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 November 23, 2020.

ASKING FOR HELP

ASKING FOR HELP

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.

No matter what college you’re attending, there are people in positions to help you, 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. It’s perfectly normal and OK if you don’t know the right person to ask about a certain topic. Asking for help is all about the “X degrees of separation” principle. 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 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.

ACADEMIC SUCCESS

The transition to online and hybrid 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! (But also, check out this article, “Pivot to Online: a Student Guide.”)

Some other tips and info to help you navigate classes and enrollment issues:

  • If your professor’s instructions or other communications are confusing, reach out and ask them to explain or let them know if you’re having problems. 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, particularly when classes aren’t in person.. It’s likely that the professor 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. 
  • Watch for updates from your college and each professor. 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. 
  • 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.
  • If you are facing hardship and need extensions or similar accommodations, don’t just power through, ask your professors for special arrangements, especially if you’re in one of the following situations or similar
    • you get sick or have to take care of someone who’s sick or someone who needs care from you (e.g., a child or elder)
    • 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

The Bottom Line: Like everyone else, different professors will have different responses in a crisis like this. Some may be doubling down on taking a business-as-usual approach and making it extra hard for students. But most will understand that students are facing all kinds of difficulties and are very open to accommodating students’ needs.

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.

Other ways to maintain focus:

  • Whether you’re in person, in hybrid mode, or 100% online, 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 or distanced 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 people you live with (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.

If you need books or other class materials:

  • Start by asking your professor. Many professors can arrange for students’ access to the stuff they need.
  • 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.

If you need help getting online, some internet providers and cell phone carriers are offering discounted services and plans with higher data limits:

  • Deals for free and cheap Internet mostly expired over the summer, but a few Internet providers offer discounted services for select low-income households, such as AT&T and Cox Communications. Other programs to check out for discounted access include the federal Lifeline program, as well as the nonprofits EveryoneOn and Human-I-T,  .
  • Some cell phone carriers offer discounts to college students or low-income users, such as Verizon. Find out what your carrier’s policy is and take advantage of whatever help they’ll offer. Check out The College Investor’s full roundup of the best cell phone plans for college students in 2020.
  • If you need extra data and your mobile carrier isn’t offering it, consider switching to a smaller pay-in-advance carrier. Simple Mobile and Mint Mobile, both on the T-Mobile network, are currently offering unlimited data (and calling/texting) for $30-50/month.

There are many more tips on finances, food, and housing in the sections below, but another great place to start is with The Hope Center’s Surviving COVID-19: A #RealCollege Guide for Students which has PDF lists of resources in both English and Spanish, as well as a quick-start infographic version. Other resources targeted at specific populations include:

WORK

EMPLOYMENT

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.These organizations help first-generation college students transition into strong first jobs:

UNEMPLOYMENT

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act was passed in March 2020 to provide $2 trillion in assistance to help people and households affected financially by the pandemic. The act can benefit college students in a variety of ways. More details:

  • 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 —and they’re easier to access. To dig deeper, visit CareerOneStop’s Unemployment Benefits Finder FAQs page or search for your state’s COVID-19-related unemployment benefits page including 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.
    • Your state’s general COVID-19-related unemployment benefits page should have info about PUA, including  California, New York, and Georgia

FINANCIAL

FINANCIAL AID

Government pandemic relief means that there is more financial aid available for college students. There’s a big Q&A at the Federal Student Aid Coronavirus info page; some of the big takeaways include: 

  • 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. 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 for a period of time. Find out if you’re eligible and what action you need to take
  • 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. Here are the steps we recommend:
    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 more 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!). 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 MONEY

There are many, many sources of financial relief, from credit card companies waiving fees to foundations offering grants. Some common sources of cash and other ideas are listed below:

Get cash

Apply for 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 with assistance for displaced students
  • 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.

Reduce your bills

  • Some banks, credit cards, and other lenders are waiving fees or allowing you to defer payments during the pandemic. NerdWallet has the scoop on how some major banks are handling.
  • 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!

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 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, COVID-related changes to food assistance programs, and other federal programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and free food for school-age children and seniors.

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.

If you are a renter:

Start at HUD’s renters page. The page includes a publication “Addressing Tenant Concerns During the COVID-19 National Emergency”(updated September 2020) or Investopedia’s article Renters: how to get COVID-19 Rent Relief (updated August 2020). Some key takeaways:

  • Federal eviction protection offered under the CARES Act has expired. However, several federal, state, and local acts still protect some renters from evictions.
  • On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued an order banning evictions for certain renters through December 31, 2020. At that point, your landlord can file for eviction with 30 days’ notice. (Source: HUD tenant publication)
  • 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 publication)

If you are a homeowner:

  • Start with Investopedia or HUD. Investopedia’s article How to Get Mortgage Relief (updated September 2020) breaks down what you can do and how to get info (like how to find out if your mortgage is FHA-insured). Much of the same information is on HUD’s page for homeowners.
  • You may be able to suspend payments without penalty. If your mortgage is FHA-backed, provisions of the CARES Act may allow you to suspend payments for up to 360 days if you have experienced financial hardship and you will not be charged late fees or reported to credit bureaus. Foreclosures and evictions of eligible loans have been halted until December 31, 2020. (Source: Investopedia)
  • In general, 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.) That said, HUD’s COVID-19-specific guide to avoiding foreclosures is worth a look. It provides advice for all homeowners. Look for other ways to save. Many utilities are suspending disconnects for customers who don’t pay their bill. Visit the Financial section of this guide (above) for suggestions about how to ask for waivers or payment deferrals.

HEALTH & WELLNESS

BASICS ABOUT COVID-19 

First of all, if you’re in a life-threatening situation, call 911! Note that in many municipalities, a call to 911 will lead to a response by police. This guide from the ACLU provides an overview of your rights during police interactions.  

Other great resources for staying informed and up to date about coronavirus include:

HEALTH INSURANCE

Have insurance but want to pay less? 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.

Lost your insurance? If you lost your health insurance and want to sort through your options, take a look at this step-by-step guide.To purchase insurance directly (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. They also have a page describing options for college students depending on your age and dependent status. 
  • Check with your state. Some states have their own healthcare marketplaces. See below for direct info for some common Beyond 12 students’ states:
  • Get help. Applying for health insurance can be nerve-racking. An agent or broker can help at no cost to you. Search for one near you
  • Looking for other, even cheaper options? 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. The largest categories of these benefits are Medicaid 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.

HEALTHCARE

Even with health insurance, health care costs can be prohibitively expensive. Check out these resources to save some cash while still taking care of yourself:

For undocumented students: 

For immigrant students: 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

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.  

  • Reframe social distancing as physical distancing. Just because we can’t be physically close to people does not mean we have to be emotionally distant. Seek support from family, friends, mentors, and other loved ones. You are not alone!
  • Take care of your body as well as you can. Eat healthy, hydrate, exercise, and sleep.
  • Be mindful. 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.
  • Check out the many resources online about how to minimize stress and anxiety during the pandemic:

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

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:
  • Narcotics Anonymous:
    • visit NeverAloneClub.org, a 24/7 chat room that also holds twice-daily virtual Narcotics Anonymous meeting
  • Not in crisis but need additional support? Two other sources of referrals that are worth a look:
    • 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.
    • At 211.org, sponsored by the United Way, you can input your zip code and get connected to a variety of support.