SJ Aspires FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for below, please reach out to the SJ Aspires team at

What are Core Awards?

Core Awards are those that are critical to being a strong applicant for college. These may include earning or maintaining specific GPA levels, submitting college and financial aid applications, and taking the classes you need to be a competitive candidate for the college you want to attend. You can use the award type filter inside your SJ Aspires Community Student Portal to sort awards by core or supplemental.

You can receive up to $3,000 through Core Awards. One thing to keep in mind is that you cannot replace one Core Award with another or with a Supplemental Award. If you don’t receive a specific Core Award by the due date, you cannot make up those funds elsewhere.

What are Supplemental Awards?

Supplemental Awards are those things that may increase your knowledge about college, make you a stronger applicant for colleges, or help you explore your career goals. Because San José Aspires believes students should explore their interests, you may be able to receive these awards multiple times per year or multiple times while in high school. Think of things like joining clubs, being on athletic or academic teams, obtaining work experience, receiving tutoring, and volunteering. You can use the award type filter inside your SJ Aspires Community Student Portal to sort awards by core or supplemental.

During your time in high school, you may receive up to $2,000 in Supplemental Awards. You do not need to do each award; awards can be mixed-and-matched and you may be able to receive some awards multiple times.

How do I apply?

SJ Aspires works directly with schools to select and automatically enroll students. Currently, SJ Aspires serves over 1,150 students at two schools – William C. Overfelt and San José High School. At William C. Overfelt, all first-generation college students from the Class of 2025 and the entire Class of 2024 are enrolled. At San José High School, all first-generation college students from the Class of 2025 and 2024, and the entire Class of 2023 are enrolled.

If you are part of one of these cohorts but are unsure how to access your account, please reach out to

Who is a first-generation college student?

SJ Aspires considers anyone whose parents or guardians' highest level of education is high school graduation. You are still considered a first-generation college student, even if your siblings have gone to college.

How do I show I have what is necessary to receive a San José Aspires award?

It depends on the award. San José Aspires is building out agreements with each district to make receiving of awards as seamless as possible for students and we will work with each school to make this happen. But sometimes you do things that your school does not know about or does not track. For these awards, you will need to submit document(s) directly to San José Aspires. In your SJ Aspires Community Student Portal you’ll be able to upload any documentation directly from the SJ Aspires Awards tab. There are award templates located in the Knowledge Center tab of your SJ Aspires Community Student Portal that show exactly what document(s) is needed for each award.

Because of the scope of San José Aspires and the number of students involved, we will double-check a random sample of document(s) submitted by students. For this reason, document(s) will need to be verified by an adult (for instance, a supervisor who oversaw a student’s volunteer experience or an after-school support provider who tutored a student). San José Aspires reserves the right to audit the document(s) submitted by students. Students who are found to be submitting false document(s) may be removed from the program. That decision is at the discretion of San José Aspires.

How do I know I have been awarded my awards?

Students can log in to their SJ Aspires Community Student Portal to see their progress and completed awards. San José Aspires will also send out emails when awards are processed and if there is additional document(s) needed. In order to receive this information in a timely manner, make sure you have your notifications turned on in your user profile.

When do I receive the actual funds?

You receive your San José Aspires funds when you confirm enrollment at any non-profit, post-secondary institution. San José Aspires understands that each student has different interests and career goals, and San José Aspires wants to support you as you achieve these goals. You can attend a community college, non-profit trade school, or four-year college or university.

What if I decide I don’t want to attend a post-secondary school right after high school?

San José Aspires understands that students may take time off after high school graduation for a variety of reasons. You will have up to three years after your projected graduation date to claim your award.

For example, a student who began 9th grade at Overfelt High School in the Fall of 2020 will be projected to graduate in June 2024. This means, they will have until December 31, 2027 to claim their San José Aspires award.

What if I don't graduate from high school on the projected timeline?

You will still have until three years after your projected graduation year to claim your award. For example, a student who is projected to graduate in June of 2024, but doesn’t graduate until 2025, will still have until December 31, 2027 to claim their award. However, the student cannot receive additional San José Aspires funds after June 2024, when they were originally projected to graduate. Whatever they have received to that point will be what will be distributed when they enroll in a post-secondary school.

What if I leave my partner school and enroll elsewhere?

If you transfer to another high school that is in either San José Unified School District or East Side Union High School District, you are still enrolled in San José Aspires and can continue to access the Students Rising Above Hub and receive awards. However, please let us know that you have transferred schools and the name of your new school so we can keep our information accurate. You do need to graduate from a high school that is within the City of San José to receive your final award distribution.

The goal of San José Aspires is to become a program available to students throughout San José, and San José Aspires may expand eligibility at its own discretion.

What does it take to prove post-secondary enrollment?

It really depends on the post-secondary school. For four-year colleges and universities, you may submit your enrollment verification – this is sent to the student after they have made the enrollment deposit. Since enrollment is automatic for community colleges, you submit document(s) you have registered for classes. Usually, this has been in the form of screenshots from the community college’s student information system. San José Aspires will follow-up with each student as needed.

How do I receive my funds?

Active students can check their current earned awards balance on the Scholar Dollars Account tab of their SJ Aspires Community Student Portal. Once you’ve shown that you’re eligible to receive your awards—when you’ve graduated and enrolled in a post-secondary school within the program time frame—you’ll be able to access your funds. San José Aspires partners with Citibank® to provide all enrolled students with a SJ Aspires Activity Portal. San José Aspires will confirm that students’ account balance matches their total earned awards before any funds are distributed to their SJ Aspires Activity Portal.

How can I spend the funds I receive?

San José Aspires funds are intended to support each student’s post-secondary educational needs. This can be tuition, fees, books, technology, and other school-related expenses. You will sign an allocation agreement before receiving your funds that outlines the specific uses for your San José Aspires award.

What happens to funds students do not claim?

Unclaimed funds are returned to the San José Aspires program.

Is there any impact on public benefits for families with students participating in San José Aspires?

Funds received through San José Aspires will not impact a family’s public benefits. We are working closely with Citibank® to ensure this continues.

What are the tax implications of San José Aspires?

Funds received through San José Aspires are not taxed as income. We are working closely with Citibank® and schools to ensure this continues.

Can parents or guardians check students’ award status?

We encourage parents and guardians to communicate directly with your student and explore the SJ Aspires Community Student Portal together. If you need additional information or have any questions, please email

Can parents or guardians opt students out of San José Aspires?

Yes. Parents or guardians may contact for details on how to opt-out.