You've sent in your FAFSA form or DREAM Application to the processing center, which analyzes your information using an approved need analysis system. After determining the aid you're eligible to receive, the center sends the results in the form of a Student Aid Report (SAR) to you and to financial aid offices of the university campuses you listed on your FAFSA or Dream form. CA Dream applicants will receive their results in the form of a California Aid Report (CAR) similar to the FAFSA SAR.
When it's ready, you will receive a copy of your SAR/CAR for you to check for errors and make corrections. Look it over carefully. If something's not correct, was left out, or has changed since you filed the form, make the corrections as instructed on the SAR/CAR. Check that the college you plan to attend is listed under the school list section. If not, you need to add this college as a correction to your SAR/CAR. If everything checks out okay on your SAR/CAR, you just need to wait patiently for the financial aid office to contact you.
If you receive a request from a college for further information or documentation, respond right away.
The Award Package
Using your SAR/CAR, the financial aid office personnel will assess your case and then they will create a financial aid package for you. A package is what the financial aid office calls the combined financial aid programs and services you're eligible to receive for that year. It's determined on the basis of your financial need and the available programs and the amount of funds available in those programs.
For example, a student's financial aid package could be a Pell Grant, a Cal Grant, and a Stafford Loan or just a Cal Grant option, while another student's package could be just a Stafford Loan option because that's all s/he qualifies for.
Acceptance and Completion
Now that you have received your Financial Aid Award Notice, you will then accept or decline the awards you have been offered. If you have been offered a Federal Student Loan, you may need to complete additional steps to receive the funds.
The financial aid office will notify you of the disbursement schedule. Disbursement is usually handled by the campus' bursar's office. Your tuition is usually automatically deducted from the check amount. If your award amount includes money meant for housing, books, supplies, etc., the electronic funds transfer or check will be made out for the balance of your total award amount. Budgeting and money management is up to you, but there may be services or workshops offered at the campus that can help those that need it.