1. I just became unemployed and when I submitted my FAFSA back in October, I was told that we didn’t qualify for any need aid assistance. What do I do now?
a. Step One: Go immediately to your college’s financial aid website to see if there are any updates on how to appeal. If there are no updates check to see if any instructions are listed on how to appeal. Some colleges have step-by-step instructions, and some simply do not. Or, call or email the college for advice.
b. Step Two: How to Appeal: Gather all necessary paper documentation that supports your appeal letter. Any type of loss of family income is appealable, as long as you can prove your situation. Even loss of savings can be appealed in addition to unemployment. Make sure to keep a copy of all appeal information and then by certified mail to your college’s financial aid office.
c. Step Three: When to Appeal: Appeal immediately because hundreds, if not thousands of your classmates will be appealing as well. Warning: Do not self-decide if you should appeal. You can’t win if you choose not to appeal, even if you or your family’s income used to be high.
2. How often do appeals get granted?
a. Usually about 30% of the time, but that percentage will be increasing due to the Coronavirus and all its impact.
3. Could I possibly qualify for any other aid, such as state aid?
a. Yes! Check with your state Higher Education Agency and ask how you can appeal for additional need-based funding. Also ask your financial aid office for guidance.
4. I am a grad nursing student and I received some need-based grant funds. Do I follow the same steps you have just described to appeal for additional assistance?
a. Yes, however, you need to appeal directly to the graduate school of nursing financial aid office, not the undergraduate financial aid office.
5. Will appealing for more financial aid reduce my chances of being admitted to my college of choice?
a. No. Every college is trying their best to address students’ needs. The issue will be the amount of additional funding available. Some colleges have large endowments, and some do not. That’s why it is urgent to appeal now!
6. Since it will take time to have my appeal reviewed, is there any other kind of immediate funds assistance? I don’t want to deal with a lot of red tape.
a. The good news is yes! Colleges and universities have historically had emergency funds available for students, but they are not always well-known, nor well-advertised.
b. Today, several schools have made funds available to give to students in the form of one-time grants as the ongoing pandemic has forced thousands of students to leave their campus and cope with financial hardship.b. Today, several schools have made funds available to give to students in the form of one-time grants as the ongoing pandemic has forced thousands of students to leave their campus and cope with financial hardship.
c. Ask your school if it has an emergency loan or grant fund you can apply for, and how you apply. Best to ask the financial aid office for assistance.
7. Even if I have been awarded my maximum amount of financial aid, I can still apply for emergency funds?
a. Yes. An emergency is an emergency. You need funds now. Just remember that emergency funds are limited, so make that call ASAP. Make sure to specify how much you need and how the Coronavirus adversely impacted you.
8. Since I was told by the college that I had to leave campus due to COVID-19, how do I appeal to get my money back for my room and board that I already paid?
a. Great question. It all depends. Every college is handling this issue differently. Some colleges will give students who paid their bill for the spring semester a prorated credit for room and board to be applied for the fall semester. Other schools will allow students to receive a partial refund for the difference in their prorated housing and dining plans. You have to ask the office of on-campus housing how you can get a refund.
9. What can I say to alert I my college that I am financially in trouble?
a. Appeal for additional fund consideration by saying “I will have to drop out!” The reality is, it costs more to recruit a student than it does to retain a student. And schools are all about saving money and helping students.
10. Can I appeal for additional merit scholarship assistance, not based on financial need (my income) or my family’s income?
a. Yes, you can and should. As we wrote in our book, take ownership of the college funding process, either need-based or merit-based.
b. Best way to appeal for additional merit scholarship funds due 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 time undergrad, as in a freshman. The other office to contact would be the office of your major: English, History, Engineering, etc. Review your merit award letter and determine which office or offices gave you your merit award and appeal directly to the awarding authority.