With the March 2 deadline approaching, teachers, counselors and others can help tip the balance on whether a student makes it to college.
More than 300,000 additional community college students would be eligible for Cal Grants covering non-tuition costs under a new proposal.
Advocates are pushing for the overhaul so more students receive Cal Grants and so the funds cover non-tuition expenses such as housing.
California community college leaders want to remove restrictions that keep hundreds of thousands of students from receiving the Cal Grant by basing the size of the grant on the total cost of college attendance.
The state's student aid commission is looking for ideas to consolidate various Cal Grants and other grant programs.
Students from low-income and immigrant families may face particularly difficult decisions in weighing colleges' financial aid offers. Some families are very resistant to loans.
The final application numbers top last year's by 5 percent after much publicity and pledges that personal data will not be shared with federal authorities.