The First Step to Receiving Financial Aid Is To Apply For It. Here’s How to Do It


Jesus and the entire DVC Financial Aid team are here to help! Photo by Meredith Slater.

Meredith Slater, Staff

If you’re like me, the pandemic has brought a lot of changes to daily life. Of those, losing my job has been the most challenging. I was fortunate to have financial support from my family in the past, but now that I am on my own, I need to seek assistance.

I know I’m not the only one with this kind of a story, or some version like it.

If you, too, are new to the system of requesting financial assistance, the first and most important step is to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applying through FAFSA opens the door to a variety of financial aid options for students.

FAFSA helps determine what financial aid you are eligible for and is used to apply for other opportunities. For example, many financial aid programs ask that you complete the FAFSA first – like Diablo Valley College’s First Time + Full Time = Free Tuition (FT3) program, which offers free tuition for up to four consecutive semesters to first-time college students who are enrolled in a minimum of 12 units per semester.

Students must pledge by Nov. 1 to be eligible for this program. More information on FT3 and eligibility requirements can be found here.

Another great financial assistance program offered through DVC is the COVID-19 Emergency Grant, a $1,000 one-time grant for currently enrolled students. Spoiler alert: the first question on the application form asks if you’ve filled out this year’s FAFSA.

How to seek assistance

On Sept. 13, currently enrolled students who have not applied for financial aid and may be eligible received an email from DVC’s Financial Aid Office informing them of the school’s financial aid opportunities. The email provided a link to the FAFSA application, described where to find financial aid information on the InSite portal, and explained details about the Financial Aid office and Enrollment Lab hours.

In my own first attempt to fill out the FAFSA, I went to the Student Services Center and found the lab where drop-in financial aid services are held. There I met Jesus, a Financial Aid Assistant who has worked on DVC’s financial aid team since 2019.

As he guided me through the application, Jesus was able to explain each page of the FAFSA form. When I hit a confusing question, he was right there to help walk me through it.

“The FAFSA is the main bread and butter for students,” Jesus explained, “Whatever the student is eligible for [regarding] the FAFSA, we just give it to them.”

FAFSA is now accepting applications for the 2021-22 academic year. Applicants must be one of the following: a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, eligible non-citizen or T Visa holder, which applies to victims of human trafficking. For more information and to apply for financial aid through FAFSA, visit

If you are not eligible for FAFSA, be sure to review the California Dream Act Application (CADAA). The CA Dream Act is for applicants who are undocumented, have a valid or expired Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), U Visa holders for victims of criminal activity, or those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Learn more at

The scholarship office has its own application that is available to all enrolled students. “International students aren’t able to apply for financial aid like the FAFSA, but they are eligible to apply for scholarships,” Jesus said. “That’s the one form of financial aid that’s open to every single student.”

Similar to the FAFSA, you only need to apply for scholarships once a year, and the Scholarship office will submit your information to all opportunities you might be eligible for. View upcoming virtual workshops or contact the Scholarship office by visiting

It’s easy to feel confused by the process of applying for financial aid or scholarships. For those who aren’t sure where to begin, you can start by visiting the Financial Aid Lab drop-in hours. They offer one-on-one assistance and can support you both online and in-person.

Visit for lab hours, virtual FAFSA workshops, and to view on-demand financial aid videos that can help you understand your options and the steps you need to take to apply for financial assistance.

Students may also visit the Financial Aid office during office hours. Current hours through December 17, 2021, are as follows:

In Person Services:     Monday – Thursday      9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Remote Services:     Monday – Thursday     8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Friday            9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Detailed information on all financial aid options can be found by visiting Conveniently, there is a chat feature embedded on the financial aid page so you can ask your questions directly to someone in the Financial Aid office.

It may all sound complicated. But the truth is, once I took the first step and went in to complete the FAFSA, I found the process easy. Whether I receive financial aid, and how much, will be another matter.