Manage financial aid in times of national and personal crisis

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1. I just became unemployed and when I submitted my FAFSA in October I was told that we were not entitled to any help. What do I do now?

a. Step One: Immediately go to your college financial aid website to see if there are any updates on how to appeal. If there are no updates, check to see if there are any instructions listed on how to appeal. Some colleges have step-by-step instructions and some don’t. Or, call or email the college for advice.

b. Step two: How to appeal: Gather all the paper documents needed to support your appeal letter. Any type of loss of family income is subject to appeal, provided you can prove your situation. Even loss of savings can be appealed against in addition to unemployment. Be sure to keep a copy of all information pertaining to the appeal, then certified mail to your college financial aid office.

vs. Step Three: When to Appeal: Appeal immediately because hundreds if not thousands of your classmates will also appeal. Disclaimer: Do not decide for yourself whether you should appeal. You cannot win if you choose not to appeal, even if your income or that of your family was high.

2. How often are appeals granted?

a. Usually about 30% of the time, but that percentage will increase because of the coronavirus and all of its impact.

3. Could I possibly benefit from other aid, such as state aid?

a. Yes! Check with your state higher education agency and ask how you can apply for additional funding as needed. Also ask your financial aid office for advice.

4. I am a graduate nursing student and have received grants based on need. Do I need to follow the same steps you just described to request additional help?

a. Yes, however, you should appeal directly to the graduate nursing school financial aid office, not the undergraduate financial aid office.

5. Will asking for more financial aid reduce my chances of being admitted to the college of my choice?

a. No. Each college does its best to meet the needs of the students. The question will be the amount of additional funds available. Some colleges have large endowments and others do not. This is why it is urgent to appeal now!

6. Since it will take time to review my appeal, is there any other type of immediate financial assistance? I don’t want to deal with a lot of paperwork.

a. The good news is yes! Colleges and universities have historically had emergency funds available for students, but they are not always well known or well publicized.

b. Today, several schools have made funds available to students in the form of one-time scholarships, as the ongoing pandemic has forced thousands of students to leave their campuses and face financial hardship. B. Today, several schools have made funds available to students in the form of one-time scholarships, as the ongoing pandemic has forced thousands of students to leave their campuses and face financial hardship.

vs. Ask your school if they have an emergency loan or grant fund that you can apply for, and how you want them. Your best bet is to seek help from the financial aid office.

7. Even though I have obtained my maximum amount of financial assistance, can I still apply for emergency funds?

a. Yes. An emergency is an emergency. You need the funds now. Remember that emergency funds are limited, so call as soon as possible. Be sure to specify how much you need and how the coronavirus has affected you.

8. Since the college told me I have to leave campus due to COVID-19, how can I appeal to get my money back for my room and board that I have already paid?

a. Great question. Everything depends. Each college treats this issue differently. Some colleges will give students who have paid their bills for the spring semester a pro-rated credit for room and board to apply for the fall semester. Other schools will allow students to receive a partial refund of the difference in their prorated accommodation and food plans. You should ask the housing office on campus how you can get a refund.

9. What can I say to alert my college that I am in financial difficulty?

a. Call for an additional consideration by saying “I’m going to have to give up!” In reality, it costs more to recruit a student than to retain a student. And schools are all about saving money and helping students.

10. Can I apply for an additional merit scholarship, not based on my financial need (income) or family income?

a. Yes, you can and must. As we wrote in our book, take charge of the college funding process, whether it’s need-based or merit-based.

b. The best way to appeal for additional merit scholarship funds due to the pandemic is to appeal directly to the office that awarded you the merit scholarship. For example, most colleges will award merit scholarships from the admissions office if you are a first undergraduate student, such as a freshman. The other office to contact would be the office for your specialty: English, History, Engineering, etc. Review your merit award letter and determine which office or offices awarded you your merit award and appeal directly to the contracting authority.

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