Last Updated On: July 20th, 2021
If you’re a student who has graduated from high school in 2021, the first thing you should do is pat yourself on the back. You have faced unique challenges and shown great flexibility to earn your diploma. If you’re planning to attend college next year, you have also applied to colleges, chosen a school, and (hopefully) figured out how to pay for it during very uncertain times. But if that last item—paying for college—is still daunting, don’t give up on attending your dream school.
If your family’s financial situation has changed for the worse during the pandemic and you’ve already decided on a school, contact the school’s financial aid office and politely explain your situation. You may also want to write a formal financial aid appeal letter. One option is that the school might simply increase your financial aid to meet your need. Another is that it will tap into funds made available through the CARES Act, which has allotted billions of dollars to colleges and universities. If your income hasn’t changed but you’ve had new educational expenses due to COVID, such as investing in a new computer or a better internet connection, you may also qualify for a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Grant. Your school may also be able to help you apply for emergency cash grants, assistance with food and housing, childcare assistance, and discounted or free broadband internet. A lot of money has been allotted to schools and colleges since the pandemic began. If you’ve been admitted to a school, you shouldn’t let finances stop you from attending.
Whether you have financial need or not, you may also benefit from another source of scholarships: COVID Vaccination Incentive Programs. Several states have offered scholarship drawings to young state residents who received their COVID vaccinations. Some of these are automatic entry, while others have a simple entry process. In an incentive program that concluded on June 28, for example, New York randomly selected ten lucky students to receive full scholarships to its state schools. Colorado has held weekly drawings where one student ages 12-17 receives a $50,000 scholarship, with automatic entry for everyone who has received at least their first vaccine shot. The last drawing is July 9th. Other states, including Ohio, Delaware, Florida, and West Virginia, have held similar programs. Many of these programs are over, but there’s a good chance these states will begin new incentive programs or that other states will enact similar programs.
Though California doesn’t have a statewide program, the City of Lancaster has offered scholarships to city residents, and other cities may follow. A few schools, such as the Metropolitan State University of Denver, are offering their own scholarships for vaccinated students. As colleges and universities debate their vaccine policies, it’s likely that other schools will offer scholarships or other financial incentives as well. Although many universities currently don’t require the COVID vaccine for students on campus, it is anticipated that they will continue to develop new protocols aligning with the CDC. Continue to check for updates from the school you plan to attend to see what scholarship opportunities may be available: whether you’re vaccinated or not, there are opportunities that await you in this new somewhat-post-pandemic landscape.
If you aren’t yet vaccinated and would like to be, don’t hold out for a scholarship. Most programs open up their incentives to all students who have already been vaccinated, whether you did it on your first day of vaccine eligibility or procrastinated until the last day the incentive was available. And, of course, the most important reason to get vaccinated is to protect yourself from COVID and its variants, which is especially important if you’re planning to attend school in-person this fall. For a current list of schools that are requiring the vaccine to study on campus, visit, What Colleges Require the COVID-19 Vaccine? and to find the nearest vaccine location visit the CDC website.
To learn about more scholarship opportunities check out our previous blog posts: Tips for Applying for Private Scholarships and Maximizing Your Aid, Minimizing Your Costs: Need-Based Grants and Merit Scholarships.