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Applying for financial aid in a nutshell:

  • File the FAFSA (or the CA Dream Act application if you are an undocumented AB-540 student).
  • Make sure your GPA verification has been sent to the California Student Aid Commission.
  • Apply for the Cuesta Scholarship.
  • Submit required paperwork to Cuesta as soon as possible.
  • Choose how you want to receive your money. 


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)* determines eligibility for student financial aid, including Pell Grants, Federal student loans and Federal Work-Study.  The FAFSA is made available online January 1.

Once you have completed your FAFSA and have submitted all of your Cuesta College paperwork, it takes six to eight weeks for your file to be reviewed and packaged.  In most cases, you will not be able to receive funds prior to the end of the first week of the semester, so please plan accordingly. 

Remember: submitting the FAFSA is only the beginning of the application process. If you don't follow through with the rest of the process, you may find yourself without any aid when you desperately need it.

*Undocumented students who are eligible for AB-540 status should fill out the California Dream Act instead of the FAFSA. Undocumented students are ineligible for federal student aid, but may receive financial assistance from state sources.  Otherwise, the application process detailed below is identical.


Applying for financial aid in five easy steps


Step 1: Fill out the FAFSA online

  • Make sure you have tax information for the preceding year ready.  If possible, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer data from the IRS directly into your application.
  • If you are a dependent student, one of your parents must sign the FAFSA.
  • Be sure to enter Cuesta’s Federal School Code (001192) in the school data section.
  • Allow for one week for your application information to arrive at the schools you listed on the FAFSA.
  • Apply before March 2 if you want to apply for a Cal Grant or Cuesta Scholarship.
  • If you or your family need help filing the FAFSA, contact the Financial Aid Office for assistance.

Step 2: Submit a GPA Verification form to the California Student Aid Commission (if necessary)

  • New applicants for Cal Grants — including entering freshmen— must submit some form of GPA verification to CSAC and complete a FAFSA by March 2nd.
  • If you have completed 24 degree-applicable units at Cuesta, our Admissions and Records office will submit your GPA verification electronically by the March 2 and September 2 deadlines every year.
  • Transfer students with units from other California community colleges need to:
    1. Provide official academic transcripts to Cuesta College's Admissions & Records department at least two weeks before the GPA submission deadline; AND
    2. Turn in a GPA verification form to the Admissions and Records office so that we can electronically submit your GPA data to CSAC. (see links below)
  • If none of the situations above apply to you, you can have your GPA verified by a college where you have completed 24 degree-applicable units or by your high school (if you have not completed 24 degree-applicable units at a college). Here are links to the GPA verification forms:

Step 3: Apply for the Cuesta Scholarship Program and any outside scholarships

  • Cuesta Scholarship applications are due March 2 of every year.
  • Outside scholarships have varying due dates and eligibility criteria, so do your research into scholarships early!

Step 4: Complete any paperwork required by the Cuesta College Financial Aid Office

  • Make sure you read and accept the terms and conditions in your myCuesta student portal.
  • Check your financial aid status on the myCuesta portal to see if our office is requesting any additional documentation. The "student requirements" page will contain links to the forms that we require from you.
  • If you want to apply for a student loan, you must attend a Student Loan Workshop.
  • Turn any requested documents into the Financial Aid office as soon as possible. Do not wait until the semester has started or your aid will be significantly delayed!
  • Once you have submitted all of the requested forms, your file will be reviewed within 4-8 weeks.
  • If you need any assistance with completing your application, please contact the Financial Aid office at (805) 546-3143 or email us at


Step 5: Choose a disbursement option (how you'll receive your money) through the myCuesta Card website

  • An access card is sent to all students in a green envelope--don't throw it away!
  • Activate your card by entering the numbers on the website, then choose one of the following disbursement options:
    • Have your funds transferred to your personal banking account;
    • Have a paper check sent to your address on file with Cuesta College; or
    • Open an account with Higher One and have funds transferred in automatically.
  • If you do not activate the card and choose an option, your funds will be delayed by at least three weeks.
  • Replacement cards can be ordered from the Cashier's Office.

Frequently asked questions


Q: Once I apply, how do I check my status?

A: You can check your status on your myCuesta portal.


Q: How will I receive my money?

A: You have three options: paper check, direct deposit to your bank account, or opening up a Higher One account (whereby your myCuesta Card becomes an ATM card). You MUST select your option on the myCuesta Card website to prevent substantial delays in receiving your funds. If you are currently enrolled at Cuesta, but don't have a myCuesta Card (or have lost the one you received), contact the cashier's office to have a new one sent to you.


Q: Am I considered a dependent or an independent student?

A: Generally, if you are under 24 and unmarried, you are a dependent student. However, there are several exceptions to that rule. Check out our dependency status page for more information.


Q: You've asked me for my tax return transcript. Do you mean the tax return I submitted to the IRS?

A: No. The tax return transcript is a document that the IRS can only produce after you've submitted your tax return. You can order it for free from the IRS directly. It takes about 10 minutes to retrieve a PDF version of your transcript that you can print out for submitting with your documents.  Make sure you request the return transcript, NOT the account transcript.


This page is maintained by Financial Aid.