will be submitting our senior class' G.P.A. through an online system called WebGrants. We are required to explain this process to you and have an option for parents to "opt-out". This means that their child's G.P.A. would not be sent digitally through WebGrants. This process has nothing to do with college admission and deals only with the financial aid process. Please read the following forms for more information. English Spanish

You may also need to complete the CSS Profile through the College Board. Please see your counselor or College Guidance Specialist in the C&CC for information before you apply!

Important Key Terms:

  • College-Related Expenses - estimated cost of attending college while supporting an average college student lifestyle
  • Need-Based - Funds offered due to financial hardship
  • Merit-Based - Funds offered due to high academic achievement.
  • EFC (Expected Family Contribution) - Estimated money a family an contribute to college expenses.
  • Interest - A percentage rate of money charged regularly for the use borrowed money. 
  • ex. I borrowed $1000 for a year at a 3% interest rate, so I will pay back $1030 for borrowing the money.
  • External - Offered by organizations or companies not connected to your future college/university or current school.
  • School-Based - Offered by college/university you plan to attend.
FAFSA Application