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Get Ready for FAFSA Season!Guest Contributor
COVID-19 has impacted not only the financial well-being of many American families but also the financial status of many of the country’s colleges and universities.
Colleges are struggling financially due to the partial refunds issued on tuition and room and board this past spring and the challenges and uncertainty around classes resuming in the fall — which is predicted to inspire large numbers of students to delay college or take a break from their studies (reducing tuition revenue).
Does this mean that, just as your student and family need scholarships dollars more than ever, there are none to be found? Not at all.
But it helps to understand the current landscape and pivot your scholarship-seeking strategy if needed. If your student has yet to commit to a school for fall, they should assess and compare financial aid offers. Students of all years can research and apply for outside scholarships.
Institutional scholarships (money given by the school that does not need to be paid back) are often a substantial part of a student’s financial aid package. These need-based and merit scholarships are funded in part by large endowments that may have lost significant value because of the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal stimulus packages should provide some relief, but many colleges are being forced to redirect funds originally earmarked for scholarships and financial aid to cover basic services. Here are just a few schools that have made scholarship adjustments:
On the other hand, some colleges are deferring fall tuition payment due dates until next spring or even later, while others are working with local and state agencies to find new ways to support their students:
Estimates from the American Council on Education forecast that enrollments for the next academic year will drop by 15%, including a 25% decline in the number of international students. Schools have lost revenue and are eager for students to commit and return to college in the fall. Since colleges need students, while some had to cut scholarship offers, others may increase awards to attract students who are still undecided. Current students may receive incentives to return to campus and wait-listed students could be enticed with scholarship funds. Scholarships that were originally based on test scores may become test-optional.
Colleges may also seek to use scholarship money to draw students who have previously declined admission and committed to another college. Last September, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling settled an antitrust lawsuit with the Department of Justice, thereby allowing colleges to recruit students who had already committed to attend another institution by awarding them more money. Previously, the association’s ethics code prohibited this kind of poaching. The competition for enrollment could see more colleges using this tactic.
As colleges and universities continue to announce plans for fall, you should be able to research adjustments to tuition and scholarships on the school’s website. If your student is enrolled at a school, the school should communicate this information directly to them and to you, the parent.
Students should consider using the summer months to search for outside scholarships to supplement their college funding. James W. Lewis, president of the National Society of High School Scholars, said, “There’s a sort of ‘reset’ on the entire higher education system this year…which could present an opportunity for scholarship seekers.” Many scholarships with March and April deadlines were extended into the summer.
Start by searching for “Scholarships with Extended Deadlines” — insert your city or state as well. Scholarship committees are still accepting applications and it’s a good time to apply using the extended deadlines.
Encourage your student to use these proven strategies to search for outside scholarships:
To learn how to craft a winning scholarship application, read How to Apply for and WIN Scholarships.
To help you get started with your outside scholarship search, here is a sampling of five scholarships to apply for this summer:
Students must be (or planning to be) a full-time student at an accredited college or university with a 3.2 GPA or higher and submit a 500–1000 word essay answering this question: What excites you most about the future of solar? The award is $1000 and the deadline for submission is July 1, 2020.
Students must be a high school sophomore, junior or senior (2019–2020 school year) with a 3.0 GPA or higher and a U.S. citizen. Submit an essay of 500 words or less answering the question: How are you planning on using your summer vacation? The award is $500 and the deadline for submission is July 1, 2020.
Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited college or university for fall 2020 and must complete an essay of no more than 1000 words answering this question: How do you foresee the internet changing your chosen career in the next 20 years? The award is $750 and the deadline for submission is July 15, 2020.
Students must be 2020 high school graduates accepted to an accredited college or university, or current college students entering their sophomore, junior or senior year. Submit an essay of 700–800 words answering this question: What is your best solution to the student loan debt crisis? The award is $1000 and deadline for submission is August 1, 2020.
Applicants must be a high school graduate or current college student pursuing an interior design degree. Students must be in good academic standing and submit an original essay of 500 words or less on a topic related to the rug industry. Alternatively, the applicant could discuss why they should receive the Cyrus Artisan Rugs Scholarship grant. The award is $500 and the deadline for submission is February 28, 2021.