After submitting the CA Dream Act Application, you may be asked to verify the information you provided about your income. Don’t worry, you did not do anything wrong if you are selected; a percentage of all applicants are required to verify income as general practice. If you happen to be selected, follow the steps below!
Know if you have you have to verify your income
Not all CA Dream Act applicants are required to verify their income. You will know if you must verify your income via email or schools’ online portals. If you do not receive any notification about verifying income, then you do not need to take additional steps at the moment.
2. Know if you are Dependent or Independent Student
You are Dependent if you are all of the following:
under 24 years old or born after 1/1/98,
not legally married (single),
have no children or other dependents,
and are pursuing an undergraduate degree.
If you are Dependent then you MUST provide information on BOTH your income and your parents’ income. Even if you do not live with your parents or receive their financial support, you must provide their information. Some exceptions on this may apply depending on school.
You are Independent if you are at least one of the following:
over 24 years old or born before 1/1/98,
have children or other dependents for whom you provide 50% of their support,
a veteran or active duty,
an orphan or ward of the court,
at risk of homelessness,
have a special circumstance,
or pursuing a graduate degree.
If you are Independent, then you will only provide income information about yourself.
3. Know if you and/or your parents are Tax Filers
If you and/or your parents file taxes, be prepared to obtain the 2019 tax return transcript (note: this is different from the tax account transcript). You may request the tax return transcript from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for free online or through the phone. The person requesting the transcript must be the one who signed the taxes; someone else is not allowed.
If you and/or your parents do not file taxes, prepare the following information/documents:
all 2019 household income earned,
financial assistance or benefits (if received),
a copy of W-2 form(s).
Be aware that if you or your parents earned over the IRS income filing limits, you may be required to file taxes in order to receive a financial aid award.
If you and/or your parents do not file taxes because of cash payment and do not have a W-2 form, you must explain the circumstances in the school verification worksheet. You may be required to include proof of non-filing from the IRS.
4. Fill our the Income Verification Worksheet
After you have determined where you stand with dependent/independent status and tax filing status, you will fill out the Income Verification Worksheet. A standard worksheet asks about/for the following:
Household Size: The rules of the CA Dream Application define households as you (the student); the biological or adoptive parents; siblings under the age of 24 in most cases; and/or other dependents for whom the parents are financially responsible (such as an elderly or disabled person). Additional family members or individuals that live within the home, but do not meet these requirements should not be included in the household.
Marital Status: Indicate whether the parent or you are single, married, separated or divorced, or widowed. Parents who are living together, but are not married should choose that option.
Tax Filing Status: Indicate whether you and/or parent or spouse is a tax filer or a non-tax filer.
Financial Aid Received: List the amount of grants or scholarships you received during 2020 and the school(s) attended.
Child Support Paid: List the amount of any child support paid in 2020, including the child’s name, the name of the person who paid child support, and the name of the person to whom it was paid.
SNAP Benefits Received: Indicate whether you and/or your parents received SNAP benefits in 2020 or 2021. Documentation from the agency that issued SNAP benefits may be required upon request.
Certification and Signature: By signing the verification worksheet, you and/or your parent certify that all the information is true. Signing also authorizes the Financial Aid Office to update the student’s California Dream Application per CSAC guidelines and the information provided.
Additional Documentation: An individual college or university has the right to ask for additional documentation regarding household size or income earned if it is necessary to gain an adequate understanding of how household expenses were met for 2020.
Multiple Schools: If you listed more than one school on the CA Dream Application, you will be required to complete income verification at each school individually.
It is natural to feel overwhelmed by this process! Remember that this is standard procedure for a certain percentage of students who apply for the Dream Act. Do not be discouraged. We, and many others, are here to support you through the process!
Navigating your financial aid award letter can be confusing because of all the unknown terms and definitions. It is important to understand your total attendance cost so that you determine what you may need to pay out of pocket.
Tuition and Fees are part of the expenses on your financial aid award letter. Tuition refers to the cost of attendance and fees are other expenses like room and board, meal plans, and books!
A financial aid award letter indicates how much financial support a college/university is able to provide a student for the upcoming year.
After a college/university admits a student, you will receive a financial aid award letter that outlines how much will cost and what kind of financial aid you will receive including school, state, and federal aid. Each year you will receive a financial aid package. Your financial aid package each year may or may not change depending on various circumstances.
Check your mail or your student portal to find your award package.
1. Find out your EFC and how much grant aid you were awarded
Your package will include information about your:
Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)
This amount is calculated based on the information submitted on your financial aid application. Your EFC is not an actual that you have to pay but it is an estimate of how much your family should reasonably be able to contribute towards your college expenses. EFC takes into account income, assets, number of people in the household, and number of people attending college for the year.
Type of aid that does not have to be repaid. Examples include grants and scholarships.
Type of aid that must be repaid or earned through work. Examples include loans and work study.
2. Find out the net price
Cost of Attendance: full price colleges/universities list in their brochures and on their websites. To find out your net price, look at the cost of attendance subtract grant aid you were awarded in your aid fin aid package. The net price is the amount you or your family will pay out of pocket. If you or your family cannot cover your net price, you can find employment, additional scholarships or get federal loans to offset the net cost.
3. Focus on your net price
Knowing your net price gives you the best estimate of what you pay for a particular school and makes comparing college easier. In addition, you can use your net price each year to make financial plans for the school year.
After you submit your FAFSA or Dream Act there are some additional steps that you should be aware of. For students who complete the FAFSA, there is something called a Student Aid Report (SAR) which is a summary of all information reported on the FAFSA. This summary is usually available to view a few days after you submit the FAFSA. It provides important information about potential issues with your FAFSA such as a mismatch between what you reported on the FAFSA and what the Social Security Administration has on file for your name and social security number. Any issues such as these need to be addressed as soon as possible- otherwise, it could create a delay in receiving your financial aid.
For students who complete the Dream Act, there is a very similar document called the Cal Student Aid Report (Cal SAR) which is a summary of all information reported on the Dream Act, available a few days after you submit your application. The Cal SAR also provides important information about potential issues with your Dream Act application. You should address any such issues as soon as possible to avoid delays in the financial aid process.
The SAR and Cal SAR also will include your official Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is determined by the information entered into the FAFSA or Dream Act such as family income, household size, and number in college. The EFC is an important index number that is used by colleges to determine what type of and how much financial aid you can receive based upon your need. The higher the EFC, the lower the need, and the lower the EFC, the higher the need. The EFC is not the exact amount you will have to pay for college, but instead, it can be thought of as the minimum amount you and your family will need to pay. Colleges will receive your EFC and use it to determine the student’s eligibility for financial aid.
Important links and resources:
A helpful video about how to retrieve and download a Student Aid Report can be found here.
You Might Be Selected for Verification
Another step that you should be aware of is something called verification. Verification is a process in which the federal government and colleges can request copies of specific documents to confirm the accuracy of the information reported on financial aid forms. Some students are randomly selected for verification while others are selected due to conflicting information that the colleges are seeing on the financial aid forms.
Examples of documents required for verification can include any of the following if applicable:
Official tax transcripts or tax returns
Proof of citizenship/residency
Documentation of legal guardianship
This process must be completed in a timely manner! If you receive a verification request from a college you need to respond as quickly as you can so you do not miss out on potential financial aid that is first-come, first-served. Note that these verification requests may come through email, the school portal, and/or the regular postal mail.
Institutional Documentation Service – CSS Profile Submissions Only
For students required to complete the CSS Profile, there is a follow-up step that is similar to verification which is called Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC). If required, this process will also require you to submit additional documentation.
Important Links and Resources:
Watch a helpful video that shows how to request a tax transcript via IRS.GOV to be mailed home here.
To find out you are required to complete IDOC, check out this website.
Created by the College Board, this is a series of slides and videos that reviews the IDOC process that can be found here.
Create a WebGrants 4 Students Account
California students also need to be aware of the steps to take to secure their Cal Grant, Middle-Class Scholarship (MCS), or Chafee Grant, if awarded. For general information about these financial aid programs, see our post “All About Cal Grants and Other CA Financial Aid”. After you submit your FAFSA or Dream Act, you will need to create a WebGrants 4 Students (WG4S) account. This is the online portal that allows you to track the status of your state financial aid, complete required To-Do items and manage their award, and review your state financial aid history and remaining eligibility.
It is crucial that students complete your required steps by the appropriate deadlines, such as:
Confirm your intended school of attendance or make a school change
Certify your high school graduation date, for current high school seniors
Complete the Transfer Entitlement Certification, for community college transfer students
Complete the Cal Grant C Supplement, if being considered for Cal Grant C
Keep in mind that the timelines for you to complete these steps may vary depending on if you are a first-time applicant or renewing your award, as well as what type of award you are being considered for. You should keep track of their deadlines to ensure that you do not miss out on any state financial aid you may be eligible for. Once you have completed all of the requirements on your WG4S account, your intended college will be able to confirm their eligibility and move forward with issuing payment of their award.
Important Links and Resources:
Watch a help video created by the California Student Aid Commission about how to create your WebGrants 4 Students account here
Check out a detailed description of how to complete certain steps on WG4S here.
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