Despite Turmoil and Loss, Opportunity Knocks
In the past week, millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits. The unprecedented surge in layoffs as businesses shutdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic has pushed the unemployment rate to the highest levels since the Great Depression. Families around the country are hurting and are wary about the future.
Still, on May 1st, many Americans celebrated College Decision Day (albeit a little differently this year); meanwhile, some still wait for “Second College Decision Day” on June 1st, as a number of colleges pushed back their deadlines due to the pandemic.
And for many parents and students, their decision was/will be made based on what they can afford.
If your family’s financial situation has changed drastically due to the financial crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering how that impacts your ability to qualify for scholarships, grants, work-study, and student loans.
Whether or not you’ve filled out financial aid applications like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile, you can still take some additional steps to get financial help for the 2020-21 academic year!
If You’ve Already Filled Out Financial Aid Applications
FAFSA: How much financial aid you qualify for depends largely on your expected family contribution (EFC) calculated by the FAFSA. If that’s changed dramatically since you filled out the application due to COVID-19, you can inform your school’s financial aid office of the hardship and file for an award letter appeal. Unfortunately, financial information cannot be updated directly on the FAFSA.
CSS Profile: Although processes vary by school, you may have the ability to easily update your CSS profile with your family’s new financial situation. Be sure to contact your school’s financial aid office to find out what you need to do.
Why You Should Appeal for More Aid Right Now
Colleges need to fill seats every year. Filling seats for this upcoming school year has been much more challenging as students hesitate to enroll or change their plans due to uncertainty in the midst of the pandemic. With enrollment in all likelihood dropping this year, some schools are more willing to give aid—and give it in creative ways.
Furthermore, families who already filled out financial aid applications completed the documents with their 2018 tax information! A lot can happen in that time. Combine this with the financial impact of the pandemic, and you have a lot of families who will qualify for more aid if they only reach out!
At the very least, contact the school(s) financial aid office and learn what the process is for appeal.
Here are some awesome tips for writing a good appeal letter.
If You Have Not Filled Out Financial Aid Applications
Fortunately, there is still time to fill out and submit the FAFSA. The federal deadline (for school year 2020-2021) is not until June 30, 2021, and there are still several states and schools whose deadlines haven’t passed. You can find a list of state deadlines here.
You’ll be asked to provide income information and tax returns from 2018 when filling out the FAFSA for the 2020-21 academic year. Since that data most likely does not reflect your current situation, the U.S. Department of Education recommends that you still submit your FAFSA but immediately contact your school’s financial aid office to explain your current situation.
Stay In Contact With Your School’s Financial Aid Office
Keep in mind that in both scenarios, you may be asked to provide documentation that outlines your financial hardships. It is important to keep in contact with your school’s financial aid office leading up to the start of the fall semester.
Contrary to popular belief, many financial aid decisions are made by your school, not the federal government. Now more than ever, universities have been empowered to make decisions that benefit the neediest students.
It’s important to reiterate that you should reach out to your school’s financial aid office as soon as you can! Even if you have not suffered a big financial change, it’s still possible that you will receive more aid given the current climate.
The worst that can happen is that the college financial aid office says no.
Getting Help from The College Funding Coach
Navigating the financial aid process can be confusing, even without a global pandemic in the mix.
If you have more questions about financial aid and financial planning, please consider registering for one of our upcoming webinars to learn more.
Helpful Reading from Other Sources:
Savingforcollege.com: “How to Appeal for More Financial Aid for College”