⚠   Notice – The latest updates on the evolving COVID-19 policies and resources for the campus community
COVID 19 - Related Financial Aid Updates

Contact Us |  

Search form


Graduate Award Guide

Financial Aid Award Guide 

The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office works closely with students to make a priceless UC Berkeley education an affordable reality. At UC Berkeley, we are proud to say that nearly everyone is eligible for financial aid. This Graduate Award Guide will assist you in understanding and accepting the financial aid you have been offered.

The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office administers federal loans and work-study awards for graduate and professional students. If you are interested in being considered for federal loans or work-study, please complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Students receiving merit-based awards including fellowships, fee remissions for teaching and research appointments, and department awards are encouraged to contact the Graduate Division or their academic department for more information about these awards. Note: Federal regulations require that these awards be reported to the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. The total of the financial aid awards you receive cannot exceed your Cost of Attendance. It is possible, therefore, that these merit-based awards could reduce other financial aid awards. We may need to reduce your federal loan(s) and/or work-study award(s) by the amount of your merit-based award(s) to ensure that your total awards do not exceed your Cost of Attendance. Some adjustments may result in an invoice on your student account. 

Understanding Your Award

Cost of Attendance: Your Cost of Attendance is an estimate of your total expenses based on your college or program’s academic year (tuition, fees, and living expenses). Most graduate program’s follow a nine month academic year but there are some that have slightly different program lengths. By federal law, a Cost of Attendance may cover only student expenses for the terms defined as the academic year. Expenses for periods of non enrollment, spouse, and dependent living expenses cannot be included, with the exception of documented child care costs which may be added. Your eligibility for Federal Direct Loans will be the difference between your Cost of Attendance and any other merit-based or other grant awards you receive. You may submit a Cost of Attendance (COA) Adjustment Request with documentation of any educational expenses you have that exceed items in the standard Cost of Attendance within the academic year terms for which you are enrolled. COA Adjustment Request Forms can be downloaded from the Forms section of this site.

Student Contribution: Your Student Contribution is calculated by a formula called Federal Methodology passed into law by Congress in 1992. Your Student Contribution is derived from the income and assets you report on your FAFSA. Your Student Contribution is not used to determine your eligibility for merit-based grant awards from your academic department or the Graduate Fellowships Office, or for most federal loans.  Your Student Contribution is only used to determine your eligibility for Health Professions Student Loans, and Federal Work-Study.

Other Resources: These are awards, fee remissions, and waivers that have been reported by sources outside of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, including your academic department and the Graduate Fellowships Office.  If you have been notified of any awards not shown in this section, you are required to report them CalCentral. It is your responsibility throughout the year to report any Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) or Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) jobs, fellowships, or department awards (fees and/or stipend), travel grants, normative time grants, fee remissions, GSHIP waivers, or other aid not already shown in this section. Please note that if your department has only reported the fall semester portion of an award and you anticipate receiving more funding in the spring semester, it is important to add the spring award on My Finances as soon as you become aware of it. Outside awards may be reported to the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office at any time and you are encouraged to make sure that all of your awards are reported in a timely manner.

If you report changes in resources, your financial aid eligibility will be re-evaluated and we will notify you by email if your award is revised. If the Graduate Division, your academic department, or an outside agency reports awards that you have not previously reported to us, we will adjust your loan(s) or work-study. You may be required to repay loans already disbursed if the total of your financial aid awards, including your outside aid, exceeds your Cost of Attendance.

Financial Aid Awards: This is your offer of federal financial aid. Typical financial aid offers include a Federal Direct Loan and a Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loan to meet your Cost of Attendance. Financial aid offers will not include other types of awards unless you, your department, or the Graduate Division's Fellowships Office have reported them to the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office.  See Types of Financial Aid below for loan details or information about how to request work-study.

Your financial aid offer may be revised if: 1) there are changes in your financial situation (e.g., funds or support from any source including the Graduate Division or your department), 2) there is a change in state or federal funding availability, 3) there is a change in your enrollment (e.g. fall & spring enrollment to fall only enrollment) or 4) there is an error in the offer.

The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office will normally reduce unpaid Direct Loans prior to reducing paid Direct Loans. This means your spring refund from your Direct Loan could be less than the fall refund if new award information was added to your aid package after fall Direct Loan paid to your account. These adjustments will appear on your student account in the My Finances section of CalCentral.

Accepting Your Financial Aid

Log into CalCentral and navigate to the My Finances tab.  Click on the View Awards button under Financial Aid and Scholarships. On the right hand column of the page, under Awards, you will be able to view, accept or decline your awards and/or to request a work-study award. Review your financial aid offer to ensure all fellowships, department, or other outside awards have been reported. These awards are automatically accepted for you.

Federal Direct Loans are available to most students regardless of income. To be considered for a loan you must have filed the FAFSA.  Federal Direct Loans provide a range of repayment options including income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness benefits, which other education loans are not required to provide. You may accept all, a portion of or none of your loan(s) at this time. You are under no obligation to accept the loans offered to you. We strongly encourage you to borrow only what you need to meet your educational expenses. You may accept some now, and request an additional loan later. Students enrolled at least half-time in both the fall and spring semesters have until March 31 to accept loans. To request additional loan after you have accepted the full amount of loan, visit the Cal Student Central webpage and open a case.

Read the instructions in the online financial aid portal carefully:

Report any changes in your enrollment plans, and

Report any outside resources you will be receiving that are not already displayed.

If you accept a Federal Direct Loan you need to:

Complete a Direct Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN) at www.studentloans.gov (unless you received a Direct Loan within the past 12 months).

Complete Direct Loan Entrance Counseling at www.studentloans.gov (unless you completed this requirement in a previous year). You may choose the combined Direct Loan / Grad PLUS option.

If at any time you choose to request a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan you need to:

Complete a Direct Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN) at www.studentloans.gov (unless you received a Direct Loan within the past 12 months).

Complete Direct Loan Entrance Counseling at www.studentloans.gov (unless you completed this requirement in a previous year). You may choose the combined Direct Loan / Grad PLUS option.


Receiving Your Financial Aid Award

Approximately one week before the start of instruction each semester, your financial aid awards (excluding work-study earnings and some private loans) will be disbursed. To receive your financial aid award, you must meet these requirements:

You have accepted one or more awards.

You have signed any required Master Promissory Notes.

You have completed an entrance interview if you are a first-time borrower.

Your financial aid file is complete. Review your Tasks in the My Finances View Awards section of Cal Central for information about any missing documents.

You are enrolled in at least 6 units.

You have cleared any registration holds.

You are making satisfactory academic progress.

You are not overawarded.

Your financial aid funds will be applied first to University charges. Any excess aid that remains after the charges on your account have been paid in full will be refunded to you. You are strongly encouraged to enroll in Direct Depoit (a.k.a. Electronic Funds Transfer [EFT]), authorizing the direct deposit of financial aid refunds into your bank account. If you do not apply for direct deposit at least 10 business days before the beginning of the enrollment period, your refund will be held at Cal Student Central, 120 Sproul Hall, for pickup. You will receive an email advising you of when your refund is available either via Direct Deposit/EFT or as a paper check ready for pickup.

If you do not meet the eligibility requirements above, you can expect your aid to be delayed. Aid will disburse to your account after you meet all eligibility requirements.


Staying Eligible for Financial Aid

Satisfactory Academic Progress
Financial aid regulations require that students meet specific Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements to maintain eligibility for financial aid. Review our SAP policy for more information.