5 Tips to Affording College in the Age of Coronavirus

Updated: Mar 25

1. Appeal for More Financial Aid: 

99% of families say that financial aid will be necessary to pay for college and 87% say it will be “extremely necessary”, based on results from a recent survey by the Princeton Review. However, high school seniors and current college students already completed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) this fall when circumstances were likely different. In cases where a parent or student loses employment, is furloughed or becomes ill and unable to work as a result of coronavirus, financial aid officers have the ability to adjust, and increase, a student’s aid. The recent CARES Act also provides funding to institutions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students.

If your family’s financial situation changes, contact your college’s financial aid office immediately to appeal for more financial aid. You’ll want to ensure you keep documentation such as job layoff/furlough notices, pay stubs, or doctor’s note in case the college requests these. 

2. Tap into a College’s Emergency Funds:

Most colleges already have in place emergency funds that current students can utilize in case of a crisis—often called gap funds. In addition, colleges have created new coronavirus emergency relief funds to help students. Make sure to research your college to see what funds are available.

3. Apply for Additional Scholarships:

You’ve probably heard that ‘millions in scholarships go unclaimed’ each year, and this year is no different. Even though it’s later in the scholarship cycle, there are still scholarship dollars left to be doled out. 

A good place to start is taking a look at local organizations in your community (e.g. Lions Club, Rotary, etc.) where you have a greater chance of receiving an award. Many local organizations have also set up emergency funds to help high school seniors and current college students pay for college given the coronavirus crisis. 

Make sure to also check out national scholarship databases like fastweb.com and cappex.com for additional scholarship opportunities.

4. Consider Other College Choices:

Students should think about where they’ll be attending now given their families’ financial situation. Choosing less costly options like public colleges and community colleges close to home might be ways to ensure affordability. Another option is to take some courses at a local community college while still being enrolled at a four-year institution to reduce your costs while still earning a degree from a four-year institution. 

5. Perform Well on AP and College Placement Exams:

For high school students that are taking AP courses, ensure you take the time to thoughtfully prepare for AP exams in May as many colleges will grant college credit if you receive a particular score. Often students can enter college with enough credit to be considered a second semester freshman or even sophomore—saving time and money. In addition, most colleges have entering freshmen take placement exams in subjects like math and foreign language. Performing well on these can place a student into a higher level course, saving the student money by requiring less courses to graduate.  

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