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Top 10 questions from Berkeley parents about campus living

Two girls smiling and talking in hallway

Photo UC Berkeley/Elena Zhukova

Sending your student off to UC Berkeley is, for most parents, a dream come true — but it can also bring a whole host of new concerns and questions. From affording college to worrying about your student’s health and safety as they live away from home for the first time, you are navigating new territory as a parent.

Every year, Berkeley staff respond to hundreds of parent questions. We asked staff in offices across campus to answer parents’ most common questions about campus living.

What is work-study and can it help my student?
Work-study is a need-based aid program that helps students earn money through part-time jobs. Eligibility is based on your student’s FAFSA and/or California Dream Act Application.

If eligible, your student will see a work-study award in their financial aid package. They’ll get access to a work-study website to search and view application instructions for available positions. Your student will receive a paycheck for work-study earnings based on hours worked.

Money is not disbursed to their student account, and does not reduce charges on their CalCentral bill. Your student will need to budget the money toward college costs. An official work-study award does not guarantee your student a job. For questions, review our Frequently Asked Questions or call Cal Student Central at (510) 664-9181.

Do outside scholarships affect my student’s financial aid?
Yes. Outside scholarships are coordinated with your student’s financial aid package per federal regulation. The total of all financial aid awards, including outside scholarships, cannot exceed your student’s cost of attendance.

Students are required to report any expected or received scholarships, including any paid directly to them, in the “Awards” section of CalCentral. To ensure your student maximizes the gift aid they’ve been awarded, Berkeley will typically reduce students’ need-based loans and work-study awards first to “make room” for outside scholarships (if terms allow). If outside scholarships exceed the amount of need-based loans and work-study awards in their financial aid package, then other aid is reduced.

Will financial aid cover my student’s housing?
Housing costs are one of the expenses included in your student’s cost of attendance (COA), which is used to determine their financial aid eligibility. Housing costs are based on your student’s housing selection on their financial aid application. If your student selects “on-campus housing” in a residence hall, it’s reflected in their COA, and they’ll be eligible to receive financial aid up to that amount. A benefit to campus housing is that financial aid can go directly to pay for housing, and can be automatically deducted from your student’s account.

How can I view my student’s financial aid information?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student records. In order for you to see financial aid package details and other information, your student will need to delegate you access under “Profile” in CalCentral.

Share this video or step-by-step guide on how to grant you access with your student. Campus staff are prohibited from providing any information about your student’s financial aid until you’ve been granted access.

When will my student get their financial aid?
After financial aid tasks are completed, your student’s financial aid (excluding work-study earnings and some private loans) will disburse approximately 10 days before the start of the semester. All accepted financial aid will first pay your student’s bill on CalCentral. If financial aid exceeds the amount of your bill, your student will receive a refund for the remaining amount.

If financial aid is less than the amount of your bill, your student will be responsible for paying the remaining balance. You can estimate the refund or balance due using our interactive worksheet.

For fastest service on students’ refunds, we strongly encourage students to sign up for Direct Deposit (a.k.a. Electronic Funds Transfer [EFT]).

What kind of campus housing is available for my student after the first year?
There are a variety of campus housing options for continuing students. Your student can consider the ease of living in a residential hall, with meals included, or in an apartment for a more independent experience. There are countless benefits to on-campus living, from academic-year leases to inclusive rates that include must-haves such as furniture, WiFi, streaming TV, maintenance and utilities. With many options available, your student will be sure to find the best living situation for them, while enjoying the community and convenience of being on campus.

How safe is campus housing for my student?
The safety and well-being of students are of paramount importance to UC Berkeley. Our residence halls employ three levels of security: residents must use their key cards to access their building, their floor and their room. Other security measures include security monitors that check access to Units 1, 2, and 3 at night and trained Community Service Officers who patrol around residence halls at night. Rather than traveling alone at night in or around campus, students are encouraged to use one of the Night Safety programs offered by UCPD. These services include BearWALK, which provides walking escorts at night, the campus shuttle and door-to-door service. Students are encouraged to follow safety best practices to keep themselves and fellow residents safe.

What support systems are available for my student in the residence halls?
Many resources provide a strong support system for your students academically and personally.

All students can access academic support through the Student Learning Center. Students living in residence halls can even take advantage of in-house academic support resources, including technical support, peer advising, tutoring, flexible study spaces and a computer resource center.

To support students’ emotional health and well-being, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) offers short-term counseling for academic, career and personal issues students may be facing. There is no charge to get started, and all registered students can access the counseling regardless of insurance. Many kinds of support are available including individual and group counseling, urgent counseling with drop-in hours and an after-hours line and drop-in counseling in satellite offices across campus.

Does my student have access to the gym and fitness classes?
Your student has access to Recreational Sports facilities and classes. Membership is included in your student’s registration fees; there’s nothing else they need to do. Read more about the membership benefits available to your student.

Does my student need the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) to get medical or mental health services at Berkeley?
No, regardless of insurance, all students are welcome to the University Health Services Tang Center. A visit with a primary care doctor is $15, and Urgent Care is $35. There is no charge for brief counseling at Mental Health Services. Learn more about the services available at the Tang Center.

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