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Applying for financial aid in a nutshell:

  • Make sure you have a PIN with the Department of Education.
  • File the FAFSA online (or CA Dream Act 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.


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. In order to receive your funds in a timely fashion, you must choose the specific delivery method of your funds through the myCuesta Card website.

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: Request a PIN from the Department of Education.  

  • This PIN is used to sign the online FAFSA, as well as access many education-related websites. 

  • Note that parents of dependent students must also obtain their own PINs!


Step 2: Fill out the FAFSA online. 

  • You will need tax information for the preceding year for yourself (and for your parents if you are a dependent student).

  • Be sure to enter Cuesta's Federal School Code (001192) in the school data section.

  • Within 7 calendar days, the Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR) and each school listed on the FAFSA will receive your application information.

  • Check your SAR for accuracy and completeness. If an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) was not calculated, then there is missing and/or incorrect information that you must provide to resolve the error.

  • If you want to apply for a Cal Grant, make sure you complete your FAFSA between January 1 and March 2.  

  • If you need help filing the FAFSA, contact the Financial Aid Office for assistance. We have regularly scheduled FAFSA labs that are available by appointment only. Online resources like NerdScholar's FAFSA Guide may also be helpful.  

Step 3: 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 a valid social security number that you submitted on your Cuesta admissions application and you have completed 24 degree applicable units at Cuesta, Cuesta's Admissions and Records Office submits your GPA verification electronically by the March 2nd and September 2nd deadlines every year.

  • If you do not have a valid social security number (i.e. Dream Act students) but you have completed 24 degree applicable units at Cuesta, Cuesta's Admissions and Records Office submits your GPA verification electronically by the March 2nd and September 2nd deadlines.

  • Transfer students with units from other California community colleges need to provide official academic transcripts to Cuesta College's Admissions & Records department at least two weeks before the GPA submission deadline. You also need to turn in a GPA verification form (see links below) so that we can electronically submit your GPA data to CSAC.

  • Below you will find links to the Cal Grant GPA Verification forms if the above situations do not describe you.  You can request your GPA be verified by a prior college where you have completed 24 degree applicable units or your high school if you have not completed 24 degree applicable units at a college.

2014-15 Cal Grant GPA Verification Form
2014-15 Non-SSN GPA Verification Form


Step 4: 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 5: Complete the paperwork that Cuesta College requires for all applicants

  • Everyone must submit paperwork in addition to the FAFSA or Dream Act. We will send you an email when we have received your FAFSA. Follow the instructions in that e-mail to print out the forms that we are requesting.

  • You must provide us with official academic transcripts for every other college or university that you've attended. Contact the other schools to order the transcripts as soon as possible to avoid delays.

  • Check your status on the myCuesta portal to see if you have items missing from your application. Your status page will have links to all of the forms that we are requesting from you.

  • You must attend a Student Loan Workshop in order to request a student loan.

  • Turn the forms 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 6-8 weeks.
  • If you need any assistance with completing your application, please contact the Financial Aid office at (805) 546-3143 or email us at


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.