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COVID-19 has caused significant disruptions to all our lives along multiple areas. One of the most significant being how education can be received and delivered. I recognize that this is an unprecedented time both for high school students who are navigating the process of applying and preparing for higher education as well students currently enrolled in higher education institutions. Thus, I want to offer guidance that provides both encouragement and tangible next steps in this moment.

1. Research and apply for as many scholarship opportunities as possible during this time.

Whether you are in high school with ambitions to seek higher education or you are in college currently, there are a number of organizations seeking to support scholars with resources. Being awarded with any of these scholarships or grants could not only assist you in the immediate future, they can also give you a cushion during later years as well (depending on when funds are disbursed).

Millions of high school students are in search of college scholarships and awards, yet only a fraction of them are able to be selected. When I was in high school I dedicated 20 to 30 hours a week to scholarship applications. Treat the scholarship search like a part-time job. If you do not apply for scholarships, how can you receive scholarships?

2. Tuition Refunds and Credits

In response to these unprecedented times, most colleges and universities have closed or significantly limited their in-person campus activity including classes. To bring balance to this situation, many of these same institutions are offering their students refunds for tuition or credits that can be utilized at a later date. The amount these refunds or credits are varying across schools, with some institutions not offering any response of this type. The key is to do thorough research into the resources your future or current institution is providing related to direct costs.

3. There May Be Emergency Federal Financial Assistance Available

If you are a current college student, you may be eligible for a CARES Act Emergency Grant. Reach out to your financial aid administrator to see if you are eligible.

4. Flexibility for Continuing Enrollment During COVID-19

There are many ways to continue your education without withdrawing from school. You may consider part-time options, a semester of deferment or a gap year based on wanting the full college experience. Many students prefer in-person instruction and have adjusted their academic course load that changes their student status in a way that best fits their academic needs and goals.

5. 0% Interest Period and Historically Low-Interest Rates

As a young Black man who was provided an outlet to complete college with no debt, I am an advocate for scholarships and grants first and foremost. However, I recognize that loans are a resource that make education feasible for many. All things considered, with interest rates at a historic low, this is the best time to secure student loan financing in the past two decades

6. Postponing Your Education

This is a decision that should be taken with great patience and diligence. Do not make this decision alone, rather, speak with your family and close mentors about your situation and options. Pay special attention to the guidance of those who have completed similar higher education to what you are pursuing (field of study, two year, four year, trade, etc). Be confident in the fact that you are not weak for acknowledging that you are under too much stress or burden to successfully continue studies at this moment, or that virtual learning is not the best mode of learning for you. Center yourself as the most important factor in the decision of whether postponing for a defined period of time is best.

7. More Money is Being Given to Minorities and HBCUs

I've seen a long overdue surge in support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the past six months. These institutions have played a critical role in making higher education accessible and of excellent quality for the Black community. These institutions have been chronically underfunded and overlooked, which resulted in less financial aid being available for incoming and continuing students. The support these institutions are receiving for new financial aid programs and our prediction that this support will only grow over the next five years means that you may want to consider HBCUs as an outlet for your higher education mid and post COVID-19.

Above all, recognize that it is OK to go through the full emotional weight of COVID-19’s impact.

These are not normal times, so none of us should pretend like they are.

However, we hope that you don’t give up on any ambitions you had for your future education because the world looks different right now. We hope that you can find enough sources of joy to keep you energized and moving forward. There are scholarship dollars and financial-aid opportunities out there right now with your name on it — if you are ready to put in the work.

I hope these seven things are helpful, and wish you or your scholar great success in future education endeavors!