Students have the opportunity to take advantage of billions in no-strings-attached money to help pay for college now that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is open.

Key dates

  • The priority deadline for filing out the FAFSA form is March 2, 2017 for all students seeking admission to UC for fall 2017.
  • Undocumented students should fill out the California Dream Act Application. It also opened Oct. 1. The priority deadline to complete the California Dream Act Application is March 2, 2017.

Students and their families are passing up billions of dollars in free money for college each year — that’s billions with a "b."

Students missed out on roughly $2.7 billion in no-strings-attached money to help pay for college in 2014, all from failing to fill out a single form: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The most common reason that students don’t apply? They think they won’t qualify.

“It costs nothing to apply, and students are often surprised to find out what they’re eligible for,” said Chris Carter, director of Student Financial Support at the UC Office of the President. “Most UC students receive some kind of grant or scholarship — free money — that helps them pay for college.”

The FAFSA also serves as the primary application for all federal, state and school financial aid and it opens the door to a number of scholarships. Filing out a FAFSA on time — by March 2 — is especially important in California, where qualifying families can get their tuition covered at any public college or university and even get money to help pay for housing, books and other college costs.

You might be surprised to learn that 57 percent of California undergraduates at UC receive enough financial aid to cover all systemwide tuition and fees. And 75 percent of California undergraduates receive some financial aid.

So don’t leave money on the table. Filling out the FAFSA is now easier than ever:

  • The FAFSA application opened Oct. 1 — three months earlier than in previous years. That means students and families have more time to fill it out. 
  • UC applicants may now apply for admission and financial aid at the same time.
  • As in years past, students will get their financial aid offer after they have been admitted to UC but before they need to commit to attending.
  • Families use already completed 2015 taxes to complete the form.
  • The IRS Data Retrieval tool makes it easy to insert income information in the FAFSA with the click of a button.

Information on UC financial aid: http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/paying-for-uc/apply-for-aid/