Applying to Colleges and Financial Aid During the Coronavirus Pandemic

It’s officially December, many have already put their Christmas trees and have started singing “Jingle Bells”’ but for some high school seniors it may feel like it’s time for the nightmare before Christmas, college application season. Ranging from applying to Ivy league and state schools as an early action/early decision to figuring out how to pay for college without going into an immense amount of debt. 

COVID-19 took a sharp and rapid attack that globally impacted everyone. For the class of 2021, the admissions process truly became a nightmare after drastically changing to a different process from what seniors had been used to seeing every fall for the past five years. As of March 2020, class of ‘21 was finding ways to take the SAT/ACT, go explore the environment of different colleges they planned on attending and enjoy their last summer together as a school, but COVID-19 had other plans. Although the way colleges are looking at applications this year may be a tad different than what has been seen, there are still a few ways to manage your applications and apply!

 Where do I track my college applications?

If you are applying to mainly Texas schools, it would be highly recommended to use ApplyTexas to keep track of your applications, status of acceptance, etc.  If you are a senior that wants to go far away from home or your dream school is simply out-of-state then it is easier to navigate all of your college applications through Common App

I am a first-generation student, where do I start?

 For many seniors that are considered First-Generation students, learning to navigate through college apps, applying for financial aid, applying for scholarships, learning about what college is the best for them is quite difficult. At times, there is no one to help them out through the stressful process. 

There are various things a first-gen student can do if they are anxious or scared to apply and do it wrong.

Number one: Ask for help. This will probably be the easiest for many who have family members who already graduated from college or are currently enrolled in college, it is okay to ask them for help and advice. If you had friends that graduated from high school in the spring, you can also contact them, most of them are willing to help someone who went through the same situation they went through. 

Number two: Go to your high school’s college admissions counselor. They are there for you, to help you achieve your goals and further your education. The college admissions counselor at Cypress Lakes is Ms. Herman, her email is [email protected]. If you do not want to directly email her or send her a message through Schoology, Cy Lakes has created a Class of 2021 group on Schoology for any questions you may have, scholarship opportunities, and information regarding Texas universities, be sure to check it out if you haven’t done so already. 

Where can I find help to apply for college?

In many cases people do not have an older person to help them out throughout this, so what can you do if you are in a situation similar to this? 

  • If you are struggling to navigate through ApplyTexas or Common App, watch Youtube videos that show them navigating the page. From where do you find the colleges you want to apply to, where to write your essay, all the personal and school related questions. Some helpful videos include: FASFA Walkthrough, College Essay Writing  and Applying to Scholarships.
  •  Another option is to look at different websites that can give you a sense of the acceptance rate of certain colleges, how to apply, etc. Some of these many websites are niche.com, collegegreenlight.com, and many more. On these websites many of them offer admissions counselors that you can talk to, they hold financial Q&As for students, many opportunities that many should take advantage of. These are just a few options that you can take if you have no one to reach out to, also keep in mind that not everyone benefits from certain options, try them all until you find the one that seems to be suitable for you. 

How am I supposed to pay for college?

Another question that gets asked frequently is how am I supposed to pay for college? My parents do not earn enough money for me to attend 30k school, what can I do? It is important to apply to FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), FAFSA is only for students whose parents are middle class or lower, and are citizens of the U.S. 

FAFSA is a large program that anyone who is in college or is applying for college should use to their advantage. They give money based on the family’s financial situation, depending on how much money your family earned annually. Most of the money that is given is a grant, meaning you do not have to repay the money they awarded you, they also have work-study option that is an opportunity for you to be able to work on-campus or nearby the campus and all money earned goes straight towards your education. 

Now for many first-gen students, whose parents are not citizens or residents or do not have a social security number, don’t panic when they ask about their SSN, they are not going to deny you money because of that, make sure to put 000-00-0000 all the way through for the parent who does not hold an SSN card. Many students whose parents do not have the SSN card, prefer to use the application manually since the online application tends to reject the zero’s. Make sure to have the previous year taxes ready by the time you are doing the application, so you are not going back in forth every two minutes. 

It’s up to you

There are still many questions as to how the application process works but some are up to the student, for example, how do I know the school I am choosing to attend is the correct one for me? The answer is up to you. Some questions you can always ask yourself are, is it good for my intended major? Do I like the environment of the school? What kind of opportunities/internships can I find at this school compared to my other top choices? Transportation? Life in the dorms? Extracurricular life? At the end of the day, the choice is yours and you will decide what you feel is best for you and your future. 

As seniors begin their college applications, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything works for everyone, find what’s best for you and stick with it.  Good luck to the Class of 2021 as you begin your college process!