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Financial Aid FAQs

Whether you're looking for assistance with funding your studies or seeking guidance on managing costs, you will likely find the answers to our most frequently asked questions on this page. If you have any additional questions or comments, don't hesitate to reach out to the Financial Aid office directly. 

What are the types of federal financial aid?

There are four main types of financial aid:

  • Grants: A grant is money that does not need to be paid back.

  • Loans: Loans are borrowed from a bank and MUST be repaid.

  • Scholarships: Scholarships are funds that do not need to be paid back.

  • Work-Study: Work-study is a job on campus that pays a monthly paycheck based on hours worked. A Federal Work-Study award is not required to work on campus. See Mustang Jobs for available job opportunities.

How do I apply for financial aid?

You can complete the free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. You will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) by the federal processor and Cal Poly will receive an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). If you are not eligible to apply for federal financial aid, but you meet California’s AB540 requirements, you can complete an online application for state and institutional financial aid using the California Dream Act application

Is there a deadline to apply?

Yes. Students who apply by March 2 will receive priority consideration for several types of federal and institutional financial aid. Students must apply by March 2 to be eligible for a Cal Grant. Students that don't meet the priority deadline can still apply throughout the school year until June 30th of the respective academic year. 

Do I have to reapply every year?


Do I need to submit anything else?

After Cal Poly receives an electronic version of your financial aid application, we will contact you through your Cal Poly email and add "To Do List" items in your My Cal Poly portal to inform you of any additional documents or information that is needed. Please check your Cal Poly email and My Cal Poly portal regularly.

What is verification?

During verification, the college financial aid administrator will ask the applicant to supply copies of documentation, such as income tax return transcripts, W-2 statements and 1099 forms, to verify the data that was submitted on the financial aid application. 

Verification is intended to improve the accuracy of the information submitted on the FAFSA. It is not intended to function like a forensic audit. The Cal Poly Financial Aid Office cannot disburse federal student aid until the verification process is complete.

Financial aid administrators have the right to ask for any documentation they feel is necessary to complete verification. If the family refuses to supply this documentation, the college is prohibited from disbursing federal student aid to the student.

The set of data elements potentially subject to verification may change from one year to the next. Data elements currently subject to verification include household size, number in college, child support paid, adjusted gross income, taxes paid and several untaxed income items (untaxed IRA distributions, untaxed pensions, education credits, IRA deductions, and tax-exempt interest).

What are my next steps?

Cal Poly awards the maximum amount students are eligible to borrow in federal student loans based on your FAFSA application. If you want to borrow the loan(s) that have been offered to you, you will need to accept them in your My Cal Poly portal. All federal loan borrowers must complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) and Entrance Counseling before funds can be disbursed. Learn more about receiving a FAFSA determined loan.

Parents who wish to borrow funds have the option of using the Parent PLUS Loan or a private education loan. Parents can apply for a Parent PLUS loan or review private lender options. We recommend reading this helpful guide which provides step-by-step instructions on computing your net cost to help you determine which borrowing option is best for you.

Can part-time students receive financial aid?

Yes. If your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) is 0, then you will receive financial aid even if you take a single unit. Students borrowing federal loans or using Federal Work-Study must maintain at least 6 units per quarter. Grant funding is prorated based on the number of units you are taking and the type of grant(s) you have. Learn more about financial aid as a part-time student.

Can my grades affect my financial aid?

Yes. To maintain eligibility for financial aid, you must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 for undergraduate students and 3.0 for graduate students. In addition, you need to maintain an overall completion rate of at least 67%. (This is called maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress). 

Where can I view my financial aid award?

Each year after Cal Poly processes your financial aid application, students will receive an email letting them know they can view their financial aid award in the Finances section of the Student Center in their My Cal Poly portal.