• Financial Aid Basics - Financial Aid Process

Financial Aid Process

Complete a financial aid application to be considered for all grants, loans and work-study programs available at CSUN.

In order to apply for scholarships you must apply using our online application. Go to our scholarship website for more information on other ways to find scholarships.

The sections below detail the application and verification processes as well as CSUN policies.


 Read the bullet points below to make sure you're covered when it comes to financial aid at CSUN.

  • Am I eligible for federal aid?
  • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year in order to receive federal grants, loans or work-study. All California state aid eligibility is based on information from the FAFSA. 
  • Do not submit a FAFSA if you have been issued a social security number through the DACA program or have been issued a social security number for work purposes only. You may be eligible for state aid through the California Dream Act Application. Click here for more information.
  • Cal State Northridge receives FAFSA data once a week and sends an application acknowledgment email to your CSUN Gmail when your FAFSA has been updated in the financial aid system.
  • The California Student Aid Commission requires GPA verification and a FAFSA for first-time Cal Grant recipients by March 2.
  • Scholarships are widely available and require their own application process.
  • California State University reserves the right, even after initial payments are made, to increase or modify any listed fees without notice until the date of instruction for a particular semester or quarter has begun. Fees listed in published schedules or student accounts may increase when public funding is inadequate. The California State University makes every effort to keep student costs to a minimum, but all California State University listed fees should be regarded as estimates subject to change upon approval by The Board of Trustees. Cal State Northridge will always try to award up to your cost of attendance.
  • State university fees are your tuition and fees for being a student. These fees are determined by the state of California.
  • Campus-based fees are campus charges such as health fees, Associated Students fees, etc. These fees are determined by Cal State Northridge.
  • For a quick overview of what happens after you've applied for financial aid, check out What Happens Next at Cal State Northridge.


Approximately 20 percent of financial aid applicants are selected for a process that requires the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department to verify information submitted on the FAFSA. The verification process must be completed before aid is awarded. It is your responsibility to check your CSUN email regularly and determine if you have been selected for verification.

To avoid delays stemming from missing information and inaccuracies, make sure you read and follow the directions in the Verification Guide.  From April to August, the verification process may take up to nine weeks. Only submit documents that appear under your To-Do List on the portal. Here is a sample list of documents you may be asked to submit:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizenship status. If you became a U.S. citizen after you received a Social Security card, provide the Social Security Administration with an updated U.S. citizenship status and request a duplicate Social Security card.
  • Dependent or independent student verification worksheet.
  • Signed copy of parents' IRS tax transcript.
  • Signed copy of student or spouse's IRS tax transcript; if separate returns are filed, submit copies of both.
  • Proof of registration with the Selective Service.
  • Legible copy of a valid driver's license or state photo identification card.


The amount of financial aid you receive is based on federal formulas that calculate the need for taxpayer-funded student aid programs. In determining your award, federal and state regulations consider any resources you may already have to cover the costs of education.

All colleges and universities are required to have coordination of aid and policy items in place to ensure compliance with these regulations. 

Other than employment, you must report any resources you receive during the school year. Similarly, all university departments and any of their auxiliaries must notify the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department of payments or benefits, outside of employment, provided to you. Failure to do so, or late notification, puts you at serious risk for financial aid overpayment, which can lead to a reduction or cancellation of awarded funds. Eligibility for future financial aid may be affected. 

All university campus departments and university auxiliaries, including Associated Students, CSUN Foundation, University Corporation and University Student Union, are required to report student resources to the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department. Any other kind of direct payment or benefit to the student must be reported. This includes book allowances, fee payments, fellowships, grants, scholarships, stipends and waiver of payments.

Again, employment does not need to be reported. 

If you are subject to award revisions, you should visit the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department to discuss the impact on your award, and explore financing options with a financial aid counselor. Every effort will be made to protect your financial aid eligibility and ensure there are sufficient resources to meet the costs of attending the university.

Receive Aid Payment

Financial aid awards are computed weekly for students who have completed the requested documentation and have met all other aid eligibility requirements. By the end of April, the department begins awarding incoming freshmen and new transfer students for the upcoming fall. The department begins awarding continuing students in late June after requirements for financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress are reviewed. Once you are awarded, an email notification is sent and will direct you to more detailed award information on the CSUN Portal.

  • After you're awarded, the total amount for the term will show as anticipated aid. If you're awarded student loans, you must accept the loans on the CSUN Portal for it to show as anticipated aid. Grants are automatically accepted and show as anticipated aid when awarded. Before releasing funds, we make sure:
    • A valid high school transcript is on file if you're a freshman.
    • You meet Satisfactory Academic Progress.
    • You are registered for the required number of units.
    • Loan entrance counseling and Master Promissory Note is completed if you are a student loan borrower.
  • We begin disbursing funds 10 days prior to the start of each term and continue weekly as long as you meet all other eligibility criteria.
  • When we disburse funds, your anticipated aid becomes actual aid to pay off your charges. If there is a credit balance, an eRefund or a Financial Aid Balance Check will be processed. eRefund allows for the excess financial aid funds to be deposited directly to your designated bank account.
  • Checks are mailed directly to the address we have on file.  Learn how to update your mailing address.  Checks may NOT be picked up in person.
  • If after initial awarding a change is made to your award package, a revised financial aid award email will be sent.

When will my financial aid funds be released?

  • Your financial aid funds are released and applied to your outstanding charges with the university starting 10 days prior to the start of each term, and weekly thereafter, if you are enrolled in sufficient units; you are not on a financial aid academic plan for Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements; have not been paid and you have no outstanding items on your financial aid To-Do List.
  • Students on a financial aid academic plan will experience a delay in the disbursement of their spring aid until fall grades are reviewed and enrollment is complete.
  • Your financial aid may cover any outstanding tuition and campus fees and charges related to on-campus housing and the campus meal plan. Financial aid does not pay the orientation fee.
  • While your financial aid funds are being released, your anticipated aid will disappear. This is normal and part of the process that facilitates the release of your financial aid funds.
  • Please do not contact the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department, University Cash Services or Student Accounting with questions or concerns until the end of August (fall term) and end of January (spring term) to allow us time to process the release of your funds.

 When will I receive my remaining financial aid funds? 

  • If you have signed up for eRefund and your charges with the university are paid, any remaining financial aid funds will be deposited into the designated bank account after your charges with the university are paid.
  • If you did not sign up for eRefund, a check will be sent to the address on file with the university by regular mail. Please allow up to 10 business days for postal delivery of your refund check. For questions about lost or stolen checks, please contact University Cash Services.
  • If you paid your tuition using a credit card, please contact University Cash Services for details regarding the tuition refund process. Generally, a refund is issued to your credit card. 

What can I use my remaining financial aid funds for? 

  • After university charges have been paid, you may use any remaining financial aid funds to cover education-related expenses, including books and supplies; a personal computer or other education-related technology; and living and transportation expenses.
  • You must budget any funds you receive, and attempt to make the money last for the entire rest of the semester. For tips on money management and budgeting, visit the Financial Literacy website.

What if the financial aid funds I receive are not enough to cover my charges?

How will my financial aid change if my unit load changes?

  • If you are registered less than full time, your initial award amount is subject to reduction or cancellation. Your initial award represents the maximum amount you may receive if registered full time. The amount disbursed to your student account may change depending on the number of units you are enrolled in.
  • Financial aid counselors can explain the pros and cons of changing your enrollment status and how it affects your financial aid. Please visit the financial aid counter on the first floor lobby of Bayramian Hall during counselor walk-in hours.

If I drop a class that brings me below full-time status, will it affect my financial aid?

  • Yes, we will adjust your aid depending on the award type. If you have a Stafford loan and you drop below half time, any amount not disbursed for the academic year will be canceled, and any refund will be sent to your lender.

What if I drop a class or withdraw after I have received my aid payment?

  • If you drop a class, you may be required to repay part or all of the funds received. For example, if you receive a full-time federal Pell grant payment, 100 percent of the awarded amount, and you drop to 9 units, your enrollment status changes from full time to three-quarter time; therefore, you may have to repay 25 percent of the amount already received

What if I drop any or all my classes?

What if I need additional funds?

What can I do to ensure the release of my financial aid funds runs smoothly?

  • After you're awarded, the amount will show as anticipated aid. If you're awarded student loans, you must accept the loans on the CSUN Portal for it to show as anticipated aid. Grants are automatically accepted and show as anticipated aid when awarded.
  • Select and finalize your class schedule prior to payment of your funds. If you increase or decrease your number of enrolled units after your aid is paid out, your financial aid award may be adjusted. The adjustment in aid may result in new charges, and you may no longer be eligible for aid to cover those charges.
  • If you accept direct loans, sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN) and complete Loan Entrance Counseling. The MPN needs to be completed only once while Loan Entrance Counseling must be completed every year.
  • Review your personalized financial aid award information on the portal. If you are receiving a full or partial fee waiver from another source, such as a scholarship, academic or athletic award, or a stipend that is not recorded in your financial aid awards, you must report the resource immediately to the Financial Aid and Scholarship Department. It may result in reduction or cancellation of financial aid or debt owed to the university for aid received prior to the reduction or cancellation.
  • Sign up for eRefund well before your funds are released (at least 10 business days prior to release of funds). If you signed up in the past but have changed your bank information, please update your records immediately by visiting the CSUN Portal and going to the "Financial Matters" tab. Under "My Financial Obligations," select "eRefund" and choose "Change Account." Update your bank information; agree to the acknowledgement and select "Save."
  • The disbursement process involves four departments and takes approximately five to six days to complete. As aid is moved from your financial aid award to your Northridge student account, your anticipated aid will disappear. There will be a short period when you will not see your anticipated aid, but charges will still show. After aid is moved to your Northridge student account, tuition and campus fees will be paid first, followed by any charges related to on-campus housing and/or a campus meal plan. Any remaining financial aid funds will be refunded at the end of the process.
  • Please allow every process to complete before contacting the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department, University Cash Services or Student Accounting with questions or concerns.
  • The Award and Planning Guide explains in detail what a financial aid award means.



Please keep in mind the following Northridge policies when applying for financial aid:

Release of Information: A release form must be on file if the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department is to release student information to the parent or parent information to the student. Please read the confidentiality policy, download the Authorization to Release Information form, and submit. This authorization must be filled out yearly.

Confidentiality Policy: All confidential information in a student's financial aid record is protected under the various provisions of law as listed in the California State University, Northridge catalog.

Should one wish to disclose university records to a third party, an "Authorization to Release Information" form is required. This form is only effective with the office to which it was submitted. All students must provide this release for their parents or stepparents, and married students for their spouse. Parents and stepparents with a Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) must provide this release to discuss parental loans or income information they provided for their Northridge student.

Authorizations are valid for one person at a time. You must fill out multiple forms if you'd like to release your information to more than one person. You cannot, for example, complete a form for the "Smith family."

Forms should be submitted in person at the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department office, on the first floor of Bayramian Hall in the Student Services Center. You will be asked to provide identification. If you choose to submit your form by mail, additional steps are required. Forms submitted by mail must be notarized originals. Forms may not be faxed.

Authorization to release information may be revoked at any time and will automatically expire at the end of each Cal State Northridge academic year. Terminations before the end of an academic year must be in writing and submitted under the same security rules as listed above.

For more information, read about student identity theft and misuse.

Domestic Partner Rights: The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003, or AB 205, extends new rights, benefits and obligations to individuals in registered domestic partnerships. The provisions of the act apply to state and institutional financial aid only, and not to federal aid.

AB 205 extends the rights and duties of spouses to couples registered as domestic partners with the California Secretary of State.

If you or your parents are in a registered domestic partnership at the time you file your FAFSA, you are required to contact the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department to ensure compliance under AB 205. Students in a registered domestic partnership will be treated as married students in determining state aid eligibility, and parents in a registered domestic partnership will be treated the same as students with married parents.

Less Than Full-Time Enrollment: Financial aid awards are projected at full-time status. The amount actually disbursed to your student account may change depending on the number of units you are enrolled in. This may show as less than your award amount.

Satisfactory Academic Progress: Satisfactory academic progress must be maintained in order to continue eligibility for financial aid. Read more about the policy by visiting the Satisfactory Academic Progress page.

Withdrawal Policy: There are consequences to withdrawing from part, or all, of your course load, even for medical reasons. Read more about the withdrawal policy.