If your family’s income has been reduced, some ideas on financing college.

Pencil and calculator

When you’re the parent of a college student or a high school senior, any changes in your financial situation will affect your family’s plan for paying for college. That’s the case for many families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Your FAFSA has been submitted, financial aid packages are in hand and now you’re all scrambling to figure out how to pay for school come fall. Read on for some ideas on how to find the financial help you and your student need.

Start with the college
Know how much more money your family will need before you begin any process of requesting or searching for more funding. It’s easier for a college to work with you when they know the specific amount you’re seeking.

Current college students Colleges received money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and a portion of those funds are earmarked to assist students impacted financially by the coronavirus. Check out the college’s financial aid homepage to see if they’ve posted any updates and a link to an Emergency Funds Request form your student can submit.

If the college’s website doesn’t provide adequate information, you or your student should call the financial aid office, briefly explain your family’s situation and ask how to request more aid. Your child may be asked to submit a form or letter detailing the information you just shared and provide documentation to show the changes.

Admitted students Your teen must check their email for any correspondence from their college that specifically discusses financial aid and what if any additional funding is available to incoming freshmen.

Contact the college’s financial aid office directly if your family’s received no information on how to apply for more aid. You and your student can call and/or write a letter explaining what specifically changed about your family’s financial situation. Include how much money you’re requesting to meet your student’s obligations. Provide any applicable backup materials, such as the paperwork showing a parent has been laid off, fired, reduced to part-time or furloughed. Be sure to indicate if any money your child’s saved for college is now going toward family household expenses like rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, medications, etc.

Accepted students who haven’t picked a college yet Play colleges off against each other. Figure out how much each college will need to increase its financial aid award to make it possible for your student to attend, and request that amount. See who best meets your appeal. Make sure you compare apples to apples, a scholarship is “free money,” a loan must be paid back.

Then look beyond the colleges
Scholarships and grants The goal is to find “free money” so that you and your student don’t incur more debt than you originally planned to take on. Most of the local scholarships awarded via your high school have probably been handed out. Your teen can check with their guidance counselor for any other available scholarships.

Local chapters of organizations like the Sons of Italy, Kiwanis Club, Junior League, Daughters of the American Revolution, Latinos Unidos, and many others provide scholarships so assess your family’s background and your teen’s talents, skills, etc. to find those awards. Use any connections you, a relative or friend has to these organizations to learn more and obtain an application.

There are plenty of websites where you can find scholarships. Simply Google “college scholarships” and the first page will connect you to several legitimate sites. Keep in mind that sorting through, even with filtering, will take time. Your teen can take advantage of their newfound free time to do the research. Because these are national scholarships, lots of kids will apply to them. Encourage your teen to filter as much as possible so that they only apply for scholarships they have the best chance of winning.

Family and friends It’s hard to ask for money, but if grandparents, other relatives, godparents or family friend ever indicated that they wanted to help out with college expenses, this is the time for you or your teen to ask if they can still afford to. Also, ask if they know of any scholarships available through organizations they’re affiliated with or through their workplace.

Revisit college options As hard as it is to accept, your teen’s top choice school may not be affordable now. Together review their other acceptances if you haven’t made a deposit on a college yet, and see if there’s a school they like that also better aligns with your financial situation.

Community college is a good option to help bridge the year or two it can take your family to get back on its feet.

Reconsider a state college if it will be cheaper than the private colleges that can’t improve their financial aid packages.

Find a part-time job That probably sounds strange with so many businesses closed around you, but supermarkets, drugstore chains, big box stores and more need people to restock shelves, usually at night and your teen might be a good fit for this or other jobs. If your student has access to a car, delivering for Grubhub, DoorDash or even a local restaurant is a viable option. Or they can be a shopper for Instacart or other similar service. Again, these are opportunities as long as there are no high risk people living with you, your teen’s not overly fearful about contracting the virus by working and/or they can find a work environment that puts worker safety first.

Your teen can also make money creating homemade masks, grocery shopping for those who can’t, cooking for friends and neighbors, and running errands for friends and family.

The coronavirus may have hurt your family’s finances, but it doesn’t mean your student has to change their college plans.