Sign up for Cali

Cali is a helpful chatbot that interacts with students over text message to help them prepare for college. Cali’s focus is to help students overcome barriers and challenges when completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application (CADAA).

Parents can enroll students at participating high schools by interacting with Cali on this page and following the steps to opt-in. Once enrolled, students will receive reminders from Cali, and because Cali is an AI chatbot, students can ask questions about FAFSA or CADAA 24/7.

Why opt in?

  • Cali is free (only message and data rates may apply)
  • Simplify the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application (CADAA)
  • Receive helpful guidance and reminders
  • Get instant answers to common questions related to FAFSA and CADAA anytime
  • FAFSA or CADAA completion opens the door to funding for college and career education

What you'll need

To get started, chat with Cali on this page. You’ll need to provide the following information to enroll:

  • Your student’s name
  • You student’s cell phone number (this allows us to send reminders to your student’s phone)
  • Your participating high school’s CDS code (the CDS code can be found at
  • Your consent to the following FAFSA Service Consent language.

Frequently Asked Questions

This pilot was launched as an effort to maximize the number of high school seniors who complete financial aid applications across the state of California. The strongest predictor of college enrollment is the completion of financial aid forms, and students are more likely to pursue higher education when they are aware of the resources available to them. We believe Cali can provide the help needed to prepare for college!

To proactively communicate with students by text, Cali requires the student’s first name, last name, cell phone number and the name of the student’s high school.

Cali will use the student’s cell phone number to send text messages designed to keep them informed about the importance of filling out a FAFSA or a CADAA and Cali will provide guidance on how to complete their financial aid application.  Other directory information may be used to personalize the communication to the student. Students will receive messages that are relevant to them. For example, Cali will send reminders to students to complete the FAFSA or CADAA, but will exclude messages to students who have already completed their application. If a student has not yet completed their application, Cali will remind them of the submission deadline and ask if they need any assistance.

The student data will be stored and protected in databases managed by Mainstay, the service provider, which are on Amazon Web Services (AWS), a comprehensive cloud platform. Mainstay is SOC 2 Type II compliance certified, a significant designation that showcases their commitment to data security and privacy. This achievement demonstrates our dedication to safeguarding district partners’ sensitive information and upholding the highest standards of security and compliance. Mainstay is bound to utilize personal information only as stipulated in the Mainstay-District contract’s terms and conditions. Student data privacy protections are built into the terms and conditions and in compliance with all state and federal privacy requirements. Only authorized personnel, such as administrators or designated staff members, are granted access to the personal data based on their roles and responsibilities.


Some information can be intentionally captured, such as responses to surveys or check-ins, and used to personalize future messages. For example, if a student indicates that they’re interested in a  topic (i.e. scholarships), then you can use that to make sure they get proactive messages about that topic. It is important to remember that Cali will be asking and responding to questions dealing with the FAFSA, the CADAA and general college preparation. Questions beyond these topics will be redirected to school counselors or staff.

Cali is trained to pick up on sensitive terms like “kill” or “die” or various phrases associated with such terms. If a student’s response triggers one of Cali’s “sensitive topics”, the message will be escalated to the designated contact at that student’s high school. The student will always get a response from Cali at the time the message is sent indicating when the conversation will be handed off to a human for help.

Students will be able to interact with the Cali on a 24/7 basis if they choose to text into Cali and receive answers. Some of the messages that Cali sends to them will also ask them questions to check in on the status of some of the requirements to successfully complete financial aid applications.  Some students may actively engage with Cali (answer questions, ask questions, etc.) which we call “active engagement”.  Other students may decide to receive messages from Cali, but not respond in any fashion, which we call “passive engagement”.  The student’s interaction with Cali is at their discretion. 

Mainstay, the service provider, translation is powered by the Google Translate API. You can find detailed information about the quality of automated translation here:

For the most common languages, you can see that this model achieves a BLEU score above 50, which is “very high quality, adequate, and fluent translations.”

The data needed for students will be the same no matter what the age.  Mainstay, the service provider, complies with FERPA regulations and afford parents of students under 18 the right to access their child’s records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information.

Students and parents should contact their high school administration.  Administrators from any participating high school can contact Mainstay, the service provider, via [email protected].

The California Student Aid Commission currently provides a weekly download of FAFSA and California completion data to school districts as part of the Race to Submit Dashboard. This helps districts target which students have yet to complete their financial forms. Like Race to Submit, the district will make this data available to Mainstay to ensure that Cali is informed on whether a student has completed their FAFSA or CADAA.

Cali sends proactive reminders and guidance to students to help keep them on track over SMS text. Cali can also respond to student questions using a pre-built knowledge base of questions and answers, based on millions of questions previously asked by students. While ChatGPT generates responses that replicate human conversation, Cali’s knowledge base has been vetted to ensure accuracy, and coordinated by a team of experts to deliver timely intervention (before it’s too late).

This pilot is funded philanthropically, and there is no cost for invited school districts to participate.  Cali can guide students in completing a FAFSA or CADAA.  It is very likely that Cali will address students’ questions without ever needing to engage school staff.  Historically, similar chatbot initiatives have decreased staff workload by answering most basic and intermediate questions automatically, allowing the human staff to focus on the more pressing needs of students.  Each participating district will be asked to provide a primary point of contact to work alongside Mainstay to onboard their schools, which is a minimal commitment since Mainstay will manage the day-to-day operations of the chatbot pilot.

Cali’s impact is evidenced by increasedFAFSA and CADAA completion rates. Using the weekly downloads of FAFSA and California data provided to school districts via The California Student Aid Commission, we can determine whether or not Cali’s proactive messaging drives more students to complete their applications, as compared to previous financial aid cycles.

To get started, please complete this interest form. A representative from Mainstay, the technology partner powering Cali, will contact you to set up a 30-minute appointment with your team to provide a comprehensive overview and answer all of your questions.  Following that meeting, school districts will review and sign a contract to officially join the pilot, then move on to the onboarding process. 

Need guidance?

You can contact the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) at the following:

California Student Aid Commission
AI Chatbot Team
[email protected]

Learn more at