Student Resource Guide

Critical Resources For Critical Times

There’s a lot of noise and confusion about COVID-19 and we are actively researching resources and tools to keep our students and partners updated. Our curated Student Resource Guide provides information about remote learning, financials, and social and emotional support. We’ll update this guide as we find more resources so check back often. Last updated June 6, 2020.

YOUR COLLEGE & CAMPUS

ASKING FOR HELP

We’re starting this resource guide with this topic because we want to emphasize that you are not alone. There are people working around the clock to make sure that you—whatever your situation is—can get the resources you need to make it through this pandemic era as smoothly as possible.

Even though your college might seem really far away right now, there are people there who are in positions to help you, and people who have literally dedicated their lives to helping college students. You just need to find them and ask them for help.

3 main things to know:

  1. Remember: colleges want to help college students. But they can’t help unless they know about your situation—so you need to take charge of making them aware of it!
  2. Asking for help is all about the “X degrees of separation” principle. It’s perfectly normal and OK if you don’t know the right person to ask about a certain topic. The point is to find someone who can point you toward someone else who might know, or to find an advocate who will find the answer with or for you. 
  3. Speak out if a policy is creating hardship for you! This whole pandemic situation is new for everyone. Colleges are setting policies, but they may not be the right policies, or they may need to be making exceptions. 

Who to ask:

Start with your EOP, Housing/Residential Life, or Financial Aid office.

If your school doesn’t have these offices, or if you’re not getting useful answers, start asking around. You will be able to find answers. If you’re not sure who to ask, try asking your professors—or anyone you’ve interacted with.

How to ask:

  • As needed, introduce yourself.  The professor of your small writing class will probably remember you, but the helpful front desk person in the Financial Aid office will probably need more background/context. 
  • It’s okay to ask someone who may not remember you. Just convey to them why you’re asking them (for example, “You were really helpful when I had a problem with X last fall” or even “I don’t know who else to ask.”)
  • Tell them that you’re really concerned about your situation because ________ (fill in the blank with your situation: you’re having trouble keeping up with classes, your financial need has gotten a lot more urgent, or whatever it is.)
  • You don’t have to limit yourself to academic concerns, either. You can seek advocacy about housing, food, etc. from your school; often there are people in the administration who are familiar with local housing options and aid.
  • It’s OK to say directly, “I need to find help. Can you help me, or help me figure out who to ask?” 

HOW YOUR SCHOOL IS AFFECTED

Virtually all U.S. colleges switched to online/remote teaching for the end of 2019-2020 and summer 2020. Many also adopted credit/no credit grading options that students could opt into or out of. 

As of mid-May, colleges are starting to announce plans for Fall 2020. The Chronicle of Higher Education maintains an updated list here. That said, everything is still very much in flux. For example, schools that are committed to holding in-person classes may adjust their academic calendars to start later, or may move to more online classes depending on how the COVID situation develops.

Bottom line: check your school’s website regularly to stay on top of their plans.

On-campus housing and food:

Even though schools are wrapping up their academic years and providing limited or no housing or food for students, it is always worth asking about your options. Many schools do still have very limited food and housing available for students. And even if they can’t directly provide you food or housing, they can often help connect you with these resources. 

Your college classes:

The transition to 100% online classes is a massive change for colleges and the people that work there. In fact, you’re probably handling it better than they are. Seriously! Here are some tips and info to help you navigate classes and enrollment issues:.

  • Many faculty don’t have prior experience teaching online and are having to learn as they go. They may not know the most effective ways to communicate with you when classes aren’t in person. If your prof’s instructions or other communications are confusing, reach out and ask them to explain, let them know if you’re having problems, etc. It’s likely that the prof will appreciate your check-in, because otherwise they won’t know where their “room for improvement” zones are.
  • If you have difficulty accessing class material online, ask for assistance. Colleges know that’s an issue—and that it’s one that they need to help solve. 
  • Schools, or individual classes, may change policies: start and end dates, grading options (like switching to Pass/No Pass), when/whether to hold finals, etc. Watch for updates from your college and each prof. Here’s a list of colleges’ plans for Fall 2020.
  • Don’t trust rumors or word-of-mouth. Reliable communications come straight from your profs or your school, via the website, portal, emails, phone calls, or official social media accounts.
  • Check out this article, “Pivot to Online: a Student Guide.”
  • Like everyone, different profs have different responses in a crisis like this. Most understand that students are facing all kinds of difficulties and are very open to accommodating students’ needs. Some, however, may be doubling down on taking a business-as-usual approach and making it extra hard for students. Ask your professors for special arrangements if you need them, especially if you’re in one of the following situations or something similar. Don’t force yourself to just power through if you are facing hardship and need extensions or similar accommodations.
    • you get sick or have to take care of someone who’s sick or someone (e.g., a child or elder) who needs care from you
    • you need to take an extra job or more hours at an existing job
    • you have a family emergency
    • you feel that you can’t keep up with the assigned work as a result of this crisis or the shift to online for any reason—for example, if your living situation makes it hard to study 

TIPS AND RESOURCES FOR ACADEMIC SUCCESS

Between keeping up with the news and your life being upended, it’s an incredibly stressful and distracting time to be a college student. To maximize focus and minimize stress, (1) compartmentalize your school (and work) and home time as much as you can and (2) communicate what’s up to family or roommates so that they can support you.

  • Set up your schedule as if you’re still going to classes, with time for each class and time for homework.
  • Identify a consistent workspace and make it your own—even if you can only stake out a spot on the couch. 
  • If you can, create online study groups/buddy systems. Keep each other accountable by checking in before/after study sessions. Or hop on a video chat, hit mute, and just keep each other company. Bonus: study groups help combat social isolation.
  • Set boundaries with family (and with yourself!)
    • Communicate your study schedule with them.
    • Use earbuds—even without music, they tell other people you’re not so available. To block distractions in a fun way, try MyNoise, a website and mobile app that allows you to fine-tune rain, nature, white noise, and other ambient sounds.
    • Use online study sessions to communicate to others that it’s schoolwork time.

And as always, check in regularly with each class and read all of the instructions carefully. Your professors are working hard to keep you up to date!

Resources: 

If you are experiencing barriers to your academic success because of the pandemic, get in touch with someone at your college and see the section above on asking for help if needed. Here are some easy starting points:

If you need books or other class materials:

  • Start by asking your prof. Many professors arrange for students’ access to the stuff they need.
  • Project MUSE is offering free book and journal content; visit this page for a list of publishers and other info.
  • Contact your college’s library. They have powerful databases that can help you find not just stuff the library owns but also where you can access free versions of other readings you might need.
  • RedShelf is offering free e-textbooks from major academic and textbook publishers through at least May 25th. 

If you need internet access (or expanded access), many internet providers have discounted services and cell phone carriers have boosted data limits.

Finally: college officials and professors are trying so hard to keep you in the loop that it may be hard to keep track of info. It might help to know that that’s not you being disorganized: the situation is objectively chaotic, and stress makes it harder to remember things we can usually count on our brains to remember.

That said, the only real treatment is to get super systematic. Go next-level with your calendar, set alerts and reminders, keep lists, make regular dates with yourself to catch up when you fall behind. You will feel so much better! It’s worth the extra time to clear out that mental clutter and stress.

EMPLOYMENT

FINDING WORK

Many people have lost jobs, but some jobs are also opening up. Even in these difficult times, the best way to find a new job is to tap your network. According to LinkedIn, more than 70% of professionals get hired at companies where they already know someone. And people who are referred to a job by a current employee are nine times more likely to get hired. So reach out to your classmates, friends, family, professors, and others in your community (anyone you know on a first name basis) and ask them if they know of any openings. Check employment websites such as indeed.com or LinkedIn. If you know where you’d like to work, visit the company website to learn more, and check to see if you know anyone who is already working there.

And if you are graduating this year, please check out these wonderful organizations that help first-generation college students transition into strong first jobs:

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

If you lost your job or lost hours/income, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. These benefits are administered at the state level, so to access them, you’ll need to file a claim through your state’s office. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s overview of how unemployment insurance works. Scroll down to find contact info for each state.

Unemployment benefits have been expanded in several ways as a result of COVID-19—and they’re easier to access. To dig deeper, visit CareerOneStop’s Unemployment Benefits Finder FAQs page. You can also search for your state’s COVID-19-related unemployment benefits page here. Here are links to the COVID-19 unemployment benefits pages of the states most represented among Beyond 12 students: California, New York, and Georgia.

One key provision of the CARES Act is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which covers people who would not otherwise be eligible for unemployment benefits. If you lost a work-study job, there’s a good chance you’re eligible for PUA. It includes up to 39 weeks of benefits and an additional $600/week through July 31, 2020. Your state’s general COVID-19-related unemployment benefits page should have info about PUA; here are quick links to Califonia’s, New York’s, and Georgia’s PUA-specific pages. 

You probably already know that people can get unemployment benefits when they’ve been laid off (including as a result of the pandemic), but here are some other COVID-19-specific scenarios in which you might be eligible:

  • Your employer reduced your work hours because of COVID-19 measures
  • You’re self-employed and have lost income 
  • You’re quarantined and can’t work
  • You can’t work because of risk of exposure
  • You can’t work because you have to take care of a family member who has COVID-19 or who requires your care as a result of the pandemic (for example, if you must care for children whose school has been closed.)

FINANCIAL AID & RESOURCES

FINANCIAL AID

Get more financial aid

Government pandemic relief like the CARES Act means that there’s more financial aid available for college students. There’s a big Q&A at the Federal Student Aid Coronavirus info page, but here are some of the big takeaways:

  • The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) is money distributed to colleges that they, in turn, distribute to students in the form of grants (= free money). You might even get this money automatically—but even if you do, check in with your financial aid office to make sure you get all you can.
  • If you had to stop doing your work-study job, you might still be able to get your work-study money (and if not, try applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, described in the Employment section above.)
  • You might be able to get your official financial need increased—like if you or your family have lost income or faced additional expenses—which will make you eligible for more financial aid.
  • You may be able to stop making student loan payments until October 1, 2020. Find out if you’re eligible and what action you need to take here

Asking your college about additional financial aid

Virtually all of this newly available money is given out by colleges’  financial aid offices—and in most cases you won’t get it unless you ask for it! Move as quickly as possible because funds may run out. 

To help you out, here’s the optimal sequence of approaches to contacting them (i.e., start with #1; if that option isn’t available, try #2, and so on):

  1. Start at your school’s financial aid office website. Many schools have COVID-specific info and even application forms on their sites already.
  2. Check your student portal for info.
  3. Not getting the info you need online? Call them on the phone. Not sure what to say? Check out uAspire’s scripts for speaking with your Financial Aid office (and other college offices, too.)
  4. Send the financial aid office an email.
    1. Formswift has a template for requesting additional Emergency Aid. (The description may be confusing because some is customized to COVID-19 response and some isn’t. Just roll with it and request the aid!)
    2. If you compose an email, make sure to include your name, student ID number, email, and phone number, and ask them what the next steps are for students seeking additional financial aid.
  5. If the financial aid office is closed or if you can’t reach them in other ways (or aren’t getting a response to communications you’ve sent, try DMing the office’s or college’s (verified) social media pages. It’s an unconventional approach, but sometimes social media is monitored more “in real time” than office emails.

OTHER FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AND RELIEF

There are many, many sources of financial relief out there, from credit card companies waiving fees to foundations offering grants. Here are some common sources of cash and some more specialized ones that might fit your situation or give you ideas about where you could look.

  • For general financial support resources for college students, including financial aid and other resources, visit Edquity.co (they also have an app) or uAspire’s COVID-19 Support Resources page.
  • You may be eligible for an Economic Impact Payment (a.k.a. “stimulus check”) from the IRS. If you are eligible, they may need you to tell them where to send the money. Learn more here. To find out whether they need more info or to check on the status of your payment, go here
  • Speaking of the IRS, the deadline to file federal taxes has been extended to July 15, but if you or your family haven’t filed yet and you’re due for a tax refund, that could get you some nice cash on hand. File for free here. As a college student, you or your family may be eligible for an education tax credit. Look into that here.
  • Search other federal and state government benefits at benefits.gov. Go here for resources in the government cash assistance category, listed by state. 

Reduce your bills

  • Some banks, credit cards, and other lenders are waiving fees or allowing you to defer payments during the pandemic. Check out Wirecutter’s info from some major banks plus advice for what to do if your bank isn’t on their list. 
  • While you’re thinking about payments, are there other folks you’re supposed to make payments to (e.g., utilities)? Should you give them a call to ask if they’re waiving late fees? Use the advice in the Wirecutter article linked above to “script” your questions.
  • Don’t forget that even with waived late fees or deferred payments, you’ll still need to pay up eventually!

Emergency grants

Many of these are targeted toward students in certain locations or from certain populations (e.g., California students, former foster kids, undocumented students), and it is worth researching online or asking around based on your individual situation. This sampling may fit your situation or may help you brainstorm places you could look:

  • Together We Rise is a nonprofit advocating for foster and former foster youth. Scroll down on this page to connect with assistance for displaced students. 
  • NAKASEC has an emergency mutual aid fund established for COVID-19 hardship. Learn more and apply here.
  • The Independent Living Program (ILP) is a federally funded program, run through state governments, that helps foster youth transition to independent living. They offer Education and Training Vouchers. The ETV page also includes contact info for each state’s ILP.
  • Funders for LGBTQ Issues has created LGBTQ funding resources in the COVID-19 response, an extensive list of resources available at the national and local levels.

Unfortunately, many foundations and nonprofits that offer money to college students have quickly depleted their funds because of unprecedented need—but they’re also working hard to replenish funds. If you find a promising source but it’s out of funds, check back often

Remember, too, that tapping into non-monetary resources can save you some much-needed money, so make sure to investigate some of the other categories in this resource guide (and other ones!)

FOOD & HOUSING

FOOD

Many college students are eligible for food assistance and don’t take advantage of it!

Even if you think you don’t need food assistance, it’s worth looking into if you need cash or other resources. Remember, any food assistance you can get saves you money that you can spend on other things. 

To learn about federal food aid programs, start at usa.gov’s Food Assistance page, where you can find info on immediate food aid, SNAP benefits, COVID-related changes to food assistance programs, and other federal programs like WIC and free food for school-age children and seniors.

  • If you need immediate food aid, call the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273).
  • A more itemized list of COVID-related food resources can be found here
  • To find your state’s social services department (and a lot more), go here and search for your state. 
  • To find a pickup location for free meals for kids during school closures, go here.

The main source of food aid for college students is the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP—a.k.a. “food stamps” and other names—is administered by states, so to get it you apply through your state. 

You can also search for government-sponsored food programs by state at benefits.gov. Go here to get straight to a listing of food and nutrition programs that you can filter by state

To find a food bank near you, visit Why Hunger’s COVID food finder map or call 1-800-5-HUNGRY.

You can find more resources through other orgs linked in this guide, especially the general guides at the end. 

HOUSING

There are a lot of resources to help people pay for housing in this difficult time—and more are surfacing all the time. How you access those resources depends on your situation. The COVID-19 federal stimulus package, CARES, has several provisions to help with housing. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Coronavirus resources for homeowners and renters page. Here are some other potentially useful pages:

If you are a tenant:

Start at HUD’s pdf addressing tenant concerns during the COVID-19 emergency or Investopedia’s article  Renters: how to get COVID-19 Rent Relief. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Many states have instituted eviction freezes for 1-3 months, and they may be extending them as the extent of the pandemic becomes clearer. 
  • If you live in a HUD Multifamily assisted or FHA-insured property, you cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent through July 25, 2020. At that point, your landlord can file for eviction with 30 days’ notice (source: HUD tenant pdf page 3.)
  • If you receive HUD-funded rental assistance or are a tenant at an FHA-insured property, you can get an income recertification that may reduce your rent (source: HUD tenant pdf page 2.)
  • The National Apartment Association has issued a statement urging landlords and tenants to work together to find ways to ensure that residents have “a secure home.”

If you are making mortgage payments:

Start at Investopedia’s article How to get Mortgage Relief, which breaks down what you can do and how to get info (like how to find out if your mortgage is FHA-insured). 

(General tip:  banks, landlords, etc. benefit from keeping their existing tenants/borrowers and are more flexible than usual about accommodating people’s need to lower or defer rent/mortgage payments. It is definitely worth checking what options are available to you and requesting the maximum amount of flexibility.)

Many utilities are suspending disconnects for customers who don’t pay their bill. Visit the Financial section of this guide for suggestions about how to ask for waivers or payment deferrals.

If you need to move or store your stuff, some companies are offering discounts that may help:

HEALTH & WELLNESS

BASICS ABOUT MANAGING COVID-19 

First of all, if you’re in a life-threatening situation, call 911! (We probably don’t need to say that, but we will, just in case.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control maintains a central coronavirus page. From there, you can find info on how to protect yourself and others, what to do if you are sick, cloth face covers, cleaning and disinfecting, and more.

How to distinguish COVID-19 symptoms from cold, flu, or allergies: video version and infographic version.

Check out the World Health Organization’s infographic on next-level handwashing. (We have more links related to WHO in the News & Other Info section of this guide.)

HEALTH CARE AND HEALTH INSURANCE 

Health insurance

If you already have health insurance, you may have discounts or waived co-pays during this time. For more info, visit this roundup of what different companies are providing, or contact your insurance company. 

  • If you’re enrolled in a healthcare.gov marketplace plan and your income changes, update your application because you may qualify for lower rates. Learn more at their Coronavirus info page.

If you lost your health insurance and want to sort through your options, take a look at this clear but thorough step-by-step guide.   

If you want to to purchase insurance (not through your job):

  • Start at healthcare.gov, a.k.a. “the marketplace.” Their Coronavirus info page outlines when you may be eligible to enroll insurance or to be added to a family member’s plan—for example, if you lost coverage through your job or college due to COVID-19.
  • To apply: Some states have their own healthcare marketplaces. Find a list and links here. If your state’s not on that list, apply directly through healthcare.gov. See below for direct info for some common Beyond 12 students’ states. If you’re nervous about applying, you can work with an agent or broker. Go here to learn more and here to search for one near you. 

You may also be eligible for government health care and/or medical assistance benefits

  • Visit the benefits.gov page listing programs. From there, you can narrow the search to your state or by subcategory (for example, children’s health or medicare/medicaid.) 
  • The largest categories of these benefits are Medicaid (go here to check your eligibility) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 
  • Your state’s Medicaid program may use a different name; for example, California’s program is called Medi-Cal. You can figure that out and get to your state’s website from benefits.gov.

Learn about other local health resources by using this Directory of Local Health Departments to find the link to yours.

Undocumented students:

United We Dream has compiled a list of healthcare resources for undocumented folks in the time of COVID-19. The page includes lists of policies related to healthcare and undocumented folks (for example, a list of states in which you can get care regardless of immigration status if  you are pregnant or under age 18) and contact websites by state to access free or low-cost clinics. 

My Undocumented Life has a page on health care resources for undocumented immigrants, including general resources and also state-specific resources for California, New York, and Texas.

Immigrant students:

Protecting Immigrant Families has compiled a pdf healthcare rights and resource guide focused on immigrants. For example, you have the right to an interpreter when applying for health insurance or seeking care at a hospital or community health center.

Finding free and low-cost healthcare:

The Health Resources and Services Administration maintains a database of Federally Qualified Health Centers that provides locations and contact info of clinics near you. FQHCs charge sliding-scale fees and are committed to serving people from underserved populations; learn more about them here.

The Free Clinic Directory allows you to search for free clinics in your area and gives you details like hours and contact info.

To search clinics for specific health services provided (e.g., dental, mental health, mammogram, try the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics database.

SAFETY AND MENTAL-HEALTH HOTLINES

The Steve Fund (support for young people of color): 

  • text STEVE to 741741 to access a counselor

The Trevor Project (support for LGBTQ youth): 

  • call 1-866-7286
  • text START to 678678
  • visit Trevor Chat (secure IM web chat)

The Crisis Text Line (anyone in crisis):

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • call 1-800-799-7233

National Sexual Assault Hotline:

  • call 1-800-656-4673

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Helpline (from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services):

  • call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to be put in touch with local resources you can contact

Alcoholics Anonymous Online Intergroup:

  • start a web-based chat using the form here

Narcotics Anonymous:

  • visit NeverAloneClub.org, a 24/7 chat room that also holds twice-daily virtual Narcotics Anonymous meetings

MENTAL WELLNESS

Take time for self-care and your mental health!

These are overwhelming times. It’s normal to feel scared, anxious, or stressed—and these feelings can be even harder when we’re also being asked to practice social distancing.  

  • Seek support from family, friends, mentors, and other loved ones—know that you are not alone! 
  • Take care of your body as well as you can: eat healthy, hydrate, exercise, and sleep 
  • Read up on coronavirus-related anxiety at CDC’s page on how to Manage anxiety & stress and the Virus Anxiety website, which includes articles on financial fears, xenophobia, and more, plus meditations and professional advice.
  • Several apps that focus on mental health, meditation, and mindfulness are offering free content. Check out Headspace’s free Weathering the Storm meditations or Ten Percent Happier’s Coronavirus Sanity Guide.
  • Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine lists 25 ways to improve your well-being and lower stress and isolation. Here are some highlights (but don’t let these stop you from checking out the whole page):
    • Stick to a routine and dress for the social life you want, not the one you have
    • Try to do these things for 30 mins/day: get outside, move your body, reach out to others
    • Find creative outlets and take on large-scale projects
    • Reach out for help and offer help to others
    • Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and give yourself some love, too

Find new ways to enrich your corona-life—including some that might not be on your radar. Here are a few ideas:

NEWS & OTHER INFO

KEEPING UP WITH NEWS AND INFO

There’s a lot of information out there—and, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation, too. Follow updates from organizations that have the most accurate info. Some of our favorites:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) website covers a wide range of information on a global scale. Check out these pages:
    • Advice for the Public (scroll down for visual 1-pagers)
    • Myth-busters, which addresses common misconceptions about coronavirus
    • Advocacy, which includes sections on human rights, parenting, and violence against women—with downloadable posters, infographics, and shareable social media images.
  • Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering has created an interactive COVID-19 dashboard. Stats are updated daily on confirmed cases globally, by country, and zoom in to learn about demographics and COVID-19 in U.S. cities and counties. 
  • Several major newspapers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, are making coronavirus-related coverage available for free.
  • Learn about the policies that directly affect your day-to-day life by checking your local health department’s website. Find yours at this Directory of Local Health Departments. (Searching will provide your local health department’s main contact/website; you may have to click through to find COVID-19-specific info.)

GENERAL & MISCELLANEOUS RESOURCES

  • Benefits.gov is a database of government-related financial assistance, searchable by state and subcategory. For coronavirus-related resources, start at their FAQs here
  • Edquity App helps find local resources for students (housing, food, transportation, finances, etc.)
  • Aunt Bertha social care network allows you to input your zip code and will search for organizations near you that provide different kinds of aid.
  • From 211.org, sponsored by the United Way, you can input your zip code and get connected to a variety of support.
  • Child Care Aware has a state-by-state guide to child care and other resources for children.

OTHER RESOURCE GUIDES

If you’re an undocumented student, we recognize that you and your family are dealing with extra stressors and barriers to accessing resources. Take a look at these resource guides: