College Planning

Navigating the Impact of Coronavirus on Your Financial Need

One of the most important aspects of the college planning process is figuring out how to pay for tuition. For many students, the coronavirus may have made an impact on how they’re thinking about college.

If you’re concerned about the impact that the coronavirus pandemic may have on your financial aid, here are some tips to help you navigate the process.

1. My Financial Situation has drastically changed. What now?

If you and your family’s financial situation has been affected by the coronavirus, you have options. Colleges are already prepared for situations like this.

The first step is to reach out to the colleges that you’re considering. Call or email the financial aid office to explain your situation. They can let you know how to formally submit a request for additional aid and walk you through your options based on your situation. Some colleges refer to this as a “request for professional judgement” or an “appeal for special circumstances.” Don’t be shy about contacting the financial aid office—they’re there to answer your questions! 

Talk to your family during this time as well. Having an honest conversation with yourself and your family about what is financially feasible is important part of the college planning process and even more so now.

 

2. How do I determine what the best financial aid offer is for me and my family?

The first step is to understand exactly what is in your financial aid offer. Your offer will most likely be made up of a combination of gift aid, loans, and work study. Gift aid is aid that you don’t have the repay, while loans must be repaid. If you receive work study as part of your financial aid package, the aid office may help you find a position where you can earn the amount expected. That money is most often used to pay for things like books and personal expenses.

Once you understand how your financial aid offer is broken down, you can use the BigFuture Compare Your Aid Awards Tool to understand which one is your best choice. Enter details on up to four colleges’ aid packages and costs to get a comparison. Of course, you’ll want to consider other factors when deciding if a college is a good fit for you. For example, find out how many students return after freshman year and the school’s graduation rate to help you make an informed decision.

 

3. I didn’t complete the FAFSA®. Is there still time?

Yes! The first step to getting financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid site to complete the form, and access resources to help you complete it. You can also get help from the FAFSA assistance chatbot, developed by the Benefits Data Trust and College Board at getfafsahelp.org/CB.

You can still complete the FAFSA to become eligible for financial aid from the federal government, your state, and your college. Even if your state or college’s deadlines have passed, you should still complete the FAFSA as soon as possible if you haven’t already. It’s always a good idea to review your college’s financial aid website for more details about applying for financial aid. Some colleges offer additional scholarships and grants and may require other aid application forms like the CSS Profile.

 

4. My financial aid offer isn’t enough to cover my costs. What are my options?

Sometimes a college’s financial aid offer isn’t enough to cover all your college expenses. In addition to contacting the financial aid office, the Scholarship Search tool on BigFuture is a great first step as you can search for over 2,200 scholarships, totaling almost $6 billion. You can also search for other financial aid and internships you may want during school. Given the challenges inflicted by the coronavirus, there may be new scholarship opportunities and types of aid you can qualify for.


5. What if I didn’t get any acceptance letters or haven’t applied yet. Are there still colleges accepting applications?

If you haven’t applied to college yet or are rethinking your options, don’t worry! There are many colleges that are still accepting applications or providing more time to help you make your decision. We recommend searching for colleges on BigFuture and if you are interested in applying, check with the college admission office to see if they are still accepting applications. 

We understand that now is an especially challenging time to plan for college, but we encourage you to utilize all the resources outlined in this blog post. It is also a great idea to connect with your peers and see what they are doing to stay on track for college. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone in this. Keep up the great work.